Contrast Showers 


Research Behind Contrast Showers

I owe you an organized synthesis of the articles below but in the interest of time, here's the list so far:

Research List

Targeting thermogenesis in brown fat and muscle to treat obesity and metabolic disease:

Brown fat is emerging as an interesting and promising target for therapeutic intervention in obesity and metabolic disease. Activation of brown fat in humans is associated with marked improvement in metabolic parameters such as levels of free fatty acids and insulin sensitivity. Skeletal muscle is another important organ for thermogenesis, with the capacity to induce energy-consuming futile cycles. In this Review, we focus on how these two major thermogenic organs - brown fat and muscle - act and cooperate to maintain normal body temperature. Moreover, in the light of disease-relevant mechanisms, we explore the molecular pathways that regulate thermogenesis in brown fat and muscle. Brown adipocytes possess a unique cellular mechanism to convert chemical energy into heat: uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which can short-circuit the mitochondrial proton gradient. However, recent research demonstrates the existence of several other energy-expending 'futile' cycles in both adipocytes and muscle, such as creatine and calcium cycling. These mechanisms can complement or even substitute for UCP1-mediated thermogenesis. Moreover, they expand our view of cold-induced thermogenesis from a special feature of brown adipocytes to a more general physiological principle. Finally, we discuss how thermogenic mechanisms can be exploited to expend energy and hence offer new therapeutic opportunities.

Temperature-acclimated brown adipose tissue modulates insulin sensitivity in humans:

In rodents, brown adipose tissue (BAT) regulates cold- and diet-induced thermogenesis (CIT; DIT). Whether BAT recruitment is reversible and how it impacts on energy metabolism have not been investigated in humans. We examined the effects of temperature acclimation on BAT, energy balance, and substrate metabolism in a prospective crossover study of 4-month duration, consisting of four consecutive blocks of 1-month overnight temperature acclimation (24 °C [month 1] → 19 °C [month 2] → 24 °C [month 3] → 27 °C [month 4]) of five healthy men in a temperature-controlled research facility. Sequential monthly acclimation modulated BAT reversibly, boosting and suppressing its abundance and activity in mild cold and warm conditions (P < 0.05), respectively, independent of seasonal fluctuations (P < 0.01). BAT acclimation did not alter CIT but was accompanied by DIT (P < 0.05) and postprandial insulin sensitivity enhancement (P < 0.05), evident only after cold acclimation. Circulating and adipose tissue, but not skeletal muscle, expression levels of leptin and adiponectin displayed reciprocal changes concordant with cold-acclimated insulin sensitization. These results suggest regulatory links between BAT thermal plasticity and glucose metabolism in humans, opening avenues to harnessing BAT for metabolic benefits.

Ambient temperature and prevalence of obesity in the Spanish population:

The aim of this study was to examine possible associations between ambient temperature and obesity in the Spanish population using an ecological focus. The prevalence rates of obesity in the different geographical areas divided according to mean annual temperature quartiles were 26.9% in quartile 1 (10.4-14.5°C), 30.5% in quartile 2 (14.5-15.5°C), 32% in quartile 3 (15.5-17.8°C), and 33.6% in quartile 4 (17.8-21.3°C) (P = 0.003). Logistic regression analyses including multiple socio-demographic (age, gender, educational level, marital status) and lifestyle (physical activity, Mediterranean diet score, smoking) variables showed that, as compared with quartile 1, the odd ratios for obesity were 1.20 (1.01-1.42), 1.35 (1.12-1.61), and 1.38 (1.14-1.67) in quartiles 2, 3, and 4, respectively (P = 0.001 for difference, P < 0.001 for trend). Conclusions: Our study reports an association between ambient temperature and obesity in the Spanish population controlled for known confounders.

Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression:

Depression is a debilitating mood disorder that is among the top causes of disability worldwide. It can be characterized by a set of somatic, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, one of which is a high risk of suicide. This work presents a hypothesis that depression may be caused by the convergence of two factors: (A) A lifestyle that lacks certain physiological stressors that have been experienced by primates through millions of years of evolution, such as brief changes in body temperature (e.g. cold swim), and this lack of "thermal exercise" may cause inadequate functioning of the brain. (B) Genetic makeup that predisposes an individual to be affected by the above condition more seriously than other people. To test the hypothesis, an approach to treating depression is proposed that consists of adapted cold showers (20 degrees C, 2-3 min, preceded by a 5-min gradual adaptation to make the procedure less shocking) performed once or twice daily. The proposed duration of treatment is several weeks to several months. The following evidence appears to support the hypothesis: Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect. Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively. The therapy was also found to have a significant analgesic effect and it does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence. In conclusion, wider and more rigorous studies would be needed to test the validity of the hypothesis.

Influence of Contrast Shower and Water Immersion on Recovery in Elite Netballers:

Influence of contrast shower and water immersion on recovery in elite netballers. J Strength Cond Res 28(8): 2353–2358, 2014—Contrast water therapy is a popular recovery modality in sport; however, appropriate facilities can often be difficult to access. Therefore, the present study examined the use of contrast showers as an alternative to contrast water therapy for team sport recovery. In a randomized, crossover design, 10 elite female netball athletes (mean ± SD: age, 20 ± 0.6 years; height, 1.82 ± 0.05 m; body mass, 77.0 ± 9.3 kg) completed 3 experimental trials of a netball specific circuit followed by one of the following 14-minute recovery interventions: (a) contrast water therapy (alternating 1 minute 38° C and 1 minute 15° C water immersion), (b) contrast showers (alternating 1 minute 38° C and 1 minute 18° C showers), or (c) passive recovery (seated rest in 20° C). Repeated agility, skin and core temperature, and perception scales were measured before, immediately after, 5 and 24 hours postexercise. No significant differences in repeated agility were evident between conditions at any time point. No significant differences in core temperature were observed between conditions; however, skin temperature was significantly lower immediately after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with the passive condition. Overall perceptions of recovery were superior after contrast water therapy and contrast showers compared with passive recovery. The findings indicate contrast water therapy and contrast showers did not accelerate physical recovery in elite netballers after a netball specific circuit; however, the psychological benefit from both interventions should be considered when determining the suitability of these recovery interventions in team sport.


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