While subjecting the body to freezing cold temperatures may seem like an odd thing to voluntarily do, scientific evidence is increasingly pointing towards the abundant health benefits of cold therapy treatments.
One of the most famous proponents of cold therapy is extreme Dutch athlete Wim Hof, famous for his ability to withstand the cold. Wim Hof has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, run a half marathon above the arctic circle in bare feet and stood in a container covered in ice cubes for over 112 minutes.
Wim Hof claims the ability for cold therapy to boost the immune system, improve mental health, reduce stress, boost energy, encourage better sleep, improve sports performance, increase concentration and assist with a variety of health conditions from asthma to arthritis.
From putting a bag of frozen peas on a sprained ankle to using cold water to close the pores, the use of ice in health and beauty is no new concept.
In recent years, the health and beauty treatments have emerged which involve exposing the body to temperatures as low as -100 degrees Celsius to maximise the impact the cold can have on health.
Ice therapy has been scientifically proven to improve the condition of skin (even treating cancer in its early stages) and promote fat loss, alongside many of the physical and mental health benefits acclaimed by the Wim Hof method.
Here are some of the proven benefits of freezing treatments for the skin, body and mind:
Cold temperatures cause the skin to tighten, which reduces pore size and boosts the skin’s collagen production to prevent ageing.
Icing the skin also boosts circulation, reducing the appearance of cellulite and improving healing.
This study by Jama Dermatology found that ice treatments reduced symptoms of dry itchy and irritated skin, and skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.
The Cancer Council has advocated the use of ice therapy as an effective treatment for removal of sun spots and low risk tumours as it encourages the growth of new healthy skin cells.
The boosted circulation encouraged by cold temperatures makes icing the body a popular method of muscle recovery for athletes.
This study by the Cooper Institute proved icing’s ability to reduce muscle inflammation and pain after working out, by improving circulation to the areas and numbing the nerve irritation that causes pain.
Studies have shown cold therapy treatments to have a positive impact on mental health. This studyfound cryotherapy reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in one third of trial patients.
Studies have also linked cold therapy treatments to increased energy levels, improved focus and reduced stress.
Cryotherapy is a treatment that involves stepping naked into a freezing chamber. The chamber temperatures are usually around -100, and you will be locked in for 2-4 minutes.
Cryotherapy claims to be beneficial in speeding up the metabolism, burning calories and promoting weight loss.
This study published in the Journal of Obesity showed that repeated cryotherapy treatments can be effective in reducing the fat levels in the body. Participants in the study received one cryotherapy session per day for 6 days, and their body fat decreased by 3.8% in the 6 days of treatment.
Cryotherapy is also available as a treatment for specific body areas, such as cryo facials or hand treatments for muscle relief or as an anti-ageing treatment.
A full body cryotherapy treatment typically costs between $60 and $100.
Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch athlete renowned for his ‘Wim Hof’ method of improving health and fitness and boosting resilience. A large component of his method involves cold therapy treatments.
Wim Hof suggests cheaper alternatives to cryotherapy such as ice baths and cold showers.
The Wim Hof program, which combines cold therapy treatments with breathing exercises that he claims will unlock the body and mind’s true potential, is available online as a video series.
He also offers expeditions to Iceland where participants practice ice therapy treatments in the natural icy waters.
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