Cold Exposure: Hype or Longevity Boosting?

4 min read

Jan 12, 2024 - by The OneSKIN TEAM
January 12,2024
LONGEVITY

Cold Exposure: Hype or Longevity Boosting?

4 min read

Jan 12, 2024 - by The OneSKIN TEAM
January 12,2024
LONGEVITY

*This post is adapted from an original post by Aastha Jane, found hereto learn more about livelongerworld, with permission from the author
What if there was a simple activity you could do regularly to prevent age-related diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia? That question powers everything we do here at OneSkin. And it’s why our founders have dedicated their lives to longevity science. In our latest post, we’re taking a closer look at the benefits of cold exposure and how implementing this practice could contribute to a longer, healthier life.
What if there was a simple activity you could do regularly to prevent age-related diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia? That question powers everything we do here at OneSkin. And it’s why our founders have dedicated their lives to longevity science. In our latest post, we’re taking a closer look at the benefits of cold exposure and how implementing this practice could contribute to a longer, healthier life.
01

What is Cold Exposure?

Cold exposure is a practice that involves subjecting the body to cold temperatures, a method gaining traction for its potential longevity benefits [01]. This can range from taking cold showers and ice baths to ambient exposure to cold environments. At the heart of cold exposure's advantages is its role as a hormetic stressor. Hormesis refers to a phenomenon where a mild form of stress. In this case, cold triggers adaptive responses in the body, leading to enhanced resilience and function [02]. This kind of stress acts as a cellular-level workout, much like how physical exercise strengthens muscles. Hormetic stress from cold exposure prompts the body to adapt and fortify itself, leading to a host of health benefits. This concept isn't exclusive to cold exposure though. Other forms of hormetic stress known to positively impact health include regular exercise, fasting, and the consumption of organic and cruciferous vegetables, each presenting its unique challenge to the body and, in turn, strengthening its ability to cope with stressors. The key is the mild nature of these stresses — sufficient to stimulate adaptation but not so severe as to cause harm.
01

What is Cold Exposure?

Cold exposure is a practice that involves subjecting the body to cold temperatures, a method gaining traction for its potential longevity benefits [01]. This can range from taking cold showers and ice baths to ambient exposure to cold environments. At the heart of cold exposure's advantages is its role as a hormetic stressor. Hormesis refers to a phenomenon where a mild form of stress. In this case, cold triggers adaptive responses in the body, leading to enhanced resilience and function [02]. This kind of stress acts as a cellular-level workout, much like how physical exercise strengthens muscles. Hormetic stress from cold exposure prompts the body to adapt and fortify itself, leading to a host of health benefits. This concept isn't exclusive to cold exposure though. Other forms of hormetic stress known to positively impact health include regular exercise, fasting, and the consumption of organic and cruciferous vegetables, each presenting its unique challenge to the body and, in turn, strengthening its ability to cope with stressors. The key is the mild nature of these stresses — sufficient to stimulate adaptation but not so severe as to cause harm.
02

Benefits of Cold Exposure

Regularly subjecting yourself to cold temperatures can lead to physiological changes that support longevity and overall well-being. Let's dive into some of the key benefits:Improved focus: Taking a cold shower can give your dopamine levels a temporary boost, enhancing both focus and motivation [03]. Dopamine is essential for your drive and ambition, and this natural spike can make a significant difference. Additionally, cold exposure before physical activity can enhance athletic performance, thanks to an adrenaline increase. Fat loss: Engaging in regular cold exposure activates and increases the volume of brown fat in the body. Unlike regular white fat, brown fat is metabolically active, playing a role in improving glucose and insulin sensitivity, and increasing fat oxidation [01]. This activation not only aids in weight management but also offers some defense against obesity.Reduced inflammation: Inflammation, especially chronic, plays a significant role in the aging process. Cold exposure has been shown to reduce inflammation, a benefit that has gained attention thanks to figures like Wim Hof. By mitigating inflammation, cold exposure may help in slowing down various age-related changes in the body [04]. Mitochondrial biogenesis: This refers to the creation of new mitochondria within cells. Mitochondria are crucial for energy production, but their efficiency tends to decline with age, impacting energy levels. Cold exposure can stimulate the generation of new mitochondria, potentially enhancing energy production, especially important as we grow older [05].
02

