Fish Out of Water: Cryotherapy is a growing trend—does it actually do anything?

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      Fish Out of Water is a series in which we try things we wouldn’t normally do, and then write about it. What could go wrong?

      I should start by saying that I hate the cold. If I could pick up Southern California’s weather and screw it onto the top of Vancouver like a bottle cap, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 

      I know that people wax on about the beauty of changes in seasons, and I know that Vancouver’s recent warm snap is a sign of a very unhealthy planet—but I can’t help it. I love to be hot.

      So why, you might ask, did I agree to a treatment at Vital Cryotherapy, which would have me standing in a chamber that drops to -140 degrees Celsius?

      Health, I suppose, is the short answer. Also, I’ll try anything once. Also, I love a challenge.

      But mostly health. I’ve been struggling with some inflammation issues for the better part of a year, and my doctor has been, um, unhelpful on the best of days.

      Cold therapy is supposed to decrease inflammation, improve skin tone, clear mental fog, boost energy levels, increase circulation, and even help with pain management (whether chronic or injury-related). So when the team at Vital Cryotherapy in Yaletown reached out asking if I wanted to try it, I immediately said yes. 

      There are many people who subscribe to The Cold Life, be it via regular frigid Pacific dips, the wacky world of Wim Hof, ice baths after a long workout, or hot-and-cold spa visits. What cryotherapy in particular offers is efficiency. The entire treatment only lasts three minutes—and hey, even I can withstand three minutes in the cold!

      “I hate the cold too,” Vital Cryotherapy owner Jaipaul Dhaliwal tells me as he closes the door on the cold chamber—with me inside it—and turns on the machine. A few blasts of chilly air immediately hit my body (I’m wearing socks, slippers, undergarments, and gloves; my head, mercifully, remains outside the chamber). Dhaliwal was a competitive fighter for years and found it difficult for his body to recover. Upon discovering the benefits of cryotherapy, he set out to bring the treatment to Vancouver (and has the only machine in the city).

      This smiling person, evidently, likes the cold more than I do.

      I won’t lie—the chamber is cold. But it’s completely bearable for two reasons. One, because of the aforementioned short time frame. Two, because the chamber uses zero humidity and almost zero wind—so while the temperature is colder than a human with a working pulse would normally be able to withstand in nothing but their skivvies, here it feels entirely doable. Just as my elbows were starting to prickle, the machine shut off and my time was up. 

      Immediately afterwards, I experienced a big surge of energy—like the feeling of completing a big hike or a particularly challenging workout. My heart rate was raised, and I felt deliciously tingly and refreshed all over my cool skin.

      At $78 for a drop-in, this is not your everyday treatment (there are memberships available that lower the price significantly, if you’re ready to commit). Instead of a daily or weekly thing, I’d view this as just one more tool in your wellness arsenal.

      Are my inflammation problems solved after one treatment of cryotherapy? Of course not. But did the session help me feel better, even just a little bit? Absolutely. And that was certainly worth getting a little chilly for.