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Updated: Mar 23, 2023

5 natural ways our bodies heat up after cold exposure (tea and warm clothes doesn't count!).

Evolutionary speaking, we have been designed to survive, and have biological processes that keep us safe. During cold exposure, we produce many hormones, contributing to the warming up processes (click here to review all of the different hormones we produce during cold exposure).

Every mammal has a specific temperature that they need to maintain, to make sure all of the vital processes go on uninterrupted. For us humans, we need our core (vital organs) at 37% Fahrenheit. The extremities and the arms and legs can decrease in temperature considerably, but when our core body reduces even 2 degrees, we are in deep trouble. As such, even after a quick dip, the mechanisms to keep us warm are activated immediately, to compensate for the loss of heat.


When we go into cold water, our body is designed to keep us at 37% degrees Fahrenheit. Noradrenaline can increase by 400%, which can lead to an increase of cortisol, which increases the energy production/heat production.


The release of noradrenaline is the main driver of the activation of brown fat. People who do a lot of cold exposure also have more brown fat. Babies have a lot of brown fat, as they are more vulnerable when their caretakers are not around. They are unable to put clothes on, for example. As we age, we tend to have less and less brown fat, and it was once believed by the scientific community that adults didn't have any at all. Until brown fat was later 'discovered' in adults using cold exposure. Brown fat, or beige fat, is a type of fat different from white fat, as it is rich in mitochondria, the energy factories of the cells. Brown fat can create heat more quickly, increasing heat immediately. It gets activated and also increases while doing cold exposure.


The skin also provides a type of isolation, as the pores constrict, making sure less blood flow is going through these blood veins. It can function as a type of thermic isolation, keeping the heat loss to a minimum. Cold Water practitioners also have more blood veins near the skin. The body is perfectly capable of adapting, and making sure there are more blood veins, makes sure that the warm blood flow, when getting out of the water, can improve the process of warming up.


Blood veins make up a 125 km in length, designed to helping your heart pump 6 litres of blood through your system. When doing cold exposure they constrict, also helping your system to keep the heat loss to a minimum. By doing cold exposure, we train these muscles to close and open up properly, helping the cardiovascular system to be in top condition. As you progress in cold water swimming, they can help to maintain warmth or release warmth.


Shivering happens when the non-shivering mechanisms to produce heat are not sufficient to maintain your core body temperature. Your muscles start to shiver, producing heat. When you start with cold exposure, this mechanism tends to be activated much earlier, than with die-hard cold fanatics. Shivering also activates the diapraghm, the main muscles of your core, and activates brown fat.

When even shivering doesn't help to warm up, the mechanisms to heat ourselves up, will no longer work sufficiently. The brain gets disoriented, leading to a dis regulation of the systems, which can even lead to a system shut down. This is deemed 'hypothermia'. To read more about hypothermia, go here.


During our Wim Hof Method Poland travels, we try out different Wim Hof Method heating techniques, tested and tried through 40 years of experience. Wim Hof himself has used these techniques and we teach these to others, while we practice various forms of cold exposure.


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