Benefits of Cold Exposure

Regularly subjecting yourself to cold temperatures can lead to physiological changes that support longevity and overall well-being. Let's dive into some of the key benefits:Improved focus: Taking a cold shower can give your dopamine levels a temporary boost, enhancing both focus and motivation [03]. Dopamine is essential for your drive and ambition, and this natural spike can make a significant difference. Additionally, cold exposure before physical activity can enhance athletic performance, thanks to an adrenaline increase. Fat loss: Engaging in regular cold exposure activates and increases the volume of brown fat in the body. Unlike regular white fat, brown fat is metabolically active, playing a role in improving glucose and insulin sensitivity, and increasing fat oxidation [01]. This activation not only aids in weight management but also offers some defense against obesity.Reduced inflammation: Inflammation, especially chronic, plays a significant role in the aging process. Cold exposure has been shown to reduce inflammation, a benefit that has gained attention thanks to figures like Wim Hof. By mitigating inflammation, cold exposure may help in slowing down various age-related changes in the body [04]. Mitochondrial biogenesis: This refers to the creation of new mitochondria within cells. Mitochondria are crucial for energy production, but their efficiency tends to decline with age, impacting energy levels. Cold exposure can stimulate the generation of new mitochondria, potentially enhancing energy production, especially important as we grow older [05].
03

Getting Started: From Icy Showers to Cold Plunges

It might seem daunting, but implementing cold exposure into your routine can be a simple and invigorating process. Whether you're a beginner or looking to up the ante with more challenging methods, there are various ways to introduce your body to the benefits of cold. Here's how you can get started: Gradual introduction with showers: Begin by introducing brief periods of cold water at the end of your regular showers. Start with just a few seconds and gradually increase the duration over time. This method allows your body to adapt to the cold gradually, making the process more manageable. Ambient cold exposure: Try stepping outside without a jacket for short periods, especially during cooler months. This ambient exposure to cold air is a gentle way to begin your cold exposure journey. Cooler sleeping conditions: Adjusting your sleeping environment can also contribute to your cold exposure routine. Try sleeping in cooler temperatures by using cooling blankets or turning down the thermostat. This subtle form of cold exposure can be particularly effective and easy to implement. Taking the plunge: For those seeking a more thrilling experience, consider cold plunges in natural settings like lakes or waterfalls. Not only is this an effective way to experience cold exposure, but it's also an opportunity to connect with nature and add an element of adventure to your routine.The key to successfully incorporating cold exposure into your life is to start at your own pace and gradually increase the intensity. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly. With regular practice, you'll be able to enjoy the full range of benefits that cold exposure has to offer.
03

Getting Started: From Icy Showers to Cold Plunges

It might seem daunting, but implementing cold exposure into your routine can be a simple and invigorating process. Whether you're a beginner or looking to up the ante with more challenging methods, there are various ways to introduce your body to the benefits of cold. Here's how you can get started: Gradual introduction with showers: Begin by introducing brief periods of cold water at the end of your regular showers. Start with just a few seconds and gradually increase the duration over time. This method allows your body to adapt to the cold gradually, making the process more manageable. Ambient cold exposure: Try stepping outside without a jacket for short periods, especially during cooler months. This ambient exposure to cold air is a gentle way to begin your cold exposure journey. Cooler sleeping conditions: Adjusting your sleeping environment can also contribute to your cold exposure routine. Try sleeping in cooler temperatures by using cooling blankets or turning down the thermostat. This subtle form of cold exposure can be particularly effective and easy to implement. Taking the plunge: For those seeking a more thrilling experience, consider cold plunges in natural settings like lakes or waterfalls. Not only is this an effective way to experience cold exposure, but it's also an opportunity to connect with nature and add an element of adventure to your routine.The key to successfully incorporating cold exposure into your life is to start at your own pace and gradually increase the intensity. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly. With regular practice, you'll be able to enjoy the full range of benefits that cold exposure has to offer.
04

