Being in the hot Arizona climate for a week had me thinking about the role hot and cold environments play on the body. Running in100 degree heat proved to be challenging. In that kind of heat you just can’t go very far. But in a controlled, heated environment, like doing exercise under infrared heat , there are many known benefits. For example, infrared therapy has been shown to assist with detoxification, pain relief, easing muscle tension, improved circulation, weight loss, boosting the body’s immune system, skin purification, and assisting in lowering blood pressure. Wow!
We recently installed an infrared sauna in our house and I love the way it makes me feel. I try to use it at least two times a week. I have noticed a better night sleep, a general sense of relaxation and clearer skin. I love using the sauna for meditation as well.
Now let’s talk about the effects extremely cold temperatures have on the body. We’ve probably all heard of cold plunges, cold showers or even cryo-therapy. Maybe you’ve even read about Wim Hof aka “The Iceman.” People would probably not endure the pain of being brutally cold if there weren’t some health benefits! After doing some research, I was surprised that there were a lot of similarities between the effects of hot and cold environments on the body. Some of the benefits I found for cold were: reducing inflammation and helping the body to heal quicker post workout or post surgery, increased energy, better sleep, enhanced immune function, better joint function, increased circulation, help with weight loss, and can help to increase a bodies brown fat – the “healthy” fat.
Our bodies prefer to be in a comfortable “medium” state called homeostasis. When you expose your body to high heat or extreme cold, it almost “shocks” it into a state of increased response eliciting the increased function of these systems to produce the benefits of your body working overtime to get back to the state of Homeostasis.
Although I don’t enjoy the cold therapy as much as heat, I have tried implementing cold showers after practicing the Wim Hof breathing method. I have found that the more I practice his breathing, the longer I can stay in the cold shower. I also enjoy taking the cold shower after the sauna. Not sure if combining the hot and the cold together provides the same benefits, but I enjoy combining the two.
If you’re interested and you have the time, give each method a shot, find a resource on the subject and see if it adds to your health and well being. Be responsible though. No crazy ice swimming or yoga in the oven 😉