Breaking Your Bio Equilibrium & Why the Cold is Healthy
22 January 2019
What does the cold mean to you? Brrrrr. Shut that door.
For animals, cold is woven into their lives. It isn’t avoided, so much as struggled against.
Elemental, beautiful, brutal, even fatal, but necessary.
There is no light without darkness and no hot, without cold. The awesome biological diversity of our planet is a response to such environmental stressors. Millions of years of random mutations and natural selection, has produced creatures superbly adapted to their environments.
Bye bacterial marine sludge, hello bears and lizards.
We Don’t Do Cold.
The thing is, we humans are above that now – the wild struggle. We’re locked into a quest for comfort. It started when a primeval game of “rub sticks together with blind fury” turned to flame.
What a surprise. Imagine being the Neanderthal that discovered fire? What the...is this? Anyway, ever since we’ve been using our powerful brains to avoid coming head to head with the elements, with the cold.
In modern day this means central heating, log burners, puffa jackets, slipper socks and panda hats. It’s not wrong to desire warmth. Being cold isn’t pleasant – we shiver. This is our body’s way of moving our muscles, which generates heat.
We Desire Homeostasis
Homeostasis is a biological equilibrium. The state in which our environment meets our physical needs exactly. Not too hot, not too cold, not hungry, not over full, Netflix. You know the drill.
It’s a blissful place to be. But, is it good for us? In short, no.
Feeling comfortable is fine; the problem comes when we’re forever comfortable. We go about our days without in total homeostasis. We’ve designed our world and our lives that way.
Although primitive humans eventually discovered fire, thermostats came a little later. Their world was much tougher than our own and to meet it our ancestors were leaner, meaner and far more active. They would have known how to shiver, and shiver well.
Even Comfort Has a Downside
All things in moderation, is a well-worn phrase – clichéd to be sure. It’s relevant though.
Why is it, we only apply it to the obvious – alcohol, junk food etc.? It’s because the fallout from our traditional vices is backed up by sturdy science. We’re all aware what happens when we consistently eat sugary, fatty foods.
What we’re starting to understand are the repercussions of eternal comfort. Rather than fighting for survival, we’re fighting against excesses and inactivity. Our century is one of obesity, cardio vascular disease, diabetes, allergies and hypertension. All of which, if not worsened by, are not helped by a sedentary, indoor-bound and comfortable existences.
We need, for our health, to get outside of our comfort zones. This doesn’t mean we have to whittle clubs and chase deer through the woods. There are easier ways.
Vitalising Benefits of Cold Therapy
One way to test your comfort zone, and break your bio-equilibrium is to be cold. Or get cold. Not constantly, but enough to kick start your body’s natural defence mechanisms.
Being cold, or cold therapy is becoming increasingly common. Once a fringe activity for the screw loose crew, cold therapy has been popularised by Wim Hof, a Danish extreme athlete. That chap who runs snowy marathons barefoot.
It’s long been accepted that ice baths and packs help reduce pain and swelling of injuries, but research shows this is just one of the benefits of cold on the body. Wim Hof claims his relationship with the cold helps him voluntarily influence his Autonomic Nervous System – assumed to be scientifically impossible. Not so, as scientists have recently admitted.
Whilst controlling auto-systems like a super hero is alluring, there are some more relatable benefits.
Burn Fat With the Cold
Fat, to most of us – is just fat. In reality there are two types, good and bad, brown and white.
White fat piles up and sits around – in obvious places. This is the fat so many of us moan about. It’s great for physical cushioning and insulation, but the nemesis of self-image. Consuming more calories than you burn is what creates white fat.
Brown fat is found in the back and neck, usually in slimmer people that are active and outdoorsy. Brown fat is not for storing energy, but generating it.
Studies have shown that exposure to cold can stimulate your body into generating brown fat and burning white. According to Wim Hof, if you take it one step further and relax rather than shivering, it can improve results.
Either way, it’s thought that 15 minutes of shivering cold is equivalent to an hour’s exercise.
Boosting Internal Systems
It’s odd to suggest the cold could help with being cold. What a sentence. Or at least icy extremities, like fingers and toes, in an otherwise balmy environment.
It’s all very well chipping away at granite abs, or sculpting biceps in the gym – but what about the muscles we can’t see? Even the most toned looking person can have weak circulatory muscles. A side effect of living within a small temperature band.
What we need, is the occasional extreme – especially cold. It sets off a range of beneficial bio processes, including tightening the circulatory system – helping its efficiency.
The cold also causes the vessels in our lymphatic system to contract, increasing the flow of lymph fluid – flushing waste from our bodies. In turn, as waste is flushed out, our immune system is triggered. White blood cells unite, fighting off all microbial enemies.
Don’t Jump Into Icy Water
No, don’t. This can cause cold water shock – which is dangerous and defeats anything good the cold can offer you.
If you’re going to embrace the chill – do it in a controlled way. How about as part of a refreshing spa day?
Unique Cold Spa Treatment
Snowstorm Walk at Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa in Nottinghamshire is the world’s first spa experience with real snow.