The concept of cryogenics is one that still feels a little sci-fi, reminiscent of films like 2001: A Space Odyssey or the more questionable Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise. For fans of the futuristic, a visit to a °CRYO Health location in the UAE may be slightly disappointing. These facilities are not about suspended animation, but rehabilitation.
Japanese doctor Toshima Yamauchi was the pioneer of cryotherapy, first using it as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the 1970s. These days the science of exposing the body to sub-zero temperatures of up to -140 degrees C, in order to stimulate physical and mental health benefits, is well and truly in the mainstream.
In recent years, the use of cryotherapy has boomed among elite and amateur athletes with Leicester City’s football team famously demonstrating the benefits of its regular use when they won the English Premier League title in 2016. Sporting superstars such as LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather are among other high-profile °CRYO disciples.
For first-time visitors to °CRYO, the overwhelming feeling may well be skepticism. After all, being asked to step into what looks like an upright white coffin for three minutes is not on most people’s health wish list.
But the benefits of cryo are numerous. It can stimulate blood circulation, increase the release of endorphins, speed up muscle recovery, reduce tissue damage and strengthen the immune system.
Increasingly it is used for general wellness too; cryotherapy can boost the metabolism to aid weight loss and helps many people feel more clear-headed, in the same way that a cold shower heightens the senses. For some, it is as embedded in their weekly routine as a yoga class, though switching from Bikram to cryo is quite a leap.
Emirates Towers is °CRYO Health’s flagship clinic but there are others including Abu Dhabi Country Club and a women-only location at Beauty Connection Spa on Sheikh Zayed Road. Further openings are planned in the near future. Individual sessions start from Dh280, though this drops when packages are bought in bulk, with an annual, 120-credit membership costing Dh 11,990 (Dh100 per session).
Before stepping into the cryo chamber, you need to get kitted up with underwear, mittens, knee-high socks, thermal slippers and a fetching headband. Continuing with the ’80s theme, the chamber then expels cold air, filling the room as if you were in a cheesy nightclub with an overused smoke machine.
There are different temperature settings available based on athletic ability or prior experience of cryotherapy. It’s best to go for the warmest option (can -110°C ever be considered “warm”?) and move down to lower temperatures in subsequent sessions. The chamber’s front panel can also be opened a little on the first go for those who feel claustrophobic.
°CRYO’s glacial gurus are extremely reassuring, talking to visitors before and during the treatment and answering any questions, however stupid. Apparently, it would take quite a long time to become a