One of my New Year’s resolutions is to embrace being cold. I think you should consider doing the same!

Over the past couple years I have listened to a number of books and podcasts that focus on longevity and health span. What can we do to live longer healthier lives? I work in medicine, and daily I see the effects of unhealthy choices that lead to a significant amount of suffering. Over the years I’ve tried countless tips and tricks in the effort to maintain a healthy body that will hopefully carry me long into the future (I still got a lot to figure out about this world). One of the key components of a healthy life is exposing yourself to controlled stressors that stimulate the body to repair itself. Think exercise, hunger, new experiences, hot and cold exposure.

A good friend sent me a podcast about deliberate cold exposure and after listening I was convinced. After watching Chris Hemsworth surf and swim in the arctic sea (see Disney+ “Limitless”), I was motivated. But I’ve grown soft in my old age and I’ve come to despise the cold. Absolutely hate it. A lot. Despite this, for the last month I have been taking cold showers and rucking in the cold with fewer layers. I can’t say I love the cold yet, but I’m making progress.

The podcast is from The Huberman Lab. Andrew Huberman is a Neuroscientist at Stanford and his podcast is ranked in the top 15 globally on a regular basis. He explores all things related to health. His podcasts are long and pretty detailed. I wanted to share a quick summary of deliberate cold exposure because I think it’s pretty cool.

Cold water baths are best with submersion up to the neck. Cold showers can work too and are more accessible.

You just need 11 minutes of cold exposure TOTAL per week to see the benefits:

  • Increased energy and focus – Cold exposure causes the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine which increases alertness. Guaranteed it will wake you up in the morning!
  • Build resilience and grit – By exposing yourself to this challenge, it prepares you to “cope better and maintain a calm, clear mind when confronted with real-world stressors.” It helps to train your mind.
  • Enhance you mood – Cold exposure causes the prolonged release of Dopamine. This can make you feel good, but also increase your energy and goal-directed behavior.
  • Increased metabolism – The purpose of cold exposure is to drive the body to increase core temperature by burning more calories in the short term. In the long-term it causes the conversion of white fat to brown fat which is more metabolically active and sustains an increased metabolism.
  • Decrease inflammation and enhance recovery.

A couple things to consider:

  1. The body’s natural temperature circadian rhythm hits its lowest point about two hours before waking up and increases into the late afternoon when it starts to drop in preparation for sleep. Cold exposure should probably take place in the morning or early afternoon to avoid interruptions in sleep.
  2. Water temperature should be uncomfortable but safe. I’m guessing you can’t get in too much trouble with a cold shower. I’m building up to the ice bath….
  3. If you can induce shivering by standing in the cool air after a shower or get back into a cold shower after turning it off, you can enhance the long-term metabolic effects.

Remember it takes just 11 minutes per week to see the health benefits.

Here is the link to Dr Huberman’s notes on cold exposure.

Check out this cool article on how decreasing body temperature through palm cooling during exercise can increase performance and endurance.