How to become healthier is a very broad question that I actually try to answer in almost all of my columns. However, there are still some habits and tricks that we can add to improve our health.
I think we will all agree that we have had a difficult time in the last couple of years. We are all facing different types of challenges in our lives, most of which are mental health challenges. Although, hopefully, we can learn some lifestyle habits that will help us improve our overall well-being.
The best thing that we can do to become healthier is to get our bodies into a healthy weight range. Being obese or overweight can increase our risk of many diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that being obese leads to a greater risk of COVID-19, both in the likelihood of getting the disease and a triple risk of being hospitalized. Carrying excess body fat diminishes our immune function and the CDC estimates that over 30% of COVID-19 hospitalizations were due to obesity.
That’s one more reason to become healthier.
We probably all know what the healthier food sources are, including whole fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, and also that we need regular exercise and good quality sleep. I have talked about this in detail in my previous columns. However, I can add one more very effective solution to get healthier, and that is cold exposure. This is completely free and much research is showing many benefits including reduced inflammation, improved mood, improved metabolism, and helping with fat mobilization and oxidation — in other words, helping to burn fat.
If you want to lose body fat then first you need to mobilize the fat, which means to take the fat cell outside of the cell wall. After that, your body needs to oxidize it. So when you do high-intensity activity you can help your body mobilize the fat. An example of high-intensity activity could be increasing your heart rate for a short period of time, for example, 10 to 30 seconds, then resting for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeating. However, after you have done your high intensity exercise and mobilized the fat you still need to do some type of lower-intensity activity such as walking or housework to oxidize it.
Cold exposure can be done by swimming in cold water, taking a cold shower, or even going further and taking an ice or cold water bath. Studies have shown that when you let your body shiver, in a relaxed state without resisting the shivering, you will increase the fat-burning process.
Of course, if you have never done this before then start off by choosing a water temperature that is bearable. It could be dangerous to start directly with an ice bath.
However, if you do this properly then you can stimulate fat loss while releasing succinate, an essential intermediate of the energy cycle that is involved in many chemical processes in the body.
We have three types of fat — brown, white and beige fat. Cold exposure will activate thermogenesis, especially in beige and brown fat, while increasing energy expenditure. So the next time you have a shower, try a cold shower. Ideally, stay under the cold until it begins to feel uncomfortable, then wait for 1 to 3 minutes without drying yourself and repeat this three to four times. Of course, remember to start slow, which means not too cold and not too uncomfortable so as to not hurt yourself. And if you have any health conditions then please ask your physician before trying this.
Of course, even when adding tools like this into your healthy lifestyle don’t forget that you still need to eat well and exercise regularly too!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.); master trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro); registered yoga teacher; founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness; and founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.