Although some may love it, most of us can’t wait for the cold winter months to end and spring to come. But chilly temps can actually be beneficial to your health. From cold showering to the Wim Hof Method to cryotherapy: discover how to let the cold work for you with practices and routines that warm your body from the inside out.
On cold days, all you want to do is bundle up in winter woollies, turn up the heat and stay in. But did you know that spending some more time in the cold wouldn’t be all bad? It may even make you healthier.
The cold can help you burn calories, for instance. Your body will work harder to stay at its core temperature, speeding up your metabolism. Research shows that your body acclimatises to cold weather by increasing its heat-producing fat cells, known as ‘brown fat’. Whereas white fat stores calories, brown fat burns them to produce heat. Thanks to those miraculous brown fats, the cold can be a healthy workout in itself.
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that a cold shower or swim boosts the immune system. The Scandinavians have known that for a long time. They have good reason for jumping into the cold Nordic snow after a sauna session, since exposure to sudden bursts of cold water will activate your nervous system and increase endorphin and adrenaline levels. This energises the body and gives you an overall good feeling that can last all day. It may even help counter less severe forms of depression.
The Wim Hof Method
The Dutch wellness expert Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, developed a wellness method based on the health benefits of cold temperature exposure: the Wim Hof Method. He is often said to have superhuman abilities, as he climbs freezing cold mountains dressed in shorts and runs marathons through icy arctic deserts on his bare feet. By giving trainings and teaching special breathing techniques, he also teaches others how to withstand the cold. According to Wim Hof, this not only helps maintain a healthy balance between body and mind, but also improves concentration and focus.
Another cold exposure trend that is quickly gaining popularity is cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves three-minute exposure to extreme cold, with temperatures between -100 to -140 degrees Celsius. During those three minutes, nerve endings in your skin will alert the brain that your body is in critical danger. This will immediately increase blood flow to the body’s core to keep the vital organs warm, causing the blood to return to the rest of the body rich in oxygen. Your body also rushes hormones and enzymes into the bloodstream. As a result, exposing your body to three minutes of extreme cold will enrich the blood, boost your metabolism, and help detoxify and heal your body.
Eastern warming practices
If you try cold showering, the Wim Hof Method or cryotherapy, you’ll notice that your body will learn to acclimatise to the cold by warming itself. But the following Eastern traditions and practices also teach us how to keep the body warm from the inside out.
1. Ayurvedic food principles to make you feel warm
Ayurveda gives some great guidance when it comes to the warming and cooling effects of food. Strangely, those effects have nothing to do with the temperature of the food itself. It’s all about the right ingredients. For example, eating broccoli, spinach and beans will help your body maintain warmth. Other great warm-up foods are root vegetables such as carrots, radishes and potatoes, as well as fresh fruits such as apples, oranges and mangos. If you’re craving a hot drink and you’re in the mood for something other than coffee or tea, try one of these Ayurvedic lattes.
2. Make dry brushing your new morning routine
Dry brushing, or garshana, is also part of the Ayurvedic tradition. It only takes you three to five minutes of your day, but practising this in the morning will energise your body and make you feel vitalised and invigorated all day long. Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which works as an important part of your immune system.
3. Practice yoga to produce warmth from the inside out
Cold weather can cause muscle stiffness, but a good yoga session will loosen your body up and reduce tightness in your muscles and joints. Yoga is good for the blood circulation, provides an energy boost and produces warmth from the inside out. It also helps you get a good night’s rest, which is crucial to keep warm - we all know that shivery cold feeling when we’re tired. Start the day right with this yoga session, let the energy flow and you’ll see that your body will be much better able to deal with the cold.