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Cold Water Bathing: Scientific facts you need to know - Susanna Soeberg | Growth Island Ep #74

Updated: Mar 15

ChatGPT Summary:

The speaker is discussing the popularity of cold water swimming, particularly in Denmark during the winter months. They mention that many people have been posting about it on Instagram and ask Senna, an expert on the topic, to share more information about the health benefits of cold water swimming and the science behind it.

Senna explains that they have a PhD in basic metabolism research and have written a book on the topic of cold water swimming and brown fat. They mention that brown fat is different from white fat in that it increases metabolism and can help remove white fat from the body.

Senna goes on to discuss the health benefits of activating brown fat through cold water exposure, including improved blood sugar regulation, increased metabolism, and a boost in the immune system. They also talk about the benefits of cold water swimming for mental health, including reduced stress and improved sleep.

Overall, the content of the transcript suggests that cold water swimming can have significant health benefits, particularly for activating brown fat and improving metabolism.


Human physiological responses to immersion into water of different temperatures

Šrámek, P., Šimečková, M., Janský, L. et al. Human physiological responses to immersion into water of different temperatures. Eur J Appl Physiol81, 436–442 (2000).


To differentiate between the effect of cold and hydrostatic pressure on hormone and cardiovascular functions of man, a group of young men was examined during 1-h head-out immersions in water of different temperatures (32°C, 20°C and 14°C). Immersion in water at 32°C did not change rectal temperature and metabolic rate, but lowered heart rate (by 15%) and systolic and diastolic blood pressures (by 11%, or 12%, respectively), compared to controls at ambient air temperature. Plasma renin activity, plasma cortisol and aldosterone concentrations were also lowered (by 46%, 34%, and 17%, respectively), while diuresis was increased by 107%. Immersion at 20°C induced a similar decrease in plasma renin activity, heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressures as immersion at thermoneutrality, in spite of lowered rectal temperature and an increased metabolic rate by 93%. Plasma cortisol concentrations tended to decrease, while plasma aldosterone concentration was unchanged. Diuresis was increased by 89%. No significant differences in changes in diuresis, plasma renin activity and aldosterone concentration compared to subjects immersed to 32°C were observed. Cold water immersion (14°C) lowered rectal temperature and increased metabolic rate (by 350%), heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure (by 5%, 7%, and 8%, respectively). Plasma noradrenaline and dopamine concentrations were increased by 530% and by 250% respectively, while diuresis increased by 163% (more than at 32°C). Plasma aldosterone concentrations increased by 23%. Plasma renin activity was reduced as during immersion in water at the highest temperature. Cortisol concentrations tended to decrease. Plasma adrenaline concentrations remained unchanged. Changes in plasma renin activity were not related to changes in aldosterone concentrations. Immersion in water of different temperatures did not increase blood concentrations of cortisol. There was no correlation between changes in rectal temperature and changes in hormone production. Our data supported the hypothesis that physiological changes induced by water immersion are mediated by humoral control mechanisms, while responses induced by cold are mainly due to increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system.


Transcription of Youtube Video: (By


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Thank you for tuning into Growth Island again. I have been posting a lot about cold water


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earlier and I love jumping in the cold water than a sauna and it's been extremely popular


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in Denmark or with the winter. If ever you went to Instagram, at least in my feed, I would


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constantly see someone jumping. But why is it actually that we do it? How good is it


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for you? What are the health benefits and what's that weird thing called brown fat or


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what are we learning about then? So today I got an expert in on the subject is to send


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us a bell. She is a researcher. She has a PhD in basic metabolism research and she has


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a specialization in cold water and brown fat. So I couldn't find anyone much better to


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talk about this subject. She also wrote a book about this topic and she's being featured


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many different places sharing the knowledge about how can we do the cold water swimming


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in the best manner and how do we lift this good light. So, Senna, thank you so much for


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coming on. Well, thank you very much for inviting me. I am very honored. So, Senna, how


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do you suddenly get started on researching cold water and brown fat? How does that start?


