Activate Your Brown Fat
What if a simple temperature change could hold the key to a myriad of health benefits? Dr. Susanna Søberg, a leading scientist in thermal therapies, argues just that.
According to Søberg, exposing your skin to temperatures that feel jarringly or uncomfortably cold activates brown fat, increasing your metabolism.
Interestingly, it's not just about how cold the water or air is; it's about the temperature difference between your skin and the external element. This activation of brown fat offers long-term benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved insulin sensitivity, better heart rate, and glucose balance.
Mastering the Art of Cold Exposure
Going right into cold exposure might not be the best strategy for everyone. Dr. Søberg emphasizes that the body adapts over time so that initial discomfort will subside. She suggests easing into it: you could start by sleeping in a colder room or dipping a hand in cold water. If you find it difficult to tolerate cold exposure, you can still get the benefits by leaving your hands out of the water or wearing booties on your feet. Whether it's a cold shower, a winter swim, or just stepping out into chilly air, the aim is to keep the stimulus a stimulus—overdoing it might turn a good stressor into chronic stress.
The Shiver Factor
Another fascinating insight from Dr. Søberg's research is the "after-drop" phenomenon. After cold exposure, your blood vessels constrict to keep your organs warm, then dilate once you're back in a warmer environment. However, your surface skin remains cold, causing your core body temperature to drop and inducing a shiver. Far from being a sign of distress, this shiver helps ramp up your metabolism even further. Think of it as the body's saying, "Hey, I'm working on it!"
Dr. Søberg's work sheds light on how our bodies respond to temperature as stressors. If you want to improve your metabolism, cardiovascular health, or brain function, her thermal therapies could be a chilly but welcome addition to your wellness routine. And if you're up for a more rigorous regimen, you could even try cycling heat and cold—but always end on cold to keep those benefits rolling in for hours afterward.