Why Silicon Valley elites swear by ice baths and "positive stress"

So-called 'positive stress' has been growing in popularity among Silicon Valley workers.

Silicon Valley changed the way we communicate, work, play and catch Pokémon. Can it also transform how we approach health?

Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple hire the brightest minds who work long hours to bring amazing advancements to life. To keep up with the demanding lifestyle, tech workers have been looking outside the box to power themselves, trying nutrient solutions like Soylent, training their minds with philosophy, or taking 'smart drugs'. Now another approach to getting the most out of your body has been gaining in popularity among workaholic techies. It's called 'positive stress'.

The proponents of positive stress think that combining tactics like subjecting yourself to extreme temperatures, limited diets, grueling workouts and overall discomfort can help you live longer and more productively.

Image: Shutterstock.

As reported by CNBC, Silicon Valley denizens like Zachary Rapp often work 18-hour days, having to get through “an inhuman amount of work.” To reduce the stress, Rapp, who co-founded three startups—the digital health company PhenoMx as well as two digital device makers—has been taking ice baths. He also complements that practice with hot yoga, occasional fasting and a special diet which restricts grains, sugar, and alcohol.

"It keeps me balanced," Rapp said, "Like the stress is leaving my body, so I don't feel like I'm hitting a brick wall."

Rapp also claims to get sick just once a year and thinks positive stress can help the body to build up tolerances that make it easier to cope with everyday challenges.

Some ascribe the growing popularity of cold showers and ice baths to the Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof. He has been dubbed “ice man” for using deep breathing to withstand severe cold. His series of workshops and a 2017 speaking tour of Silicon Valley have really spread his ideas. Joel Runyon, a triathlete who gives TED talks about the power of cold showers, thinks Hof has “converted” the tech gurus to the ideas of positive stress.

Of course, the idea of using cold showers to get healthier is not new. Ancient Romans have been known to partake of cold baths called frigidariums regularly. Such experiences were supposed to close the pores opened by the hot baths.

Whether cold showers or ice baths can actually help your health is still up for debate. Some studies have found them to have little bearing on getting sick, while others concluded that the cold can help increase circulation, improve skin, reduce stress and help with weight loss.

To learn more about the “ice man” Wim Hof, check out this video:

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

We are heading for a New Cretaceous, not for a new normal

The climate change we're witnessing is more dramatic than we might think.

Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA
Surprising Science

A lazy buzz phrase – 'Is this the new normal?' – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it's worse than that – we're on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less