Sharing moments Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared Grassrooted The world’s calling Make an impression Contraception Vegan diet Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Family rooms Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Baby care Breastfeeding Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Other countries Hay fever Everyday help In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Online addiction Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Running training The first half marathon Training and heart rate Running Ticks Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Your back Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates Bauchübungen Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Wie viel Sport ist gesund Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Gute Nacht! Drei Fragen, die uns den Schlaf rauben Outing Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Three sleep apps reviewed PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien Sanitas newsletter

How cold affects the body

Cryotherapy expert Erich Hohenauer explains why women are more sensitive to cold, what healing power lies in the cold, and how we can benefit from cold exposure.

Text: Ruth Jahn, photo: Unsplash

What puts greater strain on the body: intense heat or icy cold?

Erich Hohenauer: Heat puts greater strain on a healthy cardiovascular system. In summer, the body has to work to stay cool by stimulating the skin’s blood circulation to transport heat from inside to outside the body. To do so, the heart has to work harder. In addition, the body loses a lot of water with the sweat it produces to cool down – this also puts a strain on the heart, because it needs more power to transport the thick blood. In this sense, we can look forward to winter.

But icy temperatures also put a strain on our health. Heart patients in particular should therefore also avoid physical exertion in very cold weather.

That’s true. Cold also puts a strain on our cardiovascular system. In both hot and cold conditions, our body does everything it can to keep its core temperature, i.e. the temperature of the centre of the body where the most important organs are located, at 37 degrees. When it’s cold, the body has to work to keep heat inside the body by increasing blood circulation in the skin and thus causing the blood pressure to rise. The heart must now pump the blood through the veins against greater resistance, which can cause stress to the heart muscle and the walls of the vessels. In addition, the body shivers to produce heat.

“In evolutionary terms, we’re better suited to warmth.”

At a cosy ambient temperature of 27 degrees, the human body doesn’t need to cool or heat itself when naked. Doesn’t this indicate that we’re better suited to warmer temperatures?

This is certainly the case in evolutionary terms, because humans originated in the southern hemisphere. However, we’re relatively good at adapting to both hot and cold temperatures.

Can wading through a kneipp bath or taking cold showers help?

Yes, you can get used to the cold. The body adjusts its metabolism and blood circulation of the skin and forms more subcutaneous fat tissue. In particular, the body produces more brown fat inside the body. This stimulates the body’s own heat production. And ultimately, the core body temperature is also adjusted slightly. However, for these adjustments to take place, the body must be subjected to cold temperatures regularly. As with strength training, it’s all about consistency. Jumping into an icy lake once a year has few benefits and should only be done with caution.

“Exposure to the cold is said to have a positive influence on the body’s defence system, but there is no scientific evidence of this.”

Cold exposure is said to offer protection against flu and other infectious diseases. Is there any truth in this?

Exposure to the cold is said to have a positive influence on the body’s defence system, but there is no scientific evidence of this. Our immune system is extremely complex. It is possible that we can train our cardiovascular system by alternating exposure to hot and cold temperatures, for example when you take a sauna, because this causes the blood vessels to dilate and constrict again. This may improve blood circulation in the skin and thus benefit the immune system.

Are women more sensitive to cold than men by nature?

Yes, women tend to feel the cold more than men. There are three biological reasons for this: First, men’s muscles protect them to a certain degree from the cold, because muscle cells burn calories and thus generate heat. Second, women have thinner skin, so they tend to cool down more quickly. And third, the female body also loses more heat due to its relatively large body surface in relation to its body volume.

Does subjective sensitivity also play a role?

Yes, it’s similar to pain: temperatures that may feel cold to one person can be quite pleasant for others. The comfort zone for temperature sensation is very individual.

Cold can also have healing powers. It can take the edge off reactions to inflammation such as pain, redness and swelling. For example, if you hold burnt fingers immediately under cold water or put a cold pack on a strain. But can cold do more?

Cold has long been used as a therapy. For example, you can get rid of warts by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. In this case, cold is used to kill off superficial skin cells. With organ transplants, cold helps the transplant organ last longer. And after a heart attack or stroke, doctors sometimes lower the temperature of the tissue slightly as a protective medical measure. This protects organs by reducing their oxygen and energy consumption. In addition, any damaging processes at cell level are slowed down. The idea behind this is to virtually freeze the damage of a heart attack so that it doesn’t spread further.

“Severe cold temporarily relieves symptoms in some patients suffering from rheumatism.”

The cryotherapy business is currently booming, with patients suffering from chronic pain, rheumatism and insomnia seeking to ease their symptoms. Whole-body chambers and cryotherapy pods are currently experiencing a revival. The aim of this cold treatment at temperatures of around -100 degrees or down to almost -200 degrees is to lower the tissue temperature in order to slow down inflammatory processes or the transmission of pain stimuli. However, the effect has not yet been clearly scientifically proven. Nevertheless, the severe cold temporarily relieves the symptoms in some rheumatism patients. Some patients suffering from chronic pain also report an improvement.

Sports people also hope to reap the benefits of cold treatments.

Today we know that intensive and sudden physical training can lead to small injuries in the musculature. These little injuries trigger inflammatory processes which, under certain circumstances, can impair the performance of an athlete for several days. We’ve all experienced sore muscles. Taking short baths in cold water (around 10 degrees) helps dampen these inflammatory processes and can minimise the drop in performance. Sports people hope for a quicker recovery.

Is this only relevant for elite sports?

Cold therapy can give a small but decisive competitive edge in any multi-day competition. However, you should never take cold baths or apply cold packs after exercise without medical advice. You must always consult a trained professional or doctor first and tailor the treatment to your individual requirements. If used incorrectly, cold treatment can also have a negative impact on performance.