If cryotherapy is the latest beauty trend, then working out under sub-temperatures might be the next fitness fad. From the launch of BRRRN, a New York boutique gym that offers classes in sub-zero temperatures to Vasper, an exercise system that uses compression and cooling to create the effects of a high-intensity workout, it seems it's hot to be cold.
While the idea of working out in the cold might already bring shivers up your spine, does it really work?
It Burns Brown Fat
According to BRRRN's website, working out in cold temperatures burns more calories and fat as the body might turn to burning fat "as fuel to stay warm."
There are a couple of studies that suggest the same. One study found that men, who worked out in 14 degrees Fahrenheit cold weather expended more energy (calories) and burned more fat than they did when exercising at room temperature.
Another study showed that when exposed to an environment between 40 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, people burn more brown fat by shivering in an effort to get back to regular core temperature.
Humans have two types of fat: white and brown. Unlike white fat, which stores heat to keep you warm, brown fat burns calories to generate heat.
According to the study, the results "suggest that a variable indoor environment with frequent cold exposures might be an acceptable and economic manner to increase energy expenditure and may contribute to counteracting the current obesity epidemic."
It Helps You Perform Better
"Normally when we exercise at a high level, our bodies produce heat, and in order to keep ourselves from overheating our body shunts blood flow to our skin where it can be more easily cooled off," Kristie Sanchez of Vasper tells Organic Authority. "We also begin to sweat to aid in the process of heat transfer. When our body shunts the blood-flow to the skin, however, there is less available to provide oxygen and nutrients, and to flush metabolic by-products from our muscle tissue."
According to Sanchez this means that muscles fatigue faster and our performance drops. By actively cooling the body during intensive exercises, like interval training, "we counter-act this effect and are actually able to boost blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscle tissue," she says. "This results in a performance increase that allows the user to perform at a higher level on our system that they would otherwise be able to achieve without the cooling component."
It's Not For Everyone
While working out in the cold might be enough for you grab your sneakers and a sweater, Dr. Alex Tauberg DC, CSCS, CCSP, says it's important to keep in mind that exercising under sub-zero temperatures is not suitable for everyone.
"There are segments of the population who should either avoid cold temperature exercising or at least limit their exposure," he tells Organic Authority, citing those with asthma, Raynaud syndrome, and peripheral neuropathies.
"People with asthma and especially exercise-induced asthma should be very careful about working out in the cold," he says. "Asthma can be exacerbated by the cold, dry air and cause vasospasms (asthma attacks)."
With the colder weather around the corner, it makes sense to check out either a cold workout indoors, like BRRRN or Vasper, or to take your indoor workout outside, like running. However, it's important to note that more scientific research and vetting is needed in order to proclaim "brrrning" calories is a more effective way than burning them.
But getting your shiver on is definitely something to experience if you haven't tried before. Just don't forget your hat and gloves!
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