A heatwave is upon us, which means it’s time to embrace cool-down techniques – preferably ones that boost your overall wellbeing.
Cold therapy has the potential to ease anxiety, stimulate focus and energy, reduce inflammation and target aches and pains – and it’s much easier to get into in the summer months, when exposing yourself to icy temperatures comes as a relief.
“Exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to reduce inflammation by decreasing blood flow to affected areas of the body,” explains Colin Edgar, founder of CET CryoSpas, a leading provider of cryotherapy to sporting institutions in Europe. “This in turn helps to relieve pain and other related symptoms. Alongside pain relief, cryo is often used by athletes to enhance muscle recovery, as the low temperature reduces muscle damage and curbs potential injuries.” It’s also a great way to help the body produce mood-boosting endorphins to reduce stress and improve mood and sleep in one fell swoop.
Here, three different ways to harness the wonders of cryotherapy now.
The cold water plunge
Whether it’s turning your shower to cold as you’re about to get out or going swimming in the sea, immersing yourself in cold water offers “immediate short-term benefits (like feeling invincible due to the release of endorphins) and long-term benefits with repeated exposure, such as better brain health”, says Laura Fullerton, CEO and founder of Monk. “There’s a misconception that you need to stay in for a long time, but I’d advise beginners to aim for just two minutes at a warmish temperature (between 10 to 15 degrees Celsius) to reap the rewards.”
Fullerton suggests taking long, deep breaths if you’re struggling with the chill. “Start by committing to a cold shower every day for just one week,” she says. “In this heat, it’s also easy to jump under a hose or fill a paddling pool with water and ice. It’s incredible how quickly people notice that they generally feel lighter, happier and more focused.” For those wanting to go a little further, Monk’s smart ice bath is second to none, and accompanied by an app that offers breath work exercises, guided plunges and soundscapes to help you face the cold. All you have to do is fill it up with water and get in.
The icy face tool
When temperatures rise, our skin can become red, swollen and irritated – there’s a reason Kate Moss likes to dunk her face in a basin of icy water each morning. “Generally, cold temperatures will cause vasoconstriction (or the shrinking of blood vessel walls) and reduce blood flow,” explains facialist Katharine Mackenzie Paterson. “This can then reduce swelling, help with surface redness and take heat out of the skin, as well as easing any itching or stinging by dulling the nerve endings slightly.” She adds that it can be great to control oil and acne, too.
Cryo globes are an ultra-popular way to harness the wonders of ice on one’s skin. Keep them in the freezer, and take them out a couple of minutes before using them on your face. “You don’t want to give yourself a cool burn,” cautions Mackenzie Paterson. “They’re best used with a nice cream-based mask or an oil to create slip on the skin.” Begin around the neck before making your way up around the jawline, using upward and outward strokes. When you get to your face, start in the centre and glide outwards to the ear and jaw areas. “Around the eyes, use gentle strokes, or circle around them.”
The cryotherapy chamber
For true converts, a cryotherapy chamber is ideal – using extreme cold (think temperatures of -140 degrees Celcius) to deliver results instantly. It’s one treatment that Ten Health & Fitness have incorporated into their new wellness services, such is their belief in its power to boost cellular regeneration and tackle pain relief.
“Our chamber is cooled to -85 degrees and sessions last three minutes,” explains Justin Rogers, creative director at the destination. “How frequently you should have cryo depends on why you’re having it. If you’re an athlete or using it as part of a treatment for a specific issue, you can use it daily, while for general wellbeing benefits, one to three times per week is optimal.”
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