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Yeah, it's a really good question. How do you end there? It's actually because I was


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always been very interested in obesity and type 2 diabetes and been researching that


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for a while. I did some other metabolism research before I started the brown fat research.


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So I've been in another topic before that. But then I met this other supervisor researcher


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who was very passionate about something called the brown fat. And the brown fat could


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do something different from the white fat. So, the white fat is storing the energy in


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the body and you get more white fat and you want to get rid of it actually. And this


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is a brown fat type. I actually can increase your metabolism and it can remove the white


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fat. So, it increases your metabolism. And I thought that was really interesting that


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you can have two types of fat working completely different. The one is storing and the other


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one is expanding then. So, I really wanted to look into that. I just thought the topic


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was really exciting and very new because we don't know that much about the brown fat.


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So when I got into this we knew something that has been research for maybe 10, 15 years


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or maybe a little less. And I could actually contribute with something new here. So,


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I thought that was really exciting to get on board really early.


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Cool, good. And just to clarify, someone is sitting out there. I'm very white. I don't


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have any brown fat. All human beings have white fat and brown fat. It doesn't have anything


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to do with skin color.


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No, that's a good question. So, it has nothing to do with your skin color. Like many other


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things, it has nothing to do with skin color. Everybody has white fat and everyone.


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Almost people have brown fat but not all. We found out that some people actually don't


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have brown fat. We could talk more about that later on who has it and why does it disappear


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and how can we maybe regain it? Really interesting topic for you after me. And that's why winter


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swimming comes in.


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That's a good thesis. We're getting into, I think I read one of you post potentially


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about it, which is quite fascinating about babies. But if we start with the winter swimming,


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a winter bathing or cold water, it's getting a lot of attention then we're also because


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of the lockdown and many plays around the world. So it's one of the things we've been


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able to do. But it's something that people have been doing for thousands of years. Why


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is it so good from a health perspective?


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Why is it so good for your health? The question is probably also first, is it good for your


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health? I took that for granted from the services that I've written.


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Yeah, is it good for your health? So, there's been many studies looking into the health


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of winter swimming. And there's been many studies only looking at one outcome and I think


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that is also how you need to do it because you can't measure everything, but everything


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is actually activated in the body when you jump in the water. So, so many things happens


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because you activate your sympathetic nervous system. And that is your fight and flight.


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So you really get alert because of the cold. It's so cold that the body sees it as something


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extreme is happening. You might die. So, that is the one system. But it also activates


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your diving response because you submerge into the water. And that is a reflex. So, you


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have also activated the parasympatic nervous system. So, you have two systems that you have


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activated. And when you do that, you get some health benefits from it because activating


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your sympathetic nervous system is also what we know from exercise and running. You will


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increase your metabolism. And from the parasympatic nervous system, you will activate a


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satanine and a cortisol, which is also able to calm you down and also makes you more mentally


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balanced. So, that's maybe why people who went to swim when they get up, they both feel


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excited at first because of the neuropinesis and the release and endophins and dopamine


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in the brain and all these neurotransmitters going on in the brain at the same time. But


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after a while, you will also feel a bit more calm. And that's also because of the activation


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of the parasympatic nervous system. So, two systems working together, maybe in a conflict


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at first when you jump in the water, but then later on, then you will have both things


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actually going good for you as good things. But we don't have human studies where we have


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measured how much dopamine is released in the brain when you jump in water. We don't


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have that yet. I don't know if it's even possible to measure that in the brain in humans,


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but it's been measured in mice. So, we have that from mice, but not from humans yet.


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But we think it can be related at least. And it also fits with how people are feeling


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and how they explain the experience afterwards. But first, I need to know that we actually


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have that, I find them all that they can do science. The more we realize how little we


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know, especially the brain, because it's so like when you're going to sleep as well,


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like what can we actually measure, right? The massive bit as you're saying is coming


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from us because we're doing horrible experiments on them. But that are like then hopefully


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doing something for humans to be able to live better. But first things are here. And


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also like those those two systems being actually at the same time. Do we know any other


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like states of mind or activities where we get those two systems activated at the same


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time because often this one being more activated than another, right?


