The Benefits of Voluntary Cold Exposure

The Benefits of Voluntary Cold Exposure

By: Vanessa Matos


You know what’s so hot right now?...

Voluntary Cold Exposure!

Not only is this health hack trendy, but it can also produce many benefits for the brain and body when performed correctly.


Basic how-to for deliberate cold exposure:

  • There is no correct temperature for cold exposure, but most people do best in the range of 45°F to 60°F. Think: cold enough that you want to get out immediately, but not so cold that it is unsafe to stay in for a few minutes.
  • Cold showers work but cold-water submersion (to the neck) is better.
  • How long do we need to plunge? Again, there is no one answer. Widely suggested is 2-4 bouts of 1-5 minutes per week. Andrew Huberman famously prescribes 11 minutes of cold exposure per week. 
  • This technique is best when performed early in the day. Warning: plunging first thing in the morning might turn you into a superhero/sunbeam/happiness magnet.
  • YouTube has TONS of tutorial videos to help you convert a chest freezer into a cold plunge. I’ve done it and it certainly does the trick.


Possible benefits of deliberate cold exposure:

  • Lasting improvement in energy and focus via increasing the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine
  • Lasting elevation in mood, focus, and attention via increasing dopamine release
  • Increased metabolism and conversion of white (storage) fat to beige/brown (metabolically active) fat
  • Increased cold tolerance/adaptation
  • Improved physical recovery following exercise (recommended before or at least 6 hours after a training session, as cold exposure within 4 hours can inhibit desirable exercise-related adaptations)
  • Mental toughness - doing hard things makes us better at doing hard things!

How might you integrate cold exposure in the coming week?

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