As Neurohackers we are very interested in the science surrounding cold therapy as a tool to optimize health. In fact, if you asked around you'd quickly learn that cold therapy is a method used by many on the Neurohacker team.
Cold therapy is linked to a number of health benefits. For example, scientists have found evidence that exposure to cold boosts mitochondrial health. Another benefit of utilizing cold therapy is that it reduces inflammation. Furthermore, cold therapy is also linked to improved sleep quality, increased focus, and even an optimized immune response.
Here's the best part: getting started with cold therapy is relatively simple. In fact, you likely already have everything you need to begin implementing cold therapy into your neurohacking routine.
Three Easy Ways to Optimize Your Health With Cold Therapy
Boost your mitochondria by ending your hot showers with 30 seconds of water as cold as you can stand it. Even 30-90 seconds of cold water can have profound health effects. For those looking to take it up a notch beyond cold water in the shower, you can move up to number 2, ice baths.
Pro tip: We love the Wim Hof mobile app for implementing cold showers into our daily routines. The app features cold shower instructional videos, a timer to help you track time spent in cold therapy, and a 20-day cold shower challenge to keep you accountable. Check it out!
A 2015 study showed that ending a hot shower with 30-90 seconds of cold water resulted in a 29% reduction in sickness
Ice baths are another awesome variation of cold therapy. But what if you don't live near a facility that features ice baths or have a high-end system at home? Thankfully, there are a few relatively inexpensive alternatives to help you create a recovery ice bath at home.
Neurohacker team member Chase Imbert throws a ten-pound bag of ice in his bathtub 2-3x per week as a post-workout recovery. Bathtub lacking the full-body soak feeling? Grab one of these stock tanks by Rubbermaid at Amazon and create a DIY ice bath set up on the cheap at home.
Here's the deal with a cold plunge. It is really cold. I do not want to get in it. My brain tries all it can to tell me why I don't need to get in, but when I ignore it and just get in, for the rest of the day I know I can do hard things and everything in life is like a video game with a cheat code. - Director of Brand and Community
Cryotherapy can be great for its ease of use. Busy professionals and executives who want to get an efficient means of increasing mitochondrial health can be in and out of a cryotherapy chamber within 10 minutes and back to work.
If you're looking for the most effective cold therapy option you may want to stick with cold water immersion over cryotherapy. According to a 2017 study simple cold water immersion offered greater health benefits than cryotherapy.
HOW OUR TEAM INCORPORATES COLD THERAPY INTO THEIR NEUROHACKING ROUTINE
As mentioned at the outset, cold therapy is one of the most loved biohacks among Neurohacker team members. Listen to what Neurohacker Co-founder, James Schmactenberger, and Neurohacker Director of Brand and Community, Ben Cote, have to say about incorporating cold water therapy into their morning routines.
"Cold therapy has become one of my favorite biohacks. I have a top opening freezer filled up with water that I use regularly. I feel a big difference in terms of recovery time from exercise but the biggest benefit for me is the clarity of mind it brings. 1-2 minutes in a cold plunge makes me much more alert and brings a sharpness to my thinking that lasts at least a few hours."- James Schmachtenberger, Co-founder
"I've added a cold plunge into my morning routine and it is now one of my favorite morning hacks. Beyond the fantastic physical effects I feel while I'm in it and for the rest of the day, it's a very clear psychological win first thing in the morning. ⠀
Here's the deal with a cold plunge. It is cold. It is really cold. I do not want to get in it. My brain tries all it can to tell me all the really good ideas as to why I don't need to get in, but when I ignore all of those and just get in and for the rest of the day after I know I can do hard things and everything in life is like a video game with a cheat code on after that."- Ben Cote, Director of Brand and Community, Ben Cote
FAQ QUESTIONS SURROUNDING COLD THERAPY
We want to make getting started with cold therapy as easy as possible for you. So we’ve rounded up the most consistently asked questions that arise when discussing cold therapy with our Instagram community. You asked, we answered.
What temperature does the water need to be in order to see the benefits of cold showers? In the study referenced the participants showered in water temperatures of 50º-52ºF.
Why start with hot water and end with cold? The goal behind switching between hot and cold water is to create contrast, because senses and receptors are designed to detect and respond to change. Cold acutely causes constriction, shunting blood flow from the periphery to internal organs to conserve heat but the response after it is stopped improves circulation. The result is increased alertness, decreased tension and inflammation, and increased expression of mitochondrial biogenesis. Ending with hot water would in theory do the opposite.
Do you ever get used to the discomfort associated with cold water? Yes! Coldwater therapy is very much mind over matter. A commitment mindset is vital to embrace the discomfort.
That being said, set yourself up for success by starting slowly and at a temperature that eases you towards your goals. For example: the first week you might choose to end your shower with 15 seconds of cold water. The following week, increase your time to 30 seconds, at a slightly colder temperature. Stick with the process and you’ll be surprised at both the temperature and duration you can withstand in a short period of time. One of our community members said, “Started out feeling like a miserable punishment, but now I look forward to it. You get used to it pretty quick.”
Can cold water really stimulate your vagus nerve? Yes, indeed. While your body adjusts to the cold, sympathetic activity declines, while parasympathetic activity increases. Deep deliberate breaths also stimulate the vagus nerve, lowering your heart rate. Why do we mention breathwork as a response to a question about cold water therapy? For many, the body innately transitions to deep breathing when exposed to cold temperatures. Cold water therapy and breathwork complement each other. For seven easy ways to stimulate your vagus nerve check out this article.
Now it’s your turn, Neurohackers. Set a goal to incorporate cold therapy into your neurohacking routine and within weeks you will feel more energetic, less stressed, better rested and find satisfaction in knowing you're giving your immune system a much-needed boost.
Have a lingering question about cold therapy? Ask it in a comment below and we’ll update the article accordingly.