Hot…Cold and Long Life
No one enjoys being cold (I mean, really cold).
Nor does anyone like being super-duper hot. At least not for an extended amount of time. I’d argue more people like being super duper hot than being really, really cold but I can’t prove it.
That’s why living in the 21st century is so wonderful.
If you never want to be too hot, or too cold, you don’t have to be, thanks in part to the modern conveniences of air-conditioning and furnaces.
But what if I told you that our desire to always be comfortable may contribute to an early death, would you believe me?
It’s partially true, here’s what I mean.
Research into cold and heat exposure has shown that exposure to seemingly unsafe levels of cold and heat can help extend lifespan…
Now does this mean you need to live in a perpetual state of being really, really cold and super-duper hot?
The good news is the answer is “No.” As that could actually kill you.
However, periodic exposure to either can help you gain all kinds of health benefits. This kind of environmental stress produces a hormetic response in the body that actually proves beneficial to our cells.
And look, we’re talking about simple things like taking a cold shower for 1-2 minutes or sitting in a sauna for 15-20 minutes.
I’ll detail the scientific reasoning behind these claims, but suffice it to say, as living organisms we actually benefit from short-term exposure to external stressors, and heat and cold are 2 of the more readily available (and controllable) forms of stress that you can rely on to help you live longer and feel better.
Yes, Being Cold Can Be Good For You
I think the vast majority of people would agree it’s better to be hot than cold.
It’s why during the winter months so many people flee to the tropics to strip down to bathing suits and escape the dreariness of being cold for an extended amount of time…and why no one leaves Florida in the winter to go skiing in said bathing suit.
That’s why it can be pretty hard to tolerate the idea of intentionally freezing yourself.
The truth is being exposed to cold for short periods of time can do a number of things for you.
Research shows that cold exposure can help with the following:
The mechanism here is pretty simple. When you’re exposed to cold your body goes into survival mode and diverts all of the blood circulating in your body towards the organs to help you survive. This causes the cardiovascular system to work a bit harder and improves endothelial function).
Supports a Healthy Immune Response:
While this isn’t a perfect study Healthline noted the following “In one Dutch studyTrusted Source, researchers tested whether people could voluntarily influence their own immune response by practicing meditation, deep breathing, and cold water immersion techniques. The results were positive.
When study participants were exposed to a bacterial infection, the group that used these techniques had fewer symptoms. Their bodies produced more anti-inflammatory chemicals and fewer pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to the infection.”
A study showed that people who did cold swimming may have seen a significant increase in the levels of glutathione in their bodies.
As I’ve written about extensively, glutathione is your body’s #1 antioxidant and is supremely helpful for detoxing and cellular protection.
May Help to Restore your Mind:
Better mental health and mental function could even be achieved through cold exposure.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. has said that when you expose yourself to the cold it creates things called “cold shock proteins” that can positively affect the brain. One of these appears in the brain and there’s research to suggest it could help fix synapses in the brain that have been damaged over time.
There’s also research that shows cold exposure combined with exercise (which you know I advocate) could help treat depression.
One study showed that taking short cold showers 2 times a day could help lessen depressive symptoms, which is a clear winner as the reduction in depression didn’t occur with the use of drugs.
May Help You Lose Weight:
I think losing weight and maintaining an optimal weight is one of the best things you could ever do to live a long and healthy life.
Cold exposure may help you lose weight through several mechanisms.
Studies in animals and humans show cold is capable of activating brown fat. Brown fat is what we use to generate warmth when exposed to cold and it also helps eliminate white fat, which we commonly see accumulated around waistlines, necks, arms, legs, etc
Cold exposure can also help to increase metabolism as your body needs to work harder to function in the presence of cold, and this too can help you lose weight.
Wondering How to Get Started With Cold Exposure “Training”?
If you’re wondering how to start cold exposure there are a number of things to do.
I don’t have much experience with this stuff personally, but millions of people worldwide try things like ice baths, cold showers, cryotherapy, or just going outside when it’s cold out and not wearing a ton of clothing.
I could probably write an additional article on these techniques as there are methods to the madness.
But, I know the easiest one is just taking a cold shower.
People who take cold showers gradually increase the time they spend with the handle towards cold by 10 seconds at a time.
That looks like this.
Turn on the shower and stand under it for 30 seconds while it’s cold and then turn onto hot and finish.
Consider adding 10 seconds at a time until you’re doing 2 minutes or so and hold that schedule for a month and evaluate if you feel better.
You can also check out things like cold plunges or the Wim Hof method.
Hot Heat For A Better Life
I’ve long been a fan of heat exposure and how it can improve your life, and that’s because who doesn’t like a sauna, right?
Perhaps I’ve not done enough to demonstrate how good heat is for helping to improve (and extend) your life.
I’ll just give you a recap of how heat exposure can help you, but the one thing about heat is you either need to use a specialized tool (like a sauna) or a hot bath to achieve a meaningful increase in body temperature (which is what leads to the health benefits).
Meaning, that relaxing on the beach while it’s 100 degrees outside may feel nice but it’s not doing anything for you.
The idea with heat exposure is that you’re elevating the body temperature to 100-102 degrees and this micro fever produces something known as heat-shock proteins (HSPs), similar to the cold-shock proteins I mentioned previously.
These heat-shock proteins are in every cell of your body and contribute to a myriad of cellular processes, including immune function, cell signaling, and cell-cycle regulation.
When you are exposed to heat, it causes the increased expression of HSPs which may offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases and also may prevent protein disorder and aggregation by repairing proteins in the body.
Here are other things heat may do for us.
Improve Cardiovascular Function:
Research indicates that exposure to high heat can promote a health effect similar to exercising at a moderate to vigorous pace.
A study featuring 19 healthy adults indicated that just 25-minutes in a sauna session compared favorably to moderate physical exercise with respect to cardiovascular measures.
Within just a few moments in the sauna, the researchers observed that heart rate as well as blood pressure increased rapidly, and dropped to below baseline levels measured pre-sauna or exercise.
Other studies indicate saunas can help to mitigate the risks of myriads of heart disease.
Help Promote A Healthier Brain:
With a healthier heart often comes a healthier brain.
And studies have shown repeated use of sauna, and other body-heat raising activities are helpful in improving mental focus and attention span, enhancing neurogenesis (brain repair), stabilizing or reversing cognitive decline, alleviating depression
Dr. Patrick writes: “Heat stress…increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a protein that acts on neurons in the central and peripheral nervous systems, to promote the growth of new neurons. BDNF modulates neuronal plasticity and ameliorates anxiety and depression from early-life stressful events. It is active in the hippocampus, cortex, cerebellum, and basal forebrain – areas involved in learning, long term memory, and executive function. BDNF is also produced in exercising muscle tissue, where it plays a role in muscle repair and the growth of new muscle cells.”
While many forms of “detox” mentioned by the media aren’t really helpful, heat exposure can certainly help clear your body of a number of harmful chemicals.
When you sweat it causes toxins stored up in your muscles, fat, and even your organs to be released and then expelled through the skin.
Given we have so many chemicals to contend with (and many of which are known to impair cell function and lower the quality of our lives) working up a good sweat is a great way to help detoxify as well.
If you’d like to see a video going over even more data, in-depth, click here or on the image below.
There are other ways to induce high-heat exposure, which include exercising in high heat, hot baths, spas, steam rooms, etc.
You could even sit in a hot car with the A/C off for 10-15 minutes and get the same effect
An important consideration though is that you’re healthy enough to do these things. If your health is fragile, or if your heart function is impaired, it’d be wise to consult with a physician before engaging in these kinds of activities as the stress could be too much for you to handle.