Practices like fasting, cold exposure therapy, and meditation have been hot topics in the world of health and wellness, longevity, and aging. Science has been homing in on what influences and activates certain gene expressions in our body that increase longevity and healthspan.
The concept of cold exposure has been studied rigorously with some amazing results. When we expose ourselves to the cold, our bodies react by stimulating a survival response that boosts our immune system, increases antioxidant activity, and triggers mitochondria biogenesis.
4 Powerful Cold Water Benefits
- Cold Exposure Influences Mitochondrial Biogenesis
Mitochondria are the “powerhouses of the cell.” They are responsible for producing energy and ensuring that our cells continue to perform optimally. Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process of the body making new mitochondria. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce as many new mitochondria as we age, and our existing mitochondria can become damaged.
The good news is that cold exposure has been found to trigger the master gene that controls mitochondrial biogenesis (PGC-1 alpha) to prompt new mitochondria to form. The more mitochondria your body produces, the more energy, healthy organ function, and youthful vitality you will have!
- Ice Bath Benefits: Reduce Inflammation in the Body
A little inflammation here and there is normal, but chronic inflammation is a key driver of aging and disease. Cold exposure therapy, including ice baths and cold showers, causes your body to release a hormone called norepinephrine that inhibits inflammation pathways by decreasing a key inflammation molecule called TNF alpha, which is associated with many diseases and illnesses. So, go ahead and add cold showers or ice baths to your daily routine to reduce inflammation!
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- Cold Shower Benefits: Reduce Free Radical Damage in Your Cells and DNA
Free radicals are unstable atoms that damage cells, causing illness and aging. They are part of everyday living and there’s no way to avoid them. Your body deals with free radicals by producing antioxidants that inhibit oxidation and fight free radicals. Cold exposure therapy, including taking cold showers and ice baths, lowers free radical damage by increasing antioxidant enzyme activity in the body which generates more glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase. This natural method of activating antioxidant pathways is much more effective than taking an antioxidant supplement. Take a cold shower next time to get your daily dose of antioxidants.
- Cold Water Benefits Our Immune System
Having a strong immune system not only fights off colds and viruses, but ailments and disease. To fight off disease and viruses, we need healthy immune cells. Cold exposure therapy may increase the number of immune cells in the body. Cold exposure has been shown to increase these specific cells:
- Cytotoxic T lymphocytes: these cells play a role in killing cancer cells
- T cells: these cells kill viruses and tumor cells
Adding Cold Exposure & Cold Water Benefits to Your Daily Life
Cold Exposure has been shown to have many benefits—some that are still being studied, like slowing brain aging and reducing depression. So next time you can get cold, give cold exposure a try! Here are four simple ways you can reap the rewards of cold water benefits by adding cold exposure therapy to your daily routine:
- Ice Bath: Fill your bath with ice and water and soak in it (no longer than 15 minutes at a time)
- Cold Plunge: Immerse yourself in a cold body of water like a pool or lake (again, keep your plunges short—no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time)
- Cold Shower: Take a cold shower after working out or end your normal daily shower with 5 to 10 minutes under ice-cold water
- Cold Activity: When it’s cold outside, take a walk with limited warm clothing
There are many ways to get cold and reap the benefits of cold exposure. Your cells will thank you for it and your body will naturally trigger its disease-fighting abilities.
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