6 Health Benefits Of Cold

Are cold showers actually all they’re hyped up to be? Let’s find out.

The human body maintains a core temperature of 36.5°C to 38.5°C (97.7°F to 101.3°F). When it drops too low, the risk of hypothermia increases. When it rises too high, it’s usually indicative of an infection. However, medically speaking, getting outside of your comfort zone can be good for you. This is especially true in regard to cold temperatures. Although it may seem counterintuitive to natural survival instincts, lower temperatures have a surprisingly positive impact on our bodies. As a cryonics provider, we like low temperatures. That’s why we’re excited to share  a few of the leading health benefits of cold below. 

Exposure to cold has a surprising number of health benefits

1. Improved Sleep Quality 

When you prepare for sleep, your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) causes your core temperature to naturally drop. This process of thermoregulation helps your body conserve energy so it can focus on cellular repair and restoration. Simply put, cooler temperatures lead to a better night’s rest. 

Research shows that dysregulation of circadian rhythms (thus inadequate thermoregulation) can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, which negatively impacts health. A reduction in sleep quality can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and other chronic diseases. Insufficient sleep also impairs cognitive function.

To achieve adequate restorative sleep, research suggests that the ideal environment is between 15.5°C to 19°C (60°F to 67°F). To achieve this, lower the temperature of your room at night. Keep the windows open during the summer and lower the heater settings during the winter. 

2. Reduces Inflammation 

When you’re sick or injured, acute inflammation triggers white blood cells to attack pathogens, increases blood flow to injuries, and can help your body heal. While this is a protective process, chronic inflammation or autoimmune disease (when the body attacks its own cells) can have an adverse effect on health. High levels of inflammation can lead to irritation, stiffness, high blood pressure, pain, or other symptoms. 

Exposure to cold temperatures may help decrease inflammation throughout the body as it constricts blood flow to the site. It also increases adiponectin, which is a protein that helps combat inflammation. This is one reason you’re told to put an ice pack on an injury. However, too much cold applied to acute inflammation can hinder the body’s natural healing process. 

Cold exposure is most beneficial to those experiencing symptoms of elevated inflammation. Cryotherapy is one treatment that has been shown to reduce localized pain, but cold showers may also be beneficial.

3. Enhances Cognitive Function

Have you ever felt like you can’t think straight when you’re uncomfortably warm? That’s normal—the higher the temperature, the more brain fog we tend to experience. In fact, there are several studies that have demonstrated the positive impact of cold temperatures on cognitive function. One study suggests that cooler environments may increase “referential creativity,” which is basically the process of thinking outside of the box. 

Another 2018 study found that even just one degree can impact test results for the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). It was concluded that “each 1°F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent” [2]. High temperatures decrease cognitive function. However, temperatures that dip too low may have a similar effect as those that are too high. 

Although there are various recommendations, the average general consensus is that the ideal temperatures for learning are between 20°C and 22.5°C (68°F and 72°F).

Exercise is one great way to strengthen your immune system

4. Strengthens Immune System

There are several different factors that affect your immune system. What you eat, how much you sleep, and your exposure to contaminants can all raise or lower your body’s ability to fight off pathogens. In a clinical study, it was found that cold water immersion could also help activate the immune system. 

The study took place over six weeks, where participants were immersed in 14°C water for one hour per day. Afterward, there were several markers that suggested a more activated (stronger) immune system. These effects may be enhanced by exercising prior to cold exposure, but further research is needed. 

5. Increases Fat Burn

There are two types of fat within the human body: good fat and bad fat. Good fat is brown and acts as an energy source within the body. Bad fat doesn’t do much aside from accumulating throughout the body and contributing to obesity. 

Exposure to colder temperatures helps the body transform white fat into brown fat. Cold activates brown fat metabolism, allowing adults to undergo thermoregulation without excessive shivering. A study from The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that “during prolonged heat production, the components of ingested food are channeled to the tissue as a conscientious supply of substrate” [1].

This essentially means that fat isn’t stored throughout your body, it’s constantly being burned to maintain heat. The increase in caloric expenditures results in less white (bad) fat and a reduced risk of obesity. Shivering from cold temperatures also stimulates the hormone irisin, which triggers fat burn. 

6. Anti-Aging Possibilities

Cold exposure may also have surprising impacts on aging and longevity. There have been several studies on flies, worms, and other insects that suggest colder temperatures lead to increased longevity. This is understandable, considering the sub-zero temperatures (-196°C) used in cryopreservation

When research was performed on rodents, it was found that lab rats immersed in cool, shallow water for four hours per day not only ate more and weighed less, but also lived 10% longer [3]. Similar results were found in mice whose core temperatures were lowered by 0.3°C in males and 0.34°C in females, which resulted in an increase in lifespan by 12% and 20% respectively {4}. 

Researchers speculate that this longevity is due to either hormesis or the rate of living theory” Hormesis is the idea behind, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Cold temperatures aren’t shutting down your biological processes, so the stress it causes can improve the efficiency of internal systems. The rate of living theory suggests that cold temperatures slow down metabolic processes, which in turn helps to promote longevity. Both may have potential applications in the process of aging in humans. 

Although not many people enjoy winter, brief exposures to cold have some great health benefits

Conclusion

While there are notable health benefits of cold exposure, it doesn’t mean you should go and immerse yourself in an ice bath for hours. That can actually be quite dangerous! Instead, experts recommend integrating cool to cold showers in the morning or strategically using ice packs to help decrease your body’s core temperature. Always consult your doctor before engaging in any new routines to reduce the risk of potential complications.

Another great benefit of really cold temperatures is that they allow the process of cryopreservation to occur! Cryopreservation involves lowering core temperatures to sub-freezing levels in order to preserve cells without ice formation. This makes it a life-saving technology that could be a bridge to the future. To learn more about Biostasis, feel free to schedule a call with us today. If you’re ready to join our community now, you can easily sign up here!

References 

[1] Cohut, M., PhD. (2017, December 1). How can our health benefit from colder temperatures? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320214 
[2] Goodman, J. (2018, May 28). Heat and Learning. NBER. https://www.nber.org/papers/w24639 

[3] Holloszy, J. O., & Smith, E. K. (1986). Longevity of cold-exposed rats: a reevaluation of the “rate-of-living theory.” Journal of Applied Physiology, 61(5), 1656–1660. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3781978 

[4] Conti, B., Sanchez-Alavez, M., Winsky-Sommerer, R., Morale, M. C., Lucero, J., Brownell, S., Fabre, V., Huitron-Resendiz, S., Henriksen, S., Zorrilla, E. P., de Lecea, L., & Bartfai, T. (2006). Transgenic Mice with a Reduced Core Body Temperature Have an Increased Life Span. Science, 314(5800), 825–828. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17082459/

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