Cold Exposure

On the back of the sauna and heat exposure blog last week, we have to follow it up with cold exposure.

Once again Dr Rhonda Patrick, as well as Dr Andrew Huberman and Susanna Soeberg who wrote the book Winter Swimming: The Nordic Way Towards a Healthier and Happier Life, have been extensively covering this topic for a long while now.

In modern times, cold exposure is used primarily to reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle recovery after physical activity. However, regular cold exposure may also improve glucose and lipid metabolism, decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve cognitive performance.

The beneficial effects of cold exposure may be due to hormesis, a favorable biological response to a mild stressor. Hormesis triggers protective mechanisms that provide protection from future, more harmful stressors.

Exposure to cold temperatures induces a range of acute physiological responses, collectively referred to as the cold shock response. The goal of the cold shock response is to reduce heat loss and increase heat production. With repeated exposure, the body becomes habituated to cold, diminishing the cold shock response.

General health effects associated with cold exposure:

  • Metabolic health

  • Immune function

  • Antioxidant enzyme activation

  • Inflammation

  • Arthritis

  • Exercise-associated inflammation

  • Microbiome

  • Mood and cognition

  • Brain aging

  • Cold exposure exerts variable effects with exercise

Cold exposure safety concerns:

Cold exposure poses some health risks, especially in unsupervised or uncontrolled conditions. The most common risk associated with cold exposure is hypothermia, a condition in which a person's core body temperature drops below 35°.