Considerations and Precautions with Cold Exposure

Cold exposure can offer numerous benefits, but it's important to approach this practice with awareness and caution. Here are some key considerations and precautions to keep in mind: Post-exercise timing: Delay taking cold showers immediately after exercising. The reason behind this is that cold exposure can potentially blunt some of the beneficial inflammatory responses that are a natural part of your body's recovery process after a workout [06]. To maximize the benefits of both your exercise and cold exposure, give yourself a buffer period before jumping into a cold shower. Pre-sleep routine: While cold showers can be invigorating and beneficial during the day, they might not be ideal right before bedtime. The increased alertness and energy levels they bring can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, opt for a warm shower in the evenings to help your body relax and prepare for a restful night. Hypothermia risk: Especially when dealing with extreme cold exposure, such as ice baths or natural cold plunges, be mindful of the risk of hypothermia. This condition occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to dangerously low body temperatures. Always monitor your time spent in cold environments and listen to your body's signals. Dealing with adaptation: Over time, your body may become acclimated to the cold, potentially reducing the benefits you once experienced. If you notice this happening, consider modifying your exposure – either by increasing the intensity or taking a break to reset your body's response to the cold. By keeping these considerations in mind, you can safely enjoy the advantages of cold exposure while minimizing any potential risks. Remember, everyone's body reacts differently, so it's crucial to tailor your approach to cold exposure based on your personal tolerance and comfort level.
04

Considerations and Precautions with Cold Exposure

Cold exposure can offer numerous benefits, but it's important to approach this practice with awareness and caution. Here are some key considerations and precautions to keep in mind: Post-exercise timing: Delay taking cold showers immediately after exercising. The reason behind this is that cold exposure can potentially blunt some of the beneficial inflammatory responses that are a natural part of your body's recovery process after a workout [06]. To maximize the benefits of both your exercise and cold exposure, give yourself a buffer period before jumping into a cold shower. Pre-sleep routine: While cold showers can be invigorating and beneficial during the day, they might not be ideal right before bedtime. The increased alertness and energy levels they bring can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Instead, opt for a warm shower in the evenings to help your body relax and prepare for a restful night. Hypothermia risk: Especially when dealing with extreme cold exposure, such as ice baths or natural cold plunges, be mindful of the risk of hypothermia. This condition occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to dangerously low body temperatures. Always monitor your time spent in cold environments and listen to your body's signals. Dealing with adaptation: Over time, your body may become acclimated to the cold, potentially reducing the benefits you once experienced. If you notice this happening, consider modifying your exposure – either by increasing the intensity or taking a break to reset your body's response to the cold. By keeping these considerations in mind, you can safely enjoy the advantages of cold exposure while minimizing any potential risks. Remember, everyone's body reacts differently, so it's crucial to tailor your approach to cold exposure based on your personal tolerance and comfort level.
05

Summary

Incorporating icy showers and other forms of cold exposure is a simple, yet effective strategy for boosting your overall health and longevity. Not only does it have the potential to extend your health span, it can aid in fat loss, enhance mental focus, alleviate stress, and even strengthen your immune system.
05

Summary

Incorporating icy showers and other forms of cold exposure is a simple, yet effective strategy for boosting your overall health and longevity. Not only does it have the potential to extend your health span, it can aid in fat loss, enhance mental focus, alleviate stress, and even strengthen your immune system.
Key Takeaways:
  • Cold exposure acts as a hormetic stressor, a mild stress that triggers beneficial adaptive responses in the body, similar to how exercise strengthens muscles.
  • Regular cold exposure can improve focus, stimulate fat loss through increased brown fat activity, reduce chronic inflammation, and promote mitochondrial biogenesis, enhancing energy production.
  • Starting with cold exposure can be simple and gradual, such as ending showers with cold water, stepping outside without a jacket, sleeping in cooler temperatures, or experiencing natural cold plunges.
  • It's important to consider timing (especially post-exercise and before sleep), be aware of hypothermia risks, and adjust the intensity of exposure as your body adapts to the cold.
  • Incorporating cold exposure into daily life offers simple and accessible means to potentially boost your health span, immune function, and more.
Key Takeaways:
  • Cold exposure acts as a hormetic stressor, a mild stress that triggers beneficial adaptive responses in the body, similar to how exercise strengthens muscles.
  • Regular cold exposure can improve focus, stimulate fat loss through increased brown fat activity, reduce chronic inflammation, and promote mitochondrial biogenesis, enhancing energy production.
  • Starting with cold exposure can be simple and gradual, such as ending showers with cold water, stepping outside without a jacket, sleeping in cooler temperatures, or experiencing natural cold plunges.
  • It's important to consider timing (especially post-exercise and before sleep), be aware of hypothermia risks, and adjust the intensity of exposure as your body adapts to the cold.
  • Incorporating cold exposure into daily life offers simple and accessible means to potentially boost your health span, immune function, and more.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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