The concept of cold exposure has been studied rigorously with some pretty amazing results. When we expose ourselves to the cold our bodies respond by stimulating a survival response that is very valuable. Our cells generate a series of proteins called Sirtuins that are associated with longevity. Sirtuins drive the cell to perform as a “younger” more efficient cell. Glucose and insulin utilization is optimized thus reducing risk for diabetes and promoting good health and longevity.
Secondly, when exposed to cold our bodies stimulate brown fat. Brown fat generates heat and burns white fat, the ugly fat. You want all the brown fat you can get but as we age we lose most of it. Cold exposure may revitalize your brown fat stores and help keep you lean. Simply put, brown fat burns fat.
I can hear my grandmother already, “If you go outside without a coat you’ll catch your death of cold”. Sorry grandma but that has been studied and you are incorrect. A study in 2002 specifically studied if cold exposure and acute cooling of the skin would predispose you to catching a cold and the answer was clearly “no”. There is no correlation to being in the cold and catching a viral infection. So relax and enjoy the cold exhilaration.
Cryotherapy chambers are popping up to take advantage of this craze for longevity. You can pay $65 to $85 for the privilege of standing in a closet for 3 minutes that is cooled to minus 130 degrees. That's right, 3 whole minutes. That's about $20 bucks per shiver. No thanks. I choose to get my cold the old fashion way. Walk outside in the winter wearing very little clothing. It’s actually quite amazing what you can get used to. I am quite accustomed to going for a walk in 30 degree weather with nothing more than running shorts and gym shoes. Bare-chested and ready for an awakening. Start slow and gradually build up your tolerance. Focus on your breathing and the joy of being in the great outdoors. Over time you will find that 15 to 20 minutes in the cold is not only easy but enjoyable in its own weird way.