Not all stress is bad for you

We’re so acclimated to spending time in temperature-controlled environments that we may be doing our bodies harm, says a new report.

The answer, it says, is to expose our bodies to different temperatures.

For example, the study has revealed that regularly taking a sauna could reduce your risk of stroke by more than 60 per cent – especially for middle aged men and women.

Even hot baths have positive health effects including reduced inflammation, improved blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.

Then there’s the flipside of the mercury, with research showing that extreme cold can help to burn fat, boost the immune system and mitigate the effects of type 2 diabetes.

Fitness experts refer to the practice of exposing your body to different and extreme temperatures as ‘environmental conditioning’. Fitness expert Wim Hof believes that environmental conditioning is the third pillar of fitness alongside diet and exercise.

He claims that this exposure helps our bodies to adapt to our surroundings, and that a lack of stress caused by controlling the temperature around us could contribute to circulatory and respiratory diseases.

In the latest study on the health benefits of saunas, researchers followed 1628 men and women in Finland between the ages of 53 and 74 for an average of almost 15 years.

Participants were divided into three groups: one of whom took saunas once weekly, the second took two or three saunas, and the third took an impressive four to seven saunas a week.

The group with the highest sauna frequency reduced their risk of stroke by more than 60 per cent compared to the once-a-week group.

Data used from the same study revealed that people who frequently take saunas have lower occurrences of high blood pressure and lung disease, as well as reduced risk of heart attack.

Other studies show that regular hot baths improve blood pressure, may improve blood sugar, and have an anti-inflammatory effect similar to exercise.

On the other extreme, a study published in Scientific Reports revealed that exposure to cold temperatures could transform bad fat into a healthier kind of fat and help us to burn off body weight.

Hof’s cold exposure method, which includes a specific breathing regimen, leads to increased fat-burning capabilities, weight loss, improved immune system, and the ability to counteract some effects of Type 2 diabetes.

Whether you go gung ho (like our newsroom editor) and join the ‘Icebergers’ or regularly visit hot springs, take the odd cold shower and run a hot bath, or even if you just allow yourself to feel the cold once in a while instead of controlling the temperature around you, putting your body under a bit of environmental stress could have far-reaching health benefits.

Do you ever take cold showers in winter or super-hot baths? Do you think there’s something to this line of thinking?

Related articles:
Reduce your risk of stroke
What is a stroke?
How to prevent a stroke

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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