An Introduction To: Cryotherapy

Gideon Remfry | KXU
Jul 31, 2020
An Introduction To: Cryotherapy
Gideon Remfry, Director of Wellness at Chelsea's KXU, on how - and why - whole body cryotheraphy (WBC) can make a difference to your training routine. 

Cold therapy has existed for centuries in various forms, from ice baths and cold packs to more sophisticated systems like KXU’s whole body cryotherapy chamber. WBC consists of a 3-minute cold treatment where you stand inside a room at temperatures from -80°c to -110°c. But, why do we make our KXU group exercise warriors stand in the cold?

Here’s what the research says about WBC and its benefits for individuals who regularly exercise…

Exercise recovery and reducing muscle soreness

The cold stimulation shows a positive effect on muscular enzymes widely recognised as markers associated with tissue damage (creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase).  Most studies also reported improvements in muscular tiredness, pain, and well-being after strenuous exercise.  As such, WBC is considered a supportive therapy that promotes optimal exercise recovery.

Exercise and Mood

A review of cold therapy literature suggests that any hormonal modifications may be linked to the body’s adaptation to psychophysical stress, and WBC increases the flight or flight hormone noradrenaline, getting us ready for action! 

Some studies show WBC may affect anabolic hormones like testosterone. Noradrenaline has been shown to increase arousal, attention, motivation, learning, memory, and reward, which are all powerfully associated with improved exercise performance.

WBC → noradrenaline → cortisol → testosterone → exercise performance

Pain and Inflammation 

WBC has been shown to induce an anti-inflammatory effects and shown improvements in exercise participant’s pain threshold (PTH) and pain tolerance (PTO), upping their exercise tolerance. A review in the Sports Medicine Journal indicated that muscle pain was reduced in 80% of studies, and further benefits of WBC treatment included the reduction of whole-body inflammation and lower concentrations of markers for muscle cell damage. 

A key point seems to suggest that multiple WBC exposures are required, meaning regular and consistent WBC sessions may exhibit the most improvements in recovery from pain, loss of muscle function, and lowering markers of inflammation and muscle damage.

So now we know it works – but how do you use in conjunction with KXU workouts?

Using Cryotheraphy Pre-workout

There’s good research to suggest cryotherapy can be used to get you focused and primed, ready to workout.  However, it’s important to allow enough time for the body to acclimatise back to its normal temperature after your treatment and to ensure you warm up adequately to potentiate the body ready for which ever specific exercise you are doing.

How your cryotherapy session affects your body pre-workout:
 
  • The cold creates… vigilance, arousal, attention, motivation, reward, learning and memory
 
  • Which in turn leads the body to… increased heart rate and force of skeletal muscle contraction
 
  • This will result in… improved threshold and tolerance of pain
 
  • Afterwards you must… ensure adequate re-warm and warm up
 
Using Cryotheraphy Post-Workout:

Extensive research promotes the use of cryotherapy for exercise recovery. However, it is important to highlight that each exercise type provides a potential benefit such as strength, or skeletal muscle gain or aerobic endurance etc. 

All these exercise benefits are created through our bodies natural stress adaptation response to the exercise. Therefore, it is ideal to let our innate adaptation process happen and apply the WBC treatment at an adequate time away from the session (three hours). This is unless you are performing high intensity exercise bouts repeatedly in one day, where the cryotherapy can then be used between sessions to support continued performance.

How your cryotherapy session affects your body post-workout:
 
  • The cold… reduces whole-body inflammation and markers of muscle cell damage
 
  • This in turn… reduces muscular tiredness, pain, and improves well-being
 
  • Remember to… allow three hours post-workout to ensure there is adequate time for your body to naturally adapt to the exercise stress, before using WBC
 
So now you know why KXU group exercisers are always left inside in the cold!  Whether they attend Dumbell Strength, Hit and Run, Yoga or U-cycle, we believe in the power of the cold as an integral part of our complete approach to holistic exercise, total wellness and human performance.

Discover whole body cryotherapy for yourself at KXU's Medi Spa, with prices starting from £95 for single sessions and membership packages also available. Book in now to enjoy 50% off your first session. 

Gideon Remfry is Wellness Director at KXU. You can follow him on Instagram here. Keep up to date with KXU's latest news on their IG.

References and further reading:
 
Refs Lombardi, G., Ziemann, E., Banfi, G. (2017). Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Athletes: From Therapy to Stimulation. An Updated Review of the Literature. Front Physiol. 2017; 8: 258. Published online 2017 May 2. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00258

Algafly, A, A., George, K, P, (2007). The effect of cryotherapy on nerve conduction velocity, pain threshold and pain tolerance. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(6):365–369

Rose, C., Edwards, K, M.,, Siegler, J., Graham, K., Caillaud, C, (2017). Whole-body Cryotherapy as a Recovery Technique after Exercise: A Review of the Literature. Int J Sports Med. 2017 Dec;38(14):1049-1060. doi: 10.1055/s-0043-114861. Epub 2017 Nov 21.
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