Hot and Cold Therapy: Beneficial or Needless Self-Torture?
Hot and Cold Therapy: heat and cold are commonly used for treating injuries to specific areas of the body. But what about heating and cooling your entire body? Are these helpful in any meaningful way? Or is it just a silly fad without any merit?
Biohackers have promoted these ideas over the last few years. Let’s see if there’s any substance to their advice.
Spending time in a sauna regularly has its benefits:
1. Stress relief. Sitting in a sauna can feel wonderful. It’s stress-relieving and cleansing, especially after you wash the sweat off.
2. Formation of heat shock proteins. Excessive heat stimulates specific genes to create heat shock proteins.
- These are helpful in eliminating free radicals in the body. Heat shock proteins can also repair damaged proteins.
3. Spending time in a sauna can prolong your life. Research has shown that spending some time in a sauna at least four days a week may reduce the incidence of several causes of death. These include fatal cardiovascular disease, coronary disease, and sudden cardiac death.
4. Endurance and aerobic capacity increase. Red blood cell counts and blood plasma volume increase with regular sauna use.
5. Increased circulation. Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate and increases your heart rate. This can help injuries to heal faster and improve mobility in joints affected by arthritis.
Keep in mind that normal sauna temperatures are just fine. There’s no reason to crank up the heat in hopes of gaining greater benefits. No benefit is worth risking your life. Be reasonable.
A nice cold bath might not be that appealing but learn the advantages before making decisions!
A 10-minute ice bath can be beneficial, too:
1. Reduces inflammation. Exposure to cold reduces inflammation. This is why you might ice a sprained ankle. It turns out that if you cool the entire body, the anti-inflammatory effect affects the entire body.
- An ice bath can reduce pain more effectively than just icing a specific area of the body.
- Many diseases, including heart disease, are believed to be at least partially due to systemic inflammation in the body. Regular ice baths may reduce the likelihood of developing many diseases.
2. Enhances immune system. White blood cell counts increase after spending time in an ice bath. This has been shown to reduce the likelihood of getting sick.
3. May reduce depression. Some studies have shown that regular ice baths can enhance mood.
The term “ice bath” is a bit of a misnomer. The most commonly researched temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which feels colder than you might think. It’s possible that your tap water is that cold. The time spent in the cold water was 8-12 minutes.
Maybe you don’t have access to a sauna or a cold bath. Will a hot tub, hot shower, or a cold shower work just as well?
There’s not a lot of research on the benefits of these other options. It seems reasonable to assume that these could be viable substitutes, but there are no guarantees. It’s not too hard to find a health club that has a sauna, and you can take a cold bath or shower at home.
There are definitely health benefits to safely exposing yourself to hot and cold temperatures. The stress that these situations create stimulates the body to make healthy adaptations.
However, as with all things, it’s important to be safe and reasonable! If you use hot and cold therapy safely, they can benefit your health.