Anna Evans

Chill Out: The Health Benefits of Cold Exposure

Cold exposure can be an incredibly rewarding experience – find out what it can bring into your life.


If you are interested in cold exposure, you have likely heard about The Wim Hof Method, developed by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof (aka ‘The Iceman’). The Wim Hof method is a combination of cold exposure, breathwork, and meditation techniques that have gained popularity in recent years.

Many people have followed Hof’s tips and incorporated cold showers and similar procedures into their daily routines. In this article, we will explore the health benefits of cold exposure and how to incorporate it into your daily routine. With energy costs skyrocketing, this may be the perfect time to embrace the cold-water trend!

10 health benefits of cold exposure

1Improves immunity

Cold exposure leads to the mobilisation of leukocytes – white blood cells – responsible for protecting your body from infection. This can help to boost the body’s defences against disease and infection.

2Fights inflammation

Cold temperatures help reduce inflammation by raising the levels of adiponectin, a protein that protects against inflammation. In a study on cold exposure, researchers found that exercising in colder environments reduced markers of inflammation when compared to those who exercise in regular-temperature environments.

However, another study found that if you exercise in the cold for too long, it can worsen inflammation. Therefore, it is essential to moderate when working out in lower temperatures.

3Enhances circulation

Cold showers can help improve circulation by constricting blood vessels and increasing oxygen levels throughout the body. This is especially beneficial for those who suffer from poor circulation or chronic pain, as improved circulation can reduce inflammation and help alleviate symptoms.

4Improves cardiovascular health

Exposure to cold can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation, both factors that are beneficial for a healthy heart. Studies have shown that regular cold showers can even reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

5Relieves stress

Cold exposure can have a calming effect on the nervous system, which helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Cold temperatures trigger the release of hormones that help to promote relaxation and reduce cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’.

6Aids in weight loss

According to studies, cold-water immersion at 14℃ can increase the metabolic rate by 350%, burning more calories and promoting weight loss. Although the total number of calories burned from cold exposure is not significant, the conversion of white fat (energy storage) to beige or brown fat (which are highly metabolically active) can be beneficial.

Healthhack from Healthypedia

Maximizing cold exposure effects with shivering The Søeberg Principle, named after Dr Susanna Søeberg, posits that one can improve the metabolic effects of cold by exposing themselves to colder temperatures at the end of a procedure. Shivering stimulates brown fat thermogenesis. If you are feeling cold, avoid huddling or crossing your arms. Once you are out of the cold, do not towel off but let your body warm and dry naturally.

7Increases energy levels

Cold exposure can increase alertness, reduce fatigue, and improve overall feelings of well-being. This is because cold temperatures trigger the release of endorphins, which are hormones that help to increase energy levels and promote positive moods.

8Helps better sleep

The body’s response to cold temperatures helps to create a deep sense of relaxation that can improve both the quantity and quality of sleep.

9Improves mood

Cold water exposure has been found to increase dopamine levels by 250%. Dopamine is a chemical associated with happiness and ambition, so cold showers can help reduce stress and anxiety. If you are looking for a way to stay positive and relax after a long day, a little shivering will be good for you.

Cold water exposure can increase dopamine levels by +250% Source: Springer Link

10Improves skin health

Cold exposure helps to improve blood circulation in the skin, which can help to keep it looking healthy and vibrant. Additionally, cold water is thought to help reduce inflammation and redness in the skin, making it an excellent treatment for acne-prone skin.

The cold water is merciless but righteous. It brings you directly into contact with a deeper part of your own physiology and the way nature meant it to be. – Wim Hof, Iceman, a Dutch motivational speaker, and extreme athlete
Wim Hof
Iceman, a Dutch motivational speaker, and extreme athlete

How to expose your body to the cold

Here common cold exposure is used for wellness.

Cold showers – Taking a cold shower is both easy and accessible in the comfort of your own home. Cold water is said to increase alertness and improve circulation, as well as activate the brown adipose tissue (BAT), which helps to burn fat.

Ice baths – An ice bath is a more extreme version of a cold shower and involves sitting in a bathtub filled with cold water and ice cubes. This method can work wonders for sore muscles, as cold constricts the blood vessels in your body, which helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Cold water swimming – This activity combines the health benefits of cold exposure and exercise. Open-water swimming is more popular among cold-exposure fans. It’s much riskier than pool swimming and usually practised among experienced plungers.

Cryotherapy – This is an increasingly popular therapy that involves exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures (usually around minus 200 degrees Celsius) for a few minutes. This method is said to reduce pain, improve sleep quality, and boost metabolism. It’s becoming a popular practice among athletes and other fitness enthusiasts as they believe it helps them recover faster after workouts.

Cold air exposure – This procedure involves exposing the body to cold air temperatures for short periods of time, usually between 40-50°F (4-10°C).

Ice vest therapy – This innovative treatment involves wearing a lightweight vest, which encapsulates gel packs that are chilled to a specific temperature, usually between 40-55°F (4-13°C). The duration of the treatment is usually around 15 minutes and can be applied multiple times throughout the day for maximum effect.

The best way to start practicing cold exposure

The easiest, cheapest, and most available way to start exposure is through a cold shower. You can regulate the time of exposure, temperature, and schedule. No bookings and additional expenses. The important thing is to make it a regular routine, not an occasional once-a-month challenge. Read our “promo” article about Cold Shower with practical tips and lifehacks from one of our longevity experts.

Why you should begin cold exposure

Cold exposure can bring many positive changes to the body and mind. It can increase energy levels, reduce inflammation and stress, improve sleep quality, strengthen the immune system and even aid with weight loss. Regular cold exposure through ice baths or cold showers is a great way to experience these benefits for yourself. Be sure to start small and work your way up to longer, colder sessions. As with any exercise or health practice, always consult a doctor before beginning. With the right guidance, cold exposure can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Hungry for knowledge? Here is more

To find out more about different ways and protocols of deliberate cold exposure, watch this discussion with Andrew Huberman, PhD, a neuroscientist and Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Healthypedia FAQ

Cold exposure therapy works by triggering the body's "fight or flight" response, which causes it to release endorphins and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones help reduce inflammation, improve circulation, boost the immune system, decrease stress, and improve overall well-being.

There are several ways of deliberately exposing the body to cold. These include showering in cold water, taking ice baths, doing cryotherapy, doing ice vest therapy, and cold air exposure.

It is recommended to have at least 11 minutes of cold exposure per week in total. You can break these 11 minutes into different sessions. Cold exposure should be done in moderation. Make sure not to do too m

Cold temperatures help reduce inflammation by raising the levels of adiponectin, a protein that protects against inflammation.

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