Cryotherapy and its Health Benefits?

Cryotherapy and its Health Benefits?

While living in a temperature-controlled environment has comfort benefits, there is a great deal of scientific evidence that being exposed to extreme temperature conditions can be very beneficial to health.

In fact, large temperature differences seem to contribute to optimizing many biological functions. In winter, for example, regular exposure to cold temperatures offers many health benefits.

“There is a mechanism by which cold promotes weight loss, reduces the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases through brown adipose tissue. This type of fat cell is incredibly rich in very active mitochondria. 

The physiological function of these brown adipocytes is to burn as much fat as possible to heat the body. This is made possible by these mitochondria which concentrate on the production of heat rather than the production of ATP, the small energy currency of the body.

By exposing yourself regularly to very cold temperatures, you allow your body to train / develop brown fat to produce heat, allowing you to lower your blood sugar and decrease your insulin resistance.

Cold stimulates the body’s metabolism

A published study 1 in Bioscience Reports examined the impact of cryotherapy (exposure to cold weather) on the mitochondrial structure of brown adipocytes and skeletal muscles, both of which are thermogenic tissues. As explained in this study:

“Mitochondria are very active organelles that make dramatic changes to meet the increased energy needs at the cellular level. Mitochondrial architecture (mitochondrial peak density, length, and size) is a reflection of their level of activity, and it is also an indicator of the energetic state of the cells. According to several studies, organs involved in thermogenesis in the body of mammals raise their metabolism in response to cold. 

While brown adipocytes and muscles both generate heat, they do so using different mechanisms.

  1.  In brown adipocytes, heat production is based on mitochondrial metabolism.
  2.  In muscle, mitochondrial metabolism plays only a secondary role in providing energy to the muscle.

In other words, mitochondrial metabolism is directly responsible for the thermogenesis of brown adipocytes, but it is indirectly related to thermogenesis in skeletal muscle.

Together, these different thermogenic processes help maintain a constant body temperature.

As the body adapts to increasingly cold temperatures, several phenomena occur, resulting in an increase in the overall metabolism:

  •  Brown adipose tissue activates by increasing its mitochondrial density.
  •  Oxygen consumption increases and the enzymatic activity of the mitochondria of the muscles is increased.

What are the benefits of cryotherapy?

The fact that the cold increases the number of mitochondria and improves their general operating capacity explains many health benefits 2 3 associated with cryotherapy. For example, cold treatment has been shown to be effective for:

  1. Strengthen the joints.
  2. Promote weight loss by increasing metabolism 4 .
  3. Improve blood circulation.
  4. Improve the immune system 5 .
  5. Reduce depression and anxiety 6 .
  6. Accelerate muscle and joint recovery 7 .
  7. Relieve pain associated with arthritis for approximately 90 minutes 8 .
  8. Reduce pain and edema following an injury.
  9. Decrease the level of cortisol 9 .
  10. Reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress 10 .
  11. Decrease inflammation 11 12 13 14 .
  12. Improve the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis 15 .
  13. Improve function and muscle strength.
  14. Stimulate mental focus and attention by increasing norepinephrine production 16 .

Many athletes also regularly use cryotherapy for these analgesic effects on tendonitis, sprains, bruises, hematomas, etc.

Common methods of cryotherapy

There are different methods to enjoy the benefits of cold. Some spas, gym, cryotherapy center have full body cryotherapy cabins with liquid nitrogen. But you can also take advantage of cold thermal shock via other means:

  • By applying an ice pack or a freezer bag.
  • Applying an ice-cold towel (just wipe a towel and freeze it) or massaging a painful area with ice cubes.
  • Playing sports in the cold, with few clothes.
  • Bathing in the ocean when the water temperature is low.
  • Reducing the heating temperature at home in winter.
  • By taking a cold shower or taking an ice bath.

It should be kept in mind that these methods to enjoy the benefits of cold should not last more than a few minutes, 10 to 20 minutes after acclimation, and is contraindicated for pregnant women, young children, sufferers high blood pressure and / or heart problems.

What precautions should be taken ?

Cold causes acute vasoconstriction, which can be potentially dangerous if you have high blood pressure or heart failure. In this case, a quick cold shower would probably be acceptable, but avoid ice baths or other immersion techniques in extremely cold water.

As a rule, you have to listen to your body. Individual tolerance for hot and cold temperatures varies considerably, and if you go too far, you can harm yourself. That said, over time, you will get cold, which will allow you to withstand colder temperatures for longer periods of time.

