Even Minnesotans who brave long cold winters can get away with staying warm most of the time due to fancy down parka jackets and central heating. Now, we can move from our homes, to our cars, to our offices and back again with minimal skin exposed to cold air. Humans have only been insulated from the cold for just a fraction of our time on earth. Did you know central heating only became mainstream in the 1960’s? Should we be hiding from the cold? Is this good for us?
Some would argue that we are losing our physical resilience by sheltering ourselves so heavily from the elements. Challenging our bodies with controlled and intentional exposure to cold has health benefits.
In recent years, Wim Hof has taken this hydrotherapy concept of cold exposure and made it quite popular with daring feats proving his resistance to cold.
Here’s what we know:
-Exposure to cold temperatures raises adiponectin, a protein that helps prevent inflammation Adiponectin is also involved in blood glucose regulation and can help reduce insulin resistance.
-Cold exposure can also increase natural killer cell count and activity. Natural killer cells spend their life hunting and destroying cancer cells.
-Cold exposure increases the production of brown fat that allows your body to create more thermogenic energy. The more cold exposure you get, the more cold tolerant you become.
Start slowly and work your way up to more extreme cold exposures. Please use common sense and do not subject yourself to cold that could damage your tissues.
Here are some simple ways to embrace the cold:
-Ending a warm shower with 30 seconds of cold water
-Slightly under dress for the weather. It's important to protect areas that are prone to frostbite such as fingers, toes, cheeks, chin and ears. Start with just one piece of clothing that is lighter than you would normally pick such as lighter pants or a lighter jacket, not both.
-Spend more time outside this winter.
-Keep your house a little cooler this winter. Turn your thermostat down overnight ideally 55-60F
*These recommendations are for healthy adults.