When you hear the word “cryotherapy,” there’s a chance you may initially think of rich old dudes freezing themselves in the hope that science will enable them to wake up in the future. But this article is NOT about that whatsoever. A growing body of research suggests that plunging your body into -140 degree celsius temperatures could be the game changer that separates the elite from the rest when it comes to faster recovery (decreased soreness), decreased pain, increased sleep quality and body composition. But before you google the closest cryotherapy facility and go running over there after your next gym session, read on for everything you need to know about this trending health hack.
What is cryotherapy?
In very basic terms, cryotherapy is “cold therapy.” You have no doubt used some form of cryotherapy in your life… whether it was applying an ice pack to a sprained ankle, or jumping into a ice-bath after intense football practice. The odds are you plunged into these freezing cold temperatures to decrease pain and discomfort, ironically.
Whole body cryotherapy is like an ice pack to the extreme. It consists of exposing your entire body to very low (subzero) temperatures, sometimes below negative two hundred degrees Fahrenheit, for a few minutes (typically between 2 and 4 minutes). Often, you’ll stand in a tank, in your underpants and be bathed in liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air…like taking the ultimate cold shower.
The benefits of cryotherapy go beyond pain relief
Cryotherapy has been linked with extra energy, increased metabolism, blood oxygenation, muscle toning as well as reduced DOMS. People also report feelings of euphoria and assertiveness.
Just how does cryotherapy have such a fantastic health impact?
After repeated sessions, the cold air triggers a decrease in inflammation, increase in adrenaline, endorphins and increase in HDL. These have all been linked to decreased muscle soreness, increased energy, mood and increased muscular strength.
.Cryotherapy isn’t a one size fits all.
There is no one size fits all approach; your routine can be highly individualized. Some folks like to shoot for 1 cryotherapy session per week, to help reset their body for less tiredness and pain, while professional athletes Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt and Conor McGregor use it ritually; everyday after practice to help recover for their next workout, and increase energy.
While you should by no means drop $100 everyday on a session, keep in mind that the benefits will add up as you use it more frequently. A clinical study showed 3 sessions separated 3 days apart, helped elite athletes dramatically reduce fatigue and pain after a 45 minute run. But the 3 sessions were not enough to reduce inflammation. However, after 6 sessions, there was a significant reduction in interleukins-6 (IL-6), an inflammatory marker linked to delayed onset muscle soreness. And still after ten sessions, one every twenty-four hours, runners experienced a decrease in oxidative stress, inflammation and an increase of HDL – a lipoprotein linked to increased skeletal strength following intense exercise.
It can help with aging skin and muscle tone, but it may not work for everyone.
Hey, it helped Daniel Moore and Alicia Keys who swear it keeps them looking young, and Daniel Craig swears by it. In preparation for his role as James Bond in “Skyfall,” the England native is said to have turned to cryotherapy to maintain his physique.
Yet, according to Einar Ottestad, M.D., clinical assistant professor at Stanford University Medical Center’s Systems Neuroscience and Pain Laboratory, “there is no good evidence to show that anything resembling… this… occurs” in these tanks to substantiate such claims.
You also don’t know how you will react physically and mentally to negative one-hundred forty degree temperatures, he adds. “You may not know how your body will respond” Ottestad says. But most people find the session to be piece of cake, and then suddenly your overwhelmed by feelings of euphoria, energy and might.
For maximal results all sessions should be kept between 2.5 and 3 minutes, and be for temperatures of -110* to -140* Celsius. And make sure your cryotherapy is whole body. Partial body cryotherapy, where you leave out your face, will short-change you on the benefits (according to clinical studies).
You should talk to a doctor before trying cryotherapy
Your lifestyle is just one factor to consider before you try cryotherapy; your overall health is another.
Whether you’re thinking about trying cryotherapy for peak mental and physical performance or as a treatment for pain, a doctor should be involved, Doctor Kuehne says “There are many factors that must be considered, like your current health, or whether you have any chronic conditions.”
Also, it’s important to determine the credibility of where you choose to go. Do your research and make sure the facility you choose is highly rated and is run by certified experts. If there’s reason for you to have an ounce of doubt in your mind; choose another location.
A typical person may benefit from only one session a week,” Doctor McFarlin, conductor of the clinical studies on runners, explains. “But an athlete seeking significant results in their skin, muscle recovery, and immune system may see more improvement by doing it more regularly – 4 to 5 times a week.”