Did you know that quick bursts of exposure to cold, heat, or intense physical activity could actually benefit your body's ability to handle stress? Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have found that hormetic stressors such as taking a cold shower, sitting in a sauna, or engaging in HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise can briefly spike biological stress, followed by recovery and ease. Lead study researcher and professor in the University of California's psychiatry department, Elissa Epel, explained that these stressors may actually help your body cope with stress better in the long run. So why not try incorporating these techniques into your routine and see how they benefit you?
What is hormetic stress?
Hormetic stress or hormesis is a dose-response phenomenon that involves low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition that has been shown to result in overcompensation for mild environmental stress, meaning the low levels of stress stimulate the body’s repair mechanisms and improve overall health and resilience. The concept that mild stress can actually be beneficial for aging and longevity is a topic that has been studied for many years. Hormetic stress comes in many forms, such as cold exposure, saunas, exercise - making it very unique in comparison to other kinds of stress. The advantage of this type of stress is that can actually lead to a net benefit for overall health; it increases mental clarity, mood, reduces overall stress and inflammation - as well as potentially helping people with depression.
What are the benefits of physical stress?
One of the best ways to induce hormetic stress is through cold exposure. Exposure to cold temperatures can improve immune function, increase brown adipose tissue (or “good” fat) in the body, and even enhance mental clarity and focus. More specifically, cold exposure activities such as whole body cryotherapy (WBCT), release stress related endorphins, along with adrenaline, noradrenaline, beta-endorphins, and steroid hormone cortisol – all which have beneficial effects on the body and can help successfully help us regulate our stress levels and block pain perception (thereby reducing overall pain). Endorphins and beta-endorphins are both chemicals that act like painkillers – we like to think of them as “nature’s Advil”. If you don’t have access to WBCT or ice bathing, cold showers have been shown to have similar positive impacts on the body.
Heat stress is also a form of hormetic stress that can have many physical benefits for the body. Saunas and heat therapy have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce inflammation, and even enhance brain function. They can also help to relieve pain and stress, improve flexibility, and promote better sleep. Generally, heat therapy is a safe and effective way to improve physical health for most people.
What are the most effective forms of physical stress for mental stress relief?
As mentioned above, researchers have found that when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, it triggers the release of endorphins, which promote happiness and a boosted mood. It also increases the production of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which helps with focus and attention, as well as stress tolerance.
When it comes to heat therapy, it's also a great option to support mental stress relief as it promotes stress reduction and overall relaxation. The heat from the therapy also increases the production of feel-good hormones like endorphins and oxytocin, which can help improve mood and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Additionally, heat therapy can increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of brain fog.
If you're looking for a way to support your physical and mental health, and overall well being, incorporating hormetic stress, and more specifically cold and heat therapy could be the answer.
You can experience both cold and heat therapies at our Midtown East or FiDi at Brookfield Place locations in New York City. Clean Market Midtown East features a single-person nitrogen whole body cryotherapy chamber while Clean Market FiDi at Brookfield Place has an electric whole body cryotherapy chamber that can accommodate groups of up to 4 people at a time. Both locations have infrared saunas that can fit up to 2 people in each session, allowing you to bring a friend or partner if you wish. Book now online, call 888-320-1699, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org