Europeans have been doing it for years. The Dallas Mavericks used it to power players through the NBA playoffs to a championship win. Dr. Oz swears by it.
And now, full-body cryotherapy is catching on in the United States - from Nike and other athletic training centers to a small but growing number of doctors' offices and medical spas. Think of whole-body cryotherapy as the old-school ice bath on steroids - faster, more effective at reducing inflammation and speeding muscle recovery, and without the discomfort of sitting in cold, wet ice for 30 minutes or more.
Developed in the late 70s in Japan, it has been popular in Europe for years among those with muscle and joint inflammation disorders including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis. It also helps reduce skin inflammatory disorders like eczema and psoriasis. For athletes, the quick full-body freeze speeds up muscle recovery and metabolism.
Said Dennis Mitchell, former Olympic sprinter and coach, whose athletes use the CryoSauna machine: "Our athletes are training harder, recovering faster and increasing speed and performance after just a few sessions."
So when Whitfield Chiropractic clinic here in Tallahassee invited me to come try the CryoSauna, one of just a few in Florida and only 20 or so in the United States, I was all in. Two days later, my muscles aren't as sore as they typically are by this time in the week, when I have taught multiple classes. My energy level is higher (which, if you know me, is already pretty high). And the day of the CryoSauna visit, I literally felt like I could have done 100 burpees without stopping. All of that after less than 3 minutes inside the CryoSauna booth. Amazing.
I am going back for more today and have recommended it to a few clients, fellow fitness devotees, and friends with arthitis and other conditions that I think will be eased with a few sessions. ($59 each or $39 each for a 10-session package)
Dr. Ron Whitfield has been getting into the CryoSauna twice a week since December. He also reports higher energy levels, and he lost 10 pounds without trying - thanks to the 500- to 800-calorie burn that comes in the few hours after a session as the body works to warm itself back up.
"I've always been a pretty lean guy, so I was actually surprised by the weight loss effect," he told me." The video below features Dr.Whitfield explaining the CryoSauna a bit more.
Also, here is a brief "CryoSauna 101":
What to expect: The CryoSauna looks like a stand-up tanning booth. You undress, put on a robe and socks step inside. The doctor will have you close the door and remove the robe while placing your hands at the top. A liquid nitrogen tank attached to the back pumps the cold air in. You stand in there for 2 to 3 minutes.
How it works: Our bodies remain, in so many ways, stuck in primitive times. When we don't feed them, our metabolism slows down to protect us from starvation. And when we subject them to Ice Age temperatures, our bodies go into a fight-or-flight response that is meant to keep us from freezing to death. As the CryoSauna exposes the skin to super-cold temps, our bodies go into "I am freezing, must survive" mode and the blood rushes to our core to keep our organs going. There, it is enriched with oxygen and nutrients as our body works in super-amped survival mode. Blood pressure goes up slightly (not enough to feel anything, in my experience). As soon as we step out into the warm air, the oxygenated blood rushes back out, flooding the peripheral tissues and flushing out toxins.
How this helps the body, skin, muscles: The brief "freeze" activates collagen in the skin similar to laser treatments, improving skin elasticity and tone and reducing cellulite. The constriction of blood vessels followed by the post-CryoSauna flushing also flushes out toxins and helps with conditions like psoriasis and rosacea. The procedure also boosts endorphins and speeds up metabolism, pushing the body to burn 500 to 800 calories in the few hours after the procedure (and more over time with regular sessions). The anti-inflammatory and analgesic affect also helps with joint disorders and muscle soreness. Overall, immunity is boosted.
Why it's better than an ice bath: Ice baths an be painful, and even after 30 minutes or so submerged the skin temperature doesn't go below about 41 degrees or so. And by that time, the muscles are literally frozen and pretty immobile. For athletes, this means downtime they can't afford. With CryoSauna, the skin is exposed to dry cold of minus 220 degrees Fahrenheir, dropping the skin temperature rapidly to about 30 degrees. But as soon as you step out of the CryoSauna, blood rushes back out from your core and you feel a rush of endorphins and energy - making for a quick and high-octane return to physical activity. It's like 5-Hour Energy with none of the fake jittery feeling.
Coming up: A guide to getting nutty...