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Yes, exactly. So, and not that I know of, because the thing with the parasympatic nervous


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system activation, it comes from the diving response. So you need to submerge into water


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and you don't really do that other than from swimming, I guess, that I think it makes sense.


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If you want both activated at the same time, but but you can get this, I call it post swim


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as high. When you afterwards, if you're very happy and lightheaded and from the running


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and the hormones and and signaling in the brain. And you also get that from running, but


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you need to run a bit longer time to get the same runners high as you get from the high


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post swimmer's swimming high. But but you still get the same feeling afterwards of being


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happy and feeling good. So, so you can get that good feeling from other things than just


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winter swimming. But now we're only talking about the the brain right now. There are other


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things we in the in the body happening. So yeah.


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So talking about winter swimming, a question that I often get is like how cold I've been


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told between 12 and 14 degrees is where you get the majority of the benefit, but I haven't


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seen the references on it. Have you come across anything in your research about like when


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is it cold or like how cold is it when we do the studies?


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There is like a threshold on 15 degrees. So at 15 degrees and under you can call that


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cold water and cold water swimming. And that is where you get the most cold shot response.


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So from 15 degrees, Celsius, but I mean where you get the most benefits, I think you asked


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me that as well. I haven't seen studies looking at specific things and measuring at this


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temperature when you go in water at 12 degrees, you would get more benefit from what exactly.


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So I think there is a lot of claims out there saying that you if you went to swim at 12 degrees


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or something, then you get the most benefit. We don't know what degrees we should recommend


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anything or say here you get there's a window here. It's just cold water. We know from


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the studies performed in the laboratories and also a few wild swimming randomized control


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trials out there, but there is not much on it. And then you can just see what temperature


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did they measure from and in and the degrees varies a lot, but it's all cold water.


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From zero or four degrees and up to 15 degrees, that's cold water and that's where you get


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a cold shot response. That's also where you get activated your sympathetic nervous system


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and parasympatic nervous system. So I guess the benefits must be in that window when it's


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just cold water. Interesting. So I often try to look at like the 80-20, where do you get


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80% of a soul, 20% of the effort. And I think it's super fascinating when it comes to cold


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water because for some people it feels very uncomfortable. So it's 15 degrees enough because


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that's much more doable for them. For most people, especially if you haven't been practicing.


00:10:07,320 --> 00:10:12,240

Now I like to go down to even colder water. Also I have a sauna right next to close to where


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I live. So like going down to like that four or five or six degrees gives a different feeling


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like a bigger pressure on the body, but finding that threshold, but that might be for another


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PhD or research area. Definitely. I think that that could be, I'm not saying that there


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couldn't be some kind of benefit from going colder or warmer. I can't say whether it's


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better or good for something. There are so many things going on in the body when you


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go down in water. You need to look at it and I'll come and say it's, we are now measuring


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a lot sugar or we are measuring a hormone and saying, what if we go colder and what if we


00:10:51,279 --> 00:10:57,679

go warmer? So we can't really say just in general, you will benefit mostly from warmer


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colder water. You need to have a lot more studies on this topic to know exactly what is,


00:11:03,360 --> 00:11:11,240

just cold water is actually doing all these things that we see. So yeah. And how, so,


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and I guess it also depends on how much fat you have. If people are super skinny, it feels


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colder, at least that might be an open legend. When I was a small kid, I was extremely skinny


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and my parents took me to swimming and I would always come up being like my teeth will


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like cling together and pull me out of the swimming.


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Like that little pulling, it's like so cold, we're trying to feed him but he'd like


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he only wants to eat like no, no, no. So that might also has an effect, right? Make it


00:11:42,079 --> 00:11:46,919

even more hard to do the studies. What's your body composition?


