Shiver your way to lower blood sugar and better all-round health.
If you fancy a rather unusual vacation, why not enroll in 58-year-old Wim Hof’s training camp in the wintry wilderness of Poland.
For seven days “The Iceman” will teach you how to tolerate sub-zero temperatures. He claims this strengthens immunity, improves circulation, balances hormones, enhances the quality of sleep, reduces weight and makes you feel really alive.
At the end of the week you even get to climb a mountain.
Not for you? While cold exposure is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, Wim Hof’s protocol has attracted the attention of scientists. Yes, there’s something to it.
A group of researchers decided to test whether spending some of the day in a mildly cold – but not freezing — could benefit patients with type 2 diabetes.
The results surprised everyone.
Insulin Sensitivity Increased By Over 40%
The team, based at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, tested the effect of intermittent mild cold exposure on eight men in their late fifties who were all overweight and suffered with type 2 diabetes.
These hardy volunteers were persuaded to spend a total of six hours a day for ten days wearing only T-shirts and shorts in a room temperature of 57ºF – 59ºF, just above the point where they would be permanently shivering. During that time, their insulin production and blood sugar levels were recorded.
At the end of the study, GLUT4 — which removes glucose from circulation — markedly increased, and insulin sensitivity rose by 43%, a result that matches the best drug treatments available.
Sleep With The Windows Open
Commenting on the study, Ashley Grossman, Professor of Endocrinology at Oxford University, said, “There is some rather encouraging evidence that cooling the body, even by a few degrees, may improve or reduce diabetes.
“Together with work indicating that adequate sleep can also help avoid obesity and diabetes, maybe we should all aim to have a good night’s sleep in a cool bedroom with the windows open to the night breeze.”
Temperature Should Be Allowed to Vary
Many scientists are coming to believe that a steady state environment in which we turn on the central heating when we feel cold, or the air conditioning when we’re in a sweat, does not meet our biological need for environmental stress. It’s better to make our bodies to a bit of work.
Oscillations of heat and cold invigorate the nervous system and set off a cascade of physiological responses that benefit health.
The Maastricht team suggests temperatures in homes and offices should fluctuate between cool and warm during the day.
Instead of the 70ºF most homes and buildings are heated to, they advise reducing the thermostat to between 59º and 66º for several hours each day.
Research on temperature fluctuation suggests this can be acceptable to people once they get used to it. They feel less lethargic and experience greater vitality.
According to study leader Professor Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, “It has previously been assumed that stable fixed indoor temperatures would satisfy comfort and health in most people.
“However, this research indicates that mild cold and variable temperatures may have a positive effect on our health and at the same time are acceptable or even may create pleasure.”