Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the best temperature is the one that’s the most comfortable. But the latest science is revealing that we’ve got it all backwards. It turns out that our bodies thrive on extremes. Getting really hot and really cold actually makes us stronger, healthier, and happier.
My journey into this new world began by watching a documentary on Wim Hof, aka The Iceman. It’s entertaining if nothing else.
This inspired me to do more research on the health benefits of temperature extremes, which led me to Rhonda Patrick.
To summarize some of the latest findings:
Heat therapy health benefits:
- Increases your ability to use endorphins and feel less stressed
- Increases your focus and attention
- Increases BDNF for new neurons…helping you get smarter and remember better
- Improves your athletic endurance
- Increases your muscle growth
- Detoxifies your body
- Decreases your Alzheimer’s risk
- Leads to longer life via the creation of more heat shock proteins
- Increases your insulin sensitivity
Cold therapy health benefits:
- Helps you feels less stressed and more relaxed
- Reduces your insulin spikes by increasing insulin sensitivity; keeps your blood sugar levels low
- Reduces inflammation and speeds workout recovery
- Improves your athletic performance
- Revs up your metabolism and burns your bad fat (white fat)
- Releases dopamine, endorphins, and noradrenaline, making you feel much happier; fights depression
- Gives you increased focus and energy, leading to greater productivity
- Helps you live longer
- Creates a stronger immune system, meaning you get sick less often
- Helps you sleep better
- Helps to protect your brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s
At this point, I was in. But I knew I needed to ease into it. So I started by wearing the Cool Fat Burner vest for two hours every morning. Obviously, given the name, some people wear this thing for weight loss, but I wanted to get the cold thermogenesis health benefits. It definitely helped me transition into greater cold adaptation.
Next up I began taking contrast showers. Experts have found that alternating between hot and cold make both more effective. One simple way to do so is by taking a shower at your normal temperature, then doing 10 rounds of 10 seconds hot and 20 seconds cold. I used an interval timer on my phone to cue the transitions and let me know when I was done.
Then I began looking into infrared saunas. Ben Greenfield does a great breakdown on their health benefits, but they tend to be pretty expensive.
So I began thinking about what I could do to get really hot, really fast, really affordably. I was already running, so I began wearing a sauna vest and sweatshirt, creating a kind of mobile sauna experience. I found a great sweatband too. Suddenly my runs became more than runs. I was becoming acclimated to the heat and reaping the huge health benefits.
Getting so hot made it easier for me to ditch my contrast showers and go straight into cold showers. I noticed an immediate improvement in my mood and energy levels throughout the day.
I no longer complain when I start getting hot or cold. Instead, I remember all the health benefits and embrace the extremes as my friends.