Updated: Jun 26
A group of 17 male and 8 female Czech Army soldiers who participated in 2 min freezing cold water immersion, followed by light exercise for rewarming, reported improvements in sexual satisfaction, reduction in waist size, and reduction in anxiety, compared to controls.
Researchers prescribed exercise as recovery from cold exposure, in keeping with the recommendations in the Morozko Method that have been proven to boost testosterone.
Given the role that testosterone plays in the libido and sexual function of both men and women, increased testosterone in the soldiers may have been the mechanism by which their sexual and overall life satisfaction improved.
Dozens of Czech soldiers confirm exercise after ice bath results in greater life satisfaction
Ice bath science
Ever since Joe Rogan posted about What Happened to My Testosterone... I've gained a reputation as "the guy" who discovered the hormonal benefits of pre-cooling your workout.
The performance benefits of an ice bath before exercise have been known for a long time. As I wrote in Precool Your Workout, the world's foremost expert is Professor Craig Heller at Stanford University, who has done extensive studies that show enormous gains in endurance and peak power output.
It was Professor Andrew Huberman, also at Stanford, who introduced Heller to the biohacking community when he hosted a podcast with Heller about using cold exposure to boost performance.
So when Huberman forwarded to me a new study about cold exposure and life satisfaction conducted by the Czech Army, I thought I should pay close attention.
Probably no other segment of society has studied cold exposure in greater detail than the military organizations in cold countries. It seems that every country at the Winter Olympics has a vested interest in understanding how soldiers perform under acute cold conditions. But this new study is different. Instead of testing the soldiers for endurance and performance, a research team in the Czech Republic recruited dozens of male and female soldiers from the Czech Army to ask about how cold water immersion might improve their life satisfaction. Compared to the control group, the soldiers who spent just two minutes submerged up to their neck in near-freezing cold water experienced:
smaller waist (less visceral fat).
improved sexual satisfaction.
better overall life satisfaction.
What's more, despite no prior experience with ice baths or winter swimming, 84% of the participants (both men and women) were continuing their deliberate cold exposure practice 8 months after the conclusion of the study (Néma et al. 2023).
Use exercise to recovery from your ice bath
What's really interesting about the Czech study is that they are the first researchers to adopt the protocol of light exercise for recovery from deliberate cold exposure that I accidentally discovered while using cold exposure to improve my prostate health.
Notice how the research team designed their study. First, the soldiers would immerse up to their necks in freezing cold water for 2 minutes -- the minimum amount of time typically recommended in the Morozko Method. Then, the soldiers were encourage to rewarm "using light physical activity, until they reached the subjective perception of being warm" (Néma et al. 2023).
While the researchers did not measure testosterone directly, they prescribed exactly the same protocols recommended in How To Use Cold Water Therapy To Boost Your Testosterone Naturally. Given their protocol, we can expect that their participants, both male and female. experienced a testosterone increase that would account for their increased sexual and life satisfaction.
Few people understand that testosterone is the dominant sex hormone in both men and women. Although testosterone levels in women are far below those of men, healthy women have about three times the testosterone as they do estrogen.
When women boost their testosterone, they experience some of the same beneficial effects that men do, including an increased libido.
In Ice Bath Sex Health, I wrote about the some of the sexual and reproductive benefits of of deliberate cold exposure, and noted that the metabolic improvements are a tremendous boost to female reproductive health. However, the women soldiers in the Czech Army were likely to be metabolically healthy -- even prior to practicing cold water immersion. So any improvements in their sexual function and satisfaction are not likely to be from their metabolism, but from from the testosterone we can expect them to produce under the protocol prescribed.
Cold Exposure for Anxiety
The Czech research team measured a drop in anxiety levels in the group that participated in cold water immersion, compared to controls. But they didn't explain the mechanism.
There are likely two.
The first is the meditative benefits of the ice bath. For example, in Ice Bath Meditation I described the differences in brain waves measured on warm dry land, and in the ice bath. The remarkable finding is that the brain plunges into a calm activity state when the body is immersed in cold water. Despite the activation of the autonomic nervous system, the cold water seems to induce a meditative state in brain function -- at least in the two participants from whom I collected data.
The second is the production of ketones in the cold water. As I wrote in Ice Bath for Fast Keto, there is no better way to stimulate production of endogenous ketones than a little bit of cold exposure.
Most people already know that the ice bath will accelerate fat burning by activating brown fat, and that ketone production is associated with a fat burning metabolism. What most people don't know is that ketones have an anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) effect on the brain. Thus, when the Czech Army soldiers plunged into the cold water, their bodies produced ketones that would likely have reduced their anxiety levels.
Thus, to regular readers of this journal, the new Czech results are no surprise. Nonetheless, it's gratifying to read that the Czech Army is measuring what we've all been experiencing, and that our results are generalizable.
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For personal stories about journeying through the cold, listen to The Morozko Method podcast https://anchor.fm/adrienne68.