Are you sick of the cold weather and ready for spring to come? If you are like me, you can get a little stir crazy in the middle of winter.
While I enjoy sledding and playing in the snow with my kids, it is a lot of work to get them ready! I find that we are not outside nearly as much when it’s cold. With this in mind, I have a challenge for you today.
I want to talk to you about the benefits of embracing extreme temperature exposures. You may be surprised to learn that practices like taking a cold shower or sitting in a sauna have many health benefits.
I invite you to come into this discussion with an open mind, no matter how much you would prefer to live in a steady warm climate year-round!
If you have been following me for a while, you may know that I often look at how our ancestors lived as a guide. There is a huge discrepancy between how our ancestors experienced the weather and how we experience it.
Our current society does not have the exposure to the elements that people did in our ancestors' time. We wake up in temperature-controlled homes, take warm showers, and even drive to work in comfortable cars that have been in the garage all night. Most of us work, live, and spend our time in buildings that maintain a very comfortable temperature.
This is much different than what our ancestors experienced. There were no grocery stores for our ancestors to pick up their food, but they still had to eat in the wintertime. This meant that they had to be out in the elements finding food to survive. Even when they were in their shelter with a fire going, it didn’t maintain a perfect 70 degrees temperature year-round.
Why it Matters
Our bodies have lots of systems in place to regulate our temperature - shivering, goosebumps, sweating, changes in metabolism, etc. It’s good for our bodies to practice using these systems.
If our bodies never have to challenge these systems, they likely won’t work as efficiently and effectively as if they were used regularly. While I am not suggesting we put ourselves in danger (frostbite, heatstroke, etc.), we do not want these systems getting too lax either.
Extreme temperature exposure benefits our mitochondrial function, immune system, fat storage, inflammatory levels, hormone production, cardiovascular system, blood sugar regulation, and detoxification.
Here is a great article as well as a scientific study with more details about hot and cold temperature exposure.
How to Experiment with Extreme Temperature Exposure
Check with Your Doctor
Check with your doctor if you are interested in trying this. There are many potential health benefits, but it is important to be careful. If you are suffering from any health concerns or chronic disease, it is wise to be even more cautious with this.
Listen to Your Body
There is a difference between being slightly uncomfortable and experiencing pain. If you begin to feel pain, you are likely pushing yourself too far. When you are getting started, small doses and less extreme temperatures are the way to go. If you haven't spent much time in extreme temperatures, you can do harm if you jump into this too quickly.
Go for a Walk
Simply try to go for a walk outside on a cold or a hot day. You’d be surprised at what your body can handle (and actually enjoy). Start small, and try longer walks as you gain confidence in your body's ability to handle it. Dress for the weather, and don’t let the winter weather completely deter you from moving outside!
Give Yourself a Burst of Cold Water
Try turning the temperature down right at the end of your shower. Start by turning the water to a slightly cooler temperature for a short duration of time. As you get used to doing this, turn the temperature down even more and extend the duration of the experience. Over time, aim for the coldest temperature that you can handle for 45-90 seconds.
When you get out of the shower, don’t grab the towel immediately. Let the water evaporate off of your body for a while. You will likely get goosebumps and shiver a bit, but that is a good thing!
Turn the Temperature Down at Night
In their podcast about Healing Chronic Disease Dr. Hyman and Dr. Lepine discuss the benefits of extreme temperature exposure (36:37-39:00). They say that cold temperatures can actually help you get a better night's sleep.
Stimulate Your Diving Reflex
Submerging your face in cold water stimulates your diving reflex. Filling up a sink with cold water is the easiest way to try this at home. The diving reflex optimizes respiration by distributing oxygen to the brain and lungs.
Enjoy a Sauna
You may not be ready for a cold temperature immersion experience. That’s okay! Maybe you are open to heat exposure. If so, a sauna may be more your style. There are many benefits to spending time in the warmth of a sauna including cardiovascular health, immune support, and detoxification. Check out a more thorough explanation of the benefits of using a sauna here.
What small step could you take today to embrace an extreme temperature exposure that your body can handle? The benefits of simply being outside are HUGE! I don’t want you to have to wait until spring to get moving outside!