Regular Cold Exposures have been ever present in my life over the past 20 years. Having Cold baths is a common practice in professional rugby during the season to help reduce inflammation and soreness that helps accelerate the recovery process, enabling players to perform to the best of their abilities in training and games. Some players love them, some players dread them, personally I always used to feel great after them so it was case of sucking it up and getting on with it.
Fast forward 10 years with no rugby to recover from, I actually now do it out of choice every morning in my back garden, I roll out of bed and jump straight in. Is it any easier than it was 10 years ago? No, but my appreciation for the physiological and psychological benefits it provides me with is the driving factor every morning.
Exposing yourself to the cold is an acute stress on the body, think of it as the same as exercise. When an acute stress is placed on your body, it fires up a fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system), your body produces adrenaline that heightens your alertness, attention span and better still your mood, an ideal way to start the day. The benefits from a cognitive perspective is a key driver for me personally, as there are studies to show that cold (or heat) stress on the body increases BDNF, that is a protein that can stimulate the production of new brain cells and has the potential to help promote brain health as we get older. For me playing a contact sport at a high level when there wasn’t the level of head injury assessments available that players are now exposed (brilliant to see) is always at the back of my mind and why I have a real passion to do everything I can to achieve optimal health for myself and others around me. Quality of life as we all get older is absolutely essential for us all. Other areas I find the cold exposures help me personally with is with my arthritic elbows developed from the years of wear and tear, as it helps reduce inflammation within the joint.
THERE ARE MULTIPLE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COLD EXPOSURES
- Increased metabolism and fat burning effect that results from your bodies efforts to internally warm itself up, through shivering.
- More robust immune system, helps to potentially increase white blood cells to fight off infection.
- Frequently being exposed to acute stressors will improve your ability to cope with the deadly chronic stress that is ever present in society today.
Over the past year, my resting heart rate has reduced significantly from high 40s to low 40s bpm (using my Oura ring) and I’m convinced this is a result of daily cold exposures and focused breathing practices. The lower my resting heart rate the lower the strain on my heart on a daily basis and is now noticeably helping improve my cardiovascular health.
As humans we are all about being as comfortable as possible in our daily lives, stepping outside of our comfort zones is where we grow as individuals. Whether that’s through Cold or Heat Exposures, Exercise, or other daily challenges that come our way in our lives. Over time we adapt to these stressors and we evolve. Sadly, in today’s society as a human race ‘de-evolving’ is happening in front of our eyes.
If you haven’t tried it – start with 30 sec on Cold at the end of your morning shower is a convenient starting point and build from there, focus on your breath whilst doing it, try to remain calm and relax and then notice how you feel at the end – alert, energised, positive, sense of achievement.