Finally, we have cold therapy. Brief yet intense cold exposures have been associated with a balanced inflammatory response8, improved sleep9, muscle and joint health10, and mood support11. Cold therapy acts as a hormetic stressor—aka, a short and brief burst of stress—which “stresses the cells just enough so that they go into repair and rejuvenate mode,” says Shah. As a result, it helps your body become more resilient to future stress, thus enhancing longevity.
“Even just three minutes in cold water, cryotherapy chamber, or even a cold shower really does induce a physiological change,” says Shah. “Mitochondria get healthier. The endorphin and dopamine release is beneficial as well.” You don’t need to spend 20 minutes in freezing water—just a few minutes as often as you can will do the trick. “If I can do it every day, I’ll [cold plunge] every day,” Shah adds.
Just make sure cold therapy is the last step of your “longevity circuit,” as Shah calls it. “A lot of the hormetic effects of cold therapy happen not just while you’re in the cold, but in the time period of getting back to your normal core body temperature,” he explains. “So if you’re going into heat right afterwards, it doesn’t give your body that extended 20 to 30 minutes of warming itself up. That’s why doing the cold last is important.”
Translation? Don’t hop into a sauna right after you cold plunge. Sauna first, then end your regimen with a blast of cold.