00:11:46,919 --> 00:11:53,319

Yeah, so body composition is a big deal when it comes to habituation also. So there's


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been a very interesting study also in a obese subjects and also in lean subjects and


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now you measure also you mentioned the children. So there's been studies looking at children


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compared to healthy men and with the same BMI, the same fat percentage in the children


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in the end of the adults to see what if they go down in cold water, will the children


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get colder than compared to the adults? How can they stand the cold just as long as an


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adult? And the studies found actually the young boys were quicker cold but they maintained


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their core temperature just as well as the adults but they increased their metabolism


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more. So they had increased probably brown fat but we don't know but probably and also


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activation of their skeletal muscles to keep themselves warm. So this tells us that


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children can go with the swimming but they have a much smaller surface area compared


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to an adult so they can keep up the core temperature just as long as an adult which means they


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will increase the metabolism to keep themselves warm so they can stand just as long time but


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they need more energy to do it. They wouldn't be able to stay in the water as long time


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as an adult. So children can go in and dip but they need to go up really quickly as well


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to get warm. So I've been asked a lot about this question with children and I think it's


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really important actually that you brought it up also it's important that children are


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safe when they went to swim so at all should keep an eye and not let the children like


00:13:38,159 --> 00:13:42,480

swim a lot in the cold water. Yeah that actually leads to one of the next things I would


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love to discuss with you as a son is like so if you know 15 degrees that's cold water


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then like how long because I went to a Wimhoff event in London at the place you're being


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part of the team and we did all this breathing exercises in the cold water and we had to try


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it afterwards and I had seen like hundreds of people go into the water right and they were


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sitting there and doing like the two minutes which was the the thing that they were being put in


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and then we were sitting there afterwards and they didn't sell us a clock and we were of course


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trying to be like trough that we could be and now we've seen all these people that look like old and


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and like not in the best shape and so on they could stay there right we had it up being there


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for four minutes and then the guys were laughing at us afterwards being like you only need to


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and they were like you actually didn't need to stay that long because the frequency was struggling


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but it was kind of fun like two guys sitting there like yeah loving it we're loving it


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it's fantastic it's fantastic to sit here oh my god I have a picture where I look very relaxed


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my friend looks very like very precious but I look very relaxed in that one second that picture was


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taken but but we actually know was like true minutes is like I've been told that's where we get


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the majority of the health benefits and like much after two minutes just really gets the same


00:14:58,959 --> 00:15:00,719

have you seen any research on that?


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no but I mean there is no in cold water immersion I haven't really seen that no but there are a


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study showing that if you do cold showers for 30 seconds per day you will increase your immune


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system so you would be less sick so I think the two minutes I don't know I'm not really sure where


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it comes from but I would really like to see why it's actually two minutes so I will go hunting


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for some of my friends that might have told me because I've been selling my friends from


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you've been out doing the winter swimming they're like yeah guys you just need to stay two minutes


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I think it might have been from the guys up in Finland there's a lot of research going both


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from the suners and cold water in Finland but I'll try and find see if I can is the actually a


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study on that there's so many open legends out there about health that's why I really try with


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the podcast as well thinking about like this is do we like where does it come from just like


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the habit to take 21 days turns out to be like it came from a plastic surgeon that kind of something


00:16:05,279 --> 00:16:09,600

about when they would be feeling more normal and kind of set it in one context and got


00:16:09,600 --> 00:16:13,759

re-explained and re-explained and now everyone knows like it takes 21 days to build a habit where it's like


00:16:15,039 --> 00:16:20,639

who said that what yeah yeah what where did that come from right yeah so it just takes a turn and


00:16:20,639 --> 00:16:28,799

takes a turn and then it's yeah and then everybody says it but yeah I guess but the habituation is


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actually habituation means that you get adapted to the cold water so you can stop hyperventilating so


00:16:36,399 --> 00:16:43,279

what happens when you go into the cold water for the first time is a very interesting I think and


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and amazing so when you go into the water your body will almost scream at you and asking you what


