Get cold, stay young
(No. 22) Frigidariums are the next big thing, by Stephen P. Williams
(please touch the little heart, above)
But first, this: Macho men don’t age well, according to a new study; plus, Brad Pitt cries in his dotage.
Throw cold water on that
I should have probed the healing waters; a cold lake in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy
Lacking shelter, we broke into a shepherd’s cave, 12,000 feet up in the Colombian mountain range called Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. I was felled by bronchitis and digestive problems, barely able to move. In retrospect, I realize I should have crawled down to the alpine lake below and immersed myself in the frigid water, which might actually have healed me.
Many people believe, with a smattering of scientific evidence, that cold water boosts the human immune system. Hippocrates prescribed cold baths to his patients. Scottish lake swimmers gather for naked highland plunges. The Finns have made cold water part of their culture, jumping into frigid lakes after taking hot saunas. They also swim cold without saunas, in a practice called avantouinti.
Once, during a winter visit to a friend’s cabin in the Adirondack mountains, we chopped a hole in the foot thick ice and fired up a wood-shack sauna on the edge of the dock. It took me a while in the 185 degree sauna to get my courage up, but eventually I jumped naked into that hole, put my head under, pulled myself up onto the snow and ran barefoot back into the sauna. I slept so soundly that night.
I would gladly do it again right now, if I could. But I can’t.
A Swedish woman chooses to embrace winter waters
Witness the feeling of a cold dip. Jonna Jinton is a Swedish artist, singer and photographer who understands cold water.
People swim in cold water for a variety of reasons, usually associated with heart health, the immune system and general vitality. Right now I’m thinking a lot about my immune system, as the coronavirus continues to move through New York City, where I live, and the rest of the world. A randomized study of over 3,000 people in the scientific journal PLos One suggests that taking cold water showers significantly boosts immune systems. Those people in the study who didn’t take cold showers suffered a 29 percent higher sickness level than those who took hot showers followed by cold showers lasting 30, 60 or 90 seconds. The average cold water temperature was 50 degrees F. or 10 degrees C. Curiously, the 30 day study showed that 30 seconds was enough — longer showers didn’t seem to do more. And the wellness rate rose to 54% for people who combined cold showers with regular exercise.
One of the study’s authors attributed the results to the body’s fight or flight response to the cold water, which caused cortisol to momentarily increase, and activated brown fat, which may influence blood sugar levels. He also admitted it might simply be some sort of placebo response. Other studies have found that cold water plunges boost white blood cell counts, and thus people’s immune systems. For anecdotal evidence, a fanatical Dutch wellness guru named Wim Hof has convinced many people of the value of cold water for the immune system, along with other benefits. The evidence is scant and inconclusive, but suggests potential.
I’m spooked by our current virus, troubled by the talk of culling older people, such as myself, from treatment if things get too crowded. I want to stay healthy. So I’ve started taking cold showers. Yesterday morning I shook when I stepped under the cold water, focusing the stream on every bit of my body, rinsing my hair in it, gasping now and then from the cold. It was awful. But then it ended. And a moment later I felt fine, invigorated even. Last evening I did it again, but this time I started with warm water and reduced it gradually to freezing cold. Much easier. And I hung out longer, perhaps a full minute and a half. I slept peacefully through the night. And this morning I actually looked forward to stepping into the icy water again.
I think you will, also.
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Only in America
I love this story about celebrity mindfullness.
At first I thought this was Kanye and Kim’s house, but then I saw that it was Prague Castle. Either way, looks like a meditator’s Instagram dream. Photo by Robin Schreiner on Unsplash
I began meditating regularly when I was 45. I have had an interesting journey in that regard, and meditation, in various forms, has remained essential to my process of aging. Sometimes it’s good to meditate with other people. It’s almost as though the power of the meditation is boosted by their presence.
I’m not a teacher, and I’m not an expert. But I got the idea to offer my video companionship to anyone who would like to meditate, or try to meditate, in the midst of our current turmoil. I can’t guarantee anything other than a few solid minutes together. If you’d like to give it a try, sign up on my calendar and I’ll send you a zoom link.
Hope to see some of you soon.