You might not have noticed, but the summer months are starting to creep up on us again. This year, however, I’m not too worried. This time around I’m going to scoff at the 110+-degree temperatures because there are two new activities available that I think are going to make this year’s summer much more enjoyable. The first involves my 2 1/2 year old daughter, Anna, a hockey rink and myself. Right here at the Scottsdale Ice Den there is a class offered once a week to parents and “pups” to teach 2.5- to 5-year-olds how to ice skate. It’s a great weay to get some exercise, keep cool and spend some quality time together away from the Arizona heat. Be sure to bring your mittens!
I’m also really excited about the second option that we’re going to offer right here at Integrative Health. It will be only one of two units available to the public in the United States but has been used for years in Europe with impressive results. I’m particularly interested in its ability to improve weight loss efficiency by streamlining the body’s metabolism. It’s called “whole body cryotherapy” or “cryosauna.”
The idea of using cold temperatures applied to aching, injured and weak bodies is not new. The historical record talks of Egyptians, Greeks and Romans using cold water to treat various ailments and even to this day, you can’t watch any sporting event without seeing an injured player sitting on the bench with an ice pack wrapped around a damaged joint. When I was a kid I thought my mom was a genius (although I still think she’s pretty smart now!) when she used a bag of frozen veggies on my twisted ankle to relieve the swelling–the bag conforms to any sore spot amazingly well. With cryosauna, however, we have the ability to address many other health issues besides pain, although it’s very good at that too.
As I mentioned, I’m excited by the ability of cryosauna to speed weight loss. Too frequently in the clinic I hear folks mention a slow 2-5 pound weight gain every year, “without really changing anything in my diet or exercise regimen.” It turns out, however, that it’s actually really easy to add 5 pounds of weight a year because you only need to consume 168 extra calories a week (I did the math), which is only 16 M&Ms or a 1/4 cup of almonds or 4 M&Ms with almonds. It’s all too easy to get excess calories in our diets and this is the source of slow weight gain every year. This is where cryosauna comes in because in addition to limiting calories, cryosauna can burn up to 800 calories per treatment. How is this possible?
The physics behind cryosauna is brilliant and beautiful, but also complicated. Basically, it uses Newton’s Law of Cooling to remove the natural heat produced in the body by cooling the external skin temperature from a normal 90.5 degrees down to 30-32 degrees for 1-3 minutes through the use of naturally cool nitrogen. Nitrogen is a safe gas readily found in the air we breathe, but by compressing it in a cryosauna we can cool it down to an amazing minus 202-degrees. With your head unaffected, the rest of your body is exposed to this cooled air for 1-3 minutes and there is a subsequent rebound effect of your body’s thermostat to raise the skin temperature back to 90.5-degrees. During this compensation, the skin temperature actually raises back to 95-degrees for a minute or so which tightens the skin but also boosts your metabolism. This whole process uses a large amount of energy which explains the 800 calories burned during each treatment. For reference, running a full marathon burns around 2600 calories (obviously that’s only three cryosauna sessions to achieve a similar effect).
Finally, as an aid to weight loss, most of us think that when we have a hard, sweaty workout where our body temperature rises we think we’re burning a lot of calories. As the science has told us, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case as those who work out in colder environments and keep the core temperature lower will actually burn more calories. Think of swimmers doing their laps in a cooled swimming pool.
As physicians we’re always excited when we discover new therapies for our patients that are both effective and safe. The addition of cryosauna at Integrative Health is a natural fit, and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with its effects.