Ice treatments or extreme cold have been used to great effect for the temporary relief of aches and pains. You may have even heard that plummeting temps–up to 200 degrees below zero Fahrenheit–can even help with losing weight. But while there are some studies that suppose cryotherapy benefits weight loss, the jury is still out on many of these claims.

The thinking goes that when your body is exposed to cold temperatures during whole-body cryotherapy for a few minutes at a time, this is supposed to kick your metabolic rate into high gear. A higher metabolic rate means your body burns calories faster, right? That’s the reasoning anyway.

But how many calories does cryotherapy burn during exposure to cold temperatures? Does lowering the body temperature a few degrees kickstart the metabolic rate enough to improve weight loss?

A pile of ice cubes to help illustrate cryotherpy benefits weight lossDoes Cryotherapy Benefit Weight Loss?

According to nbcnews.com, “The BMR is the rate at which your body burns calories to sustain life and is roughly 50-80 calories per hour in most people, which is 1,200 to 1,920 calories burned all day. If you were to lie in bed all day, you would burn whatever your BMR is (your BMR depends on genetics, muscle mass, and a number of other factors).”

BMR (basal metabolic rate) increases dramatically at lower temps, however. Those within the cryotherapy industry say that it increases so much that one three-minute session exposing your body to cold temps will help you burn up to 500 to 800 calories over the following eight hours. That’s equivalent, they say, to a 45-minute run.

It sounds logical enough–but does cryotherapy help with weight loss? A study in 2016 showed that after 10 cryotherapy sessions, there was no significant change in overall body composition. Not to mention, the FDA has not approved cryotherapy for any medical treatment. There are some benefits to localized cryotherapy, however.

These include helping soothe sore muscles after a workout and helping speed up recovery from physical training. That’s why major sports teams will always have an ice bath or two in the training room after practices or games for their athletes. So there are some health side effects of cryotherapy.

Potential Dangers of Cryotherapy and Weight Loss

Cryotherapy does have a few health benefits, some of which can be aligned with your weight loss efforts. For example, extreme cold can help with pain relief from muscle soreness, joint pain, and inflammation. That’s why the localized application of ice packs works so well. So in that respect, it can help you heal faster so you can maintain a healthy exercise regime.

Does that mean it helps you lose weight? Not directly, but there are some indirect benefits to be sure. But there are also times it can help with a healthy body while presenting issues for those just starting to get back into the swing of things. For example, cryotherapy may improve blood circulation by constricting and dilating blood vessels.

For those with hypertension, this temporary elevation in blood pressure can be risky. The extreme cold can also lead to an increased heart rate and a strain on the heart, which could put people with high blood pressure at risk. This exposure, even for a few minutes, could lead to irregular heartbeats and other cardiovascular risks.

It’s important to note that while extreme cold exposure can offer these potential benefits, it must be approached with caution. Uncontrolled or prolonged exposure to extreme cold can be dangerous and lead to cold-related injuries like frostbite burns or hypothermia.

Incorporating cold exposure into your health routine should be done gradually and with careful consideration of individual tolerance. If you’re interested in exploring these benefits, consult with a healthcare provider or a qualified practitioner who can provide guidance on safe and appropriate methods for your specific needs and goals.

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