Cold-Room Workouts Are Trending, But Are They Effective?
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Working out can already be a hassle for most of us. Combine the physical activity with cold temperatures and it sounds like a downright nightmare. But what if sweating it out in a cooler climate can actually be beneficial for your overall health?
Johnny Adamic and Jimmy T. Martin, co-owners of the chilly NYC studio Brrrn, seem to think so – and they’ve got the science to back it up. Their studio (currently closed or “in hibernation,” if you will) boasts a chilly 50-degree Fahrenheit temperature, which they say can make your muscles work more optimally and, as a result, burn more calories.
We chatted with the frigid fellows for their take on this fairly new fitness trend that has taken Manhattan and the rest of the country by storm. And by storm, we really mean blizzard.
What’s the Cold-Temperature Workout Trend?
“Cold is the new ayahuasca,” says Martin. “When you turn the temperature down and work out in cooler temperatures like our cool-temp 50-degree Fahrenheit studio at Brrrn, you can work out harder for longer because heat is not in the way.”
The research behind “mild cold stress” and its potential benefits on health isn’t entirely novel. Many physicians have recommended cold-weather workouts as a way to activate “brown fat,” which can actually boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss. But applying it to a workout in a controlled environment is something that has only popped up within the last few years. Brrrn was, inarguably, the first of its kind.
Benefits of Working Out in a Cold Room
In addition to its aforementioned fat-burning potential, working out in a cold room is said to prolong the period before your muscles hit failure.
“Muscle contraction is dependent on an enzyme called pyruvate kinase,” says Adamic. “As your muscles heat through exercise, the pyruvate kinase can’t convert adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary carrier of energy in cells, into energy.”
Instead, the cooling process is said to do the opposite: removing the heat to allow ATP to convert into energy, thus enabling you to work out harder and longer. The harder and longer you work out, the more calories you burn and the more stress you can put on your muscles to have them rebuild and regrow stronger.
Cons of Working Out in a Cold Room
Whether it’s hot, cold, or just right, Adamic claims that a lack of warming up is what will actually lead to a potential injury.
“You need to lubricate the joint capsules and get blood flow going to the muscles to support the activity,” he says. “Injury has less to do with outside temperature and more to do with the status of your current everyday living muscle, alignment, and moving patterns.”
There are dangers, however, associated with working out in cold temps, but they mostly apply to exercising outdoors. Risks like frostbite and hypothermia are very real, but can be avoided by dressing in layers and removing them as your body temperature begins to rise. Always be mindful of other external factors like the wind, which can be particularly harsh for exposed skin.
It’s also important to note that while cool-temperature lifting, running, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be ideal for most people, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before integrating any new type of exercise into your routine.
What About Cold Showers or Baths?
If the idea of working out in a cold environment still doesn’t sound appealing, Adamic and Martin are huge proponents of cold baths and showers. These are obviously more temporary discomforts, but they may yield great advantages.
“You should take cold showers as much as you possibly can or, at the very least, finish your showers on cold for at least a few minutes,” advises Adamic. “Cold is a powerful tool and an incredible bio-hack for health and well-being. [At the very least], it helps to boost mood and energy, reduces inflammation, and improves pain management.”
Additionally, cold baths and showers are said to boost immune systems.
“The power of cold stems from our brain, specifically the release of norepinephrine – a hormone and neurotransmitter which is released two to five-fold when we are cold,” explains Adamic. “With a cold shower, for example, the cold water exposure on our skin triggers our brains to release this significant amount of norepinephrine into our system. This in turn activates and also suppresses a host of inflammatory processes in our bodies down to the cellular level, according to the research, that leads to all these anti-inflammatory and mood-elevating benefits.”
How to Experience a Cold Workout at Home
While the Brrrn studio is currently closed, cold workouts can be accomplished from within the comfort of your own home. The company is fully behind its Brrrn-at-Home platform which offers the “slide board” experience, as well as a subscription to hundreds of classes. To really go all out with the theme, Martin advises participants to work out in basements, garages, or outdoors where the air is significantly cooler.
Sure, your electricity bill will take a hit during warmer months and the goosebumps and shivering may be too much to handle, but cranking up the AC may just be the quick fix you need to take your exercise to the next level. After all, most things in life are improved when put on ice.
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