The Therapeutic Cool Zone

A cryotherapy session is said to burn up to 800 calories, reduce inflammation and ease pain, but is it really possible to freeze your way to better health?
Photo by Morgan Maassen

By Tapp Francke

My happy place is a warm bath. Or a tropical beach. I was born a lover of warmth—heat, even. So when I walked into the newly opened Cool Zone Cryo in Water Mill for a three-minute session in a capsule where the temperature reaches -250 degrees Fahrenheit, I wondered, why would anyone willingly do this to themselves? Health reasons, of course! I mean, that’s why we eat kale, right? It turns out, people have been using cold therapy for hundreds of years—the ancient Indian term for it is Ishnaan.

So I overrode my cold-objections and stepped inside the Cool Zone Cryo capsule. Once inside, I was instructed to remove my robe and put on mittens. (I was already wearing the fuzzy pink slippers they provide to protect clients’ feet.) Thankfully, three minutes went by quickly. Have you ever noticed the rush of energy you get from jumping into a cold ocean? That’s the effect the shock of cold has on your body—it pulls blood away from your extremities and directs it to your organs in order to protect them. That rush of oxygen-rich blood is both nourishing for your organs and revitalizing for your body.

Extreme cold exposure might also fight inflammation, a culprit in many diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis. It also causes the body to produce cytokines, the cell-signaling molecules that direct the immune cells toward sites of inflammation and infection. Cold is also supposed to make you happy. Not me, I thought. I was wrong. The super-cold shock to the body creates a flight-or-fight response that causes the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. It worked—afterward, I felt happy, refreshed and energetic.

Cold even increases our metabolism. According to the cryo industry, a single cryo session can burn between 500 to 800 calories—the equivalent of a 45-minute SoulCycle class. Not bad. I thought for sure that I would feel chilled to the bone afterward, but it was quite the opposite. I warmed up very quickly and noticed the pain from a pulled muscle in my thigh was completely gone. Just as you don’t get full benefits from one situp or a single leaf of kale, the more you do cold therapy, the greater the benefits. Cryotherapy sessions not your thing? You can practice cold therapy in other ways: Try jumping in the ocean, turning your shower to cold for the last few minutes or dunking yourself in an ice bath. Though my happy place is still anywhere warm, I am now willing to get cryo-cold for the health of it.