Wim Hof, aka “The Iceman”, is a perfect example. It has been exposed to cold every day for decades. As a result, he is now able to withstand the cold for much longer periods of time than would be normal, because his body is used to generating a lot of heat.

Again, the ability to generate more heat is a direct link with the increase in brown adipocytes and, second, the improvement of thermogenesis in skeletal muscles.

Does cryotherapy help to lose weight?

The more mitochondria you have in your adipose tissue, the more fat burning you will be able to lose. Your body may also generate more heat, which will result in a greater ability to withstand the cold over long periods of time.

Short parenthesis: There is a method of weight loss / firming called cryolipolysis that promises to reduce cellulite. This technique of local thinning by the cold proposes to cause the death of the fat cells (adipocytes) by apoptosis. It should be known that this method is very controversial because not scientifically based, and that it presents risks of burns.

How to boost the metabolism of brown fat?

One of the easiest ways to improve the metabolism of brown fat is to take cold showers, which you can do every day or almost every day. The feeling of tension is part of your body’s attempts to warm up. During your cold showers, try to remove this reflex and relax. Breathing is the key to staying as long as possible: focus on making great breaths and expirations.

When should cryotherapy be avoided?

There is one important point to make. When you do bodybuilding, oxidative stress generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause an anti-inflammatory reaction by the body. This response ultimately improves muscle mass.

We have seen in the benefits of cryo that it helps to reduce inflammation. If you are exposed to cold in the hour following your workout, you will reduce the anti-inflammatory response of the body (the beneficial process that allows you to take muscle), so avoid immersing yourself in the cold (like a shower very cold, an ice bath, or a whole body cryotherapy session) immediately after a weight training.

What is important to understand is that a bodybuilding session causes stress for the body.

You create free radicals, it causes inflammation, but it is a good thing in this case (because of a short duration).

It lasts one hour from the moment you stop doing your workout (where the inflammation reaches its peak) to the moment when the stress response starts, initiating a powerful anti-inflammatory reaction of the body ( antioxidant response).

Since cold also causes an anti-inflammatory reaction, it is important that you do not get this anti-inflammatory response too early, because you need some of this training-induced inflammation, so the the body neutralizes and strengthens it at the same time.

“The inflammation you will generate during training is part of the mechanism to synthesize more protein in skeletal muscles. If you mitigate that, then you will mitigate the benefits of your training. 

That said, spending a little time in a sauna after a workout can help increase muscle mass. This will also eliminate toxins that can affect mitochondrial function in general.

Health and cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is a simple way to optimize your health. When it comes to improving it, several simple strategies can have a significant impact.

Regularly exposing yourself to cold temperatures can promote a wide variety of beneficial changes in body function, contributing greatly to optimizing your health.

One of the simple things to do regularly, you’ll understand, is to take showers with cold water. It’s incredibly invigorating!

By exposing yourself regularly to this kind of extreme temperature variations, this will strengthen your mitochondria, which is fundamental for good health (with the prevention of many diseases), and for longevity.

Remember that mitochondria are the energy generators of your cells, and that if they do not work well, or if they are damaged, or are not effectively replaced by new and healthy mitochondria, a number of health will ensue.

Cryotherapy is therefore an effective form of mitochondrial therapy, beneficial for general health.



  1.  Mild cold induced thermogenesis: are BAT and skeletal muscle synergistic partners?
  2.  Cryotherapy in sports medicine
  3.  Cryotherapy to Treat Persistent Muscle Weakness After Joint Injury
  4.  Cold-activated brown adipose tissue in healthy men
  5.  The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial
  6.  Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders
  7.  Recovery From Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: Cold-Water Immersion Versus Whole-Body Cryotherapy
  8.  Whole-body cryotherapy in rehabilitation of patients with rheumatoid diseases–pilot study
  9.  Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body
  10.  Translating whole-body cryotherapy into geriatric psychiatry–a proposed strategy for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
  11.  Cold applications for recovery in adolescent athletes: a systematic review and meta analysis
  12.  Effects of microcurrent and cryotherapy on C-reactive protein levels and muscle tone of patients with rotator cuff reconstruction
  13.  Whole-Body Cryotherapy Decreases the Levels of Inflammatory, Oxidative Stress, and Atherosclerosis Plaque Markers in Male Patients with Active-Phase Ankylosing Spondylitis in the Absence of Classical Cardiovascular Risk Factors
  14.  Cryotherapy Reduces Inflammatory Response Without Altering Muscle Regeneration Process and Extracellular Matrix Remodeling of Rat Muscle
  15.  Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Atopic Dermatitis
  16.  Plasma norepinephrine responses of man in cold water

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