Would you hang out in a below-freezing chamber for the chance of revved metabolism, improved sleep, and major calorie burn?
An emerging health trend called Cryotherapy redefines the term “chilling out.” Like something out of a sci-fi movie, the three-minute treatment involves standing in a deep freeze chamber while temps plummet as low as -256 degrees Fahrenheit. The bone-chilling procedure claims to torch up to 800 calories, rev your metabolism, release endorphins, soothe sore muscles, improve sleep, calm inflammation, reduce cellulite, and even reverse the signs of aging. (Check out 5 New High-Tech Ways to Lose Weight.)
The theory: The frigid cloud of nitrogen in the chamber tricks your body into thinking it’s in danger, forcing it into preservation mode. The brain signals to the rest of the body to rush blood to your core for protection, increasing body heat (and your metabolism). After it’s over, the enriched blood rushes back out and through your body, boosting immunity, cell renewal, and natural pain relievers.
Research supporting these claims is mixed, but that hasn’t deterred its legion of loyal followers. Professional athletes like Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the entire Dallas Mavericks basketball team credit the therapy with giving them an edge, improving recovery time, and increasing their athletic performance. Celebs have also jumped on the bandwagon to reap the mood-boosting, anti-aging benefits. A-list devotees include Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, and Mandy Moore—who shared her recent experience at Cryohealthcare in Hollywood with Minka Kelly on Instagram, saying she was “obsessed” with the cold cure. (Follow The Best Celebrity Fitness Instagrams of 2014.)
Whole-body cryotherapy chambers are now popping up across the country, where the two to three minute sessions range from $64 to $90 a session. You’re given a facemask, earmuffs, socks, gloves, and slippers to wear (additional clothing is optional for women, but men must wear cotton underwear). The chill will take your breath away and don’t be surprised if you find yourself shivering uncontrollably. Thankfully, the room remains unlocked in case you decide you can’t take the cold.
While the short sessions limit health risks, former Olympic track star Justin Gatlin did get frostbite on his feet after entering a cryotherapy chamber with damp socks. And the treatment is not recommended for pregnant women or those with serious health issues.
Not ready to step into a blast chiller? Partial cryotherapy treatments are also available, where localized beauty treatments are used over a specific part of the body, like the face or thighs. You can also skip the pricey treatments for an at home ice bath, but the jury is still out on that method as well. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found the frosty post-workout regimen didn’t significantly effect soreness, strength, swelling, or inflammation. (Want a sure solution? Try The Best Ways to Ease Sore Muscles.)
We think we’ll stick to our regular cool down routine—a good stretch and a bottle of our favorite green juice.