00:16:48,879 --> 00:16:54,639

are you doing it feels like you're dying so it's like the dog is like what the fuck are you doing


00:16:54,639 --> 00:17:02,000

it get me out of this are you insane yeah yeah yeah get out get out yeah so it screams at you and the


00:17:02,000 --> 00:17:08,079

reaction is that you hyperventilate because it calls for help you need to get up from the water and


00:17:08,079 --> 00:17:15,200

usually people do they jump off after one second and it's wise because it's your reflex you need


00:17:15,200 --> 00:17:21,759

to survive this so hyperventilation if someone is like what what does that mean yeah so hyperventilation


00:17:21,759 --> 00:17:27,360

is when your breathing goes really fast and the the best thing about that is that you can't really


00:17:28,160 --> 00:17:34,640

fill up your lungs enough and then you will only have like small breathings which really doesn't


00:17:34,640 --> 00:17:40,960

give you enough oxygen in your body so you can faint if it stays that way but usually people jump


00:17:40,960 --> 00:17:47,440

off again I've never seen it as a problem people never stay there in the first time but the good


00:17:47,440 --> 00:17:53,200

thing is that when you try this the first time the body has already learned a lot because it was


00:17:53,200 --> 00:18:00,480

such a big shock for the body and that it already adapted after the first time so when you go the next


00:18:00,480 --> 00:18:08,559

time you will be in less panic also because there's water it's super cold you also a bit excited


00:18:08,559 --> 00:18:13,200

and maybe a little bit nervous so you have a little bit of a higher pulse and blood pressure so


00:18:13,200 --> 00:18:18,879

the next time it will be a little bit more calm and the body will react a little less stressful


00:18:18,879 --> 00:18:25,279

but still you wouldn't maybe measure or tell the difference but after three times and four one


00:18:25,279 --> 00:18:32,319

five then you start to actually feel that the body doesn't react as stressful as it was the first


00:18:32,319 --> 00:18:39,679

time and that's when habituation is starting so habituation to the cold water happens in your


00:18:39,679 --> 00:18:47,279

metabolism so that is your energy expenditure and your hormones but it's also in your skin so


00:18:47,279 --> 00:18:53,679

blood flow to the skin and the norapan effr and some which is released as one of the major


00:18:53,680 --> 00:19:02,240

minds in the body when you go in cold water that will also help you contract your blood vessels


00:19:02,240 --> 00:19:09,920

in your skin so there's a lot of physiology that increases when you get adapted to the cold water


00:19:10,480 --> 00:19:17,920

so habituation if you have gone four or five times you will notice the difference but if you feel


00:19:17,920 --> 00:19:23,120

after first the second time that you didn't really like winter swimming I would advise going


00:19:23,119 --> 00:19:29,359

a few times more and then you will feel more you might end up loving it so you end up loving it


00:19:29,359 --> 00:19:34,319

exactly yeah like how you explain like feel also when the winter season starts again the first time


00:19:34,319 --> 00:19:43,279

some like my body is like dude like how did you get this awful idea and then after a few times I'm like


00:19:44,479 --> 00:19:50,239

and like that feeling is just like it's magical you get down there you learn to breathe


00:19:50,240 --> 00:19:55,039

properly for me breathing learning how to do that probably was also like the key if I go down and like


00:19:55,680 --> 00:20:00,559

but if I go down so I do it in the working then my body is like not deep either so I can sit down


00:20:01,039 --> 00:20:06,400

and I can just breathe easily and kind of it totally changes the feeling in the body and the feeling


00:20:06,400 --> 00:20:14,480

of getting up afterwards is just like undescribable of the entire body just like getting like waking up


00:20:14,480 --> 00:20:20,480

or feeling alive and like it's yeah it's absolutely fantastic but it's not absolutely fantastic


00:20:20,480 --> 00:20:29,039

the first time I I love this story that you tell because it can be explained physiologically as well


00:20:29,039 --> 00:20:34,799

because what is actually happening when you go down in the water and you get control of your breathing