Chris Hemsworth swam the freezing Arctic waters in search of health for his new series “Limitless”.
Evidence suggests that a daily 30-second cold shower may provide the benefits of cold therapy.
Regular exercise can be just as good for overall health as exposure to ice.
Chris Hemsworth surfed and swam in arctic waters to test the limits of human resilience in what he said was one of the toughest experiences of his career.
The ‘Thor’ actor took on the challenge of swimming 250 meters of an icy northern fjord without a wetsuit in search of a longer, healthier life for the new National Geographic series ‘Limitless’, which airs on 16 November on Disney+.
To accomplish the feat, he worked with Ross Edgley, an exercise scientist and extreme athlete, whom Hemsworth described as “one of the fittest humans on the planet”, setting world records for swimming.
According to Edgley, the shock of immersing yourself in freezing water has proven benefits for longevity and health.
“Cold water triggers extremely powerful survival mechanisms,” he said in the episode. “Controlling the body’s response to cold could have huge health benefits down the line.”
While Hemsworth takes on other extreme challenges for the series, including a Navy SEAL-style “drowning resistance” test, he said swimming in the Arctic was the hardest.
“Halfway through, I felt like my brain was being stabbed by a thousand knives,” he told Men’s Journal.
Swimming in freezing waters is dangerous, especially if you don’t have an expert safety team on staff, as you risk hypothermia and death.
But you don’t need to dive in the Arctic to experience the benefits of cold therapy. Research suggests that regular exposure to cold in lower, safer doses may boost metabolism, improve energy and mood, and protect the body from certain side effects of aging. And if you hate the cold, you could get similar effects just by exercising regularly.
A quick cold shower can help regulate the immune system to prevent disease
Hemsworth may not be in a rush to jump into a frozen sea again, but by the end of the episode he’s changed his daily habits to incorporate more cold therapy, like turning in the last 30 seconds of his icy showers.
The routine is based on a 2016 trial that found participants who finished their shower with cold water took fewer sick days at work.
Between 30 seconds and three minutes at around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit may be enough to see the benefits, according to research – no arctic excursion required.
Ice baths can soothe muscles, but avoid them right after a workout to maximize gains
Hemsworth swears by ice baths for muscle soreness, his friend and longtime trainer Luke Zocchi previously told Insider.
The evidence is mixed on the benefits – ice may provide some relief from pain and fatigue, but research suggests it doesn’t actually improve recovery.
Too cold too soon could actually slow your muscle gains, Zocchi said, by preventing muscles from rebuilding properly after exercise wear and tear.
More recent research also suggests that icing may not be helpful for injuries and muscle soreness, contrary to previous theories.
Regular exercise provides similar benefits without freezing
If you hate the cold, you don’t have to put up with it for your health because other habits like vigorous physical activity have similar benefits, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
According to evidence, exercise can help improve blood circulation, reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve mental health.
To ease muscle soreness and increase gains without freezing, try active recovery in the form of low-impact exercises like walking or bicycling, personal trainers previously told Insider.
Read the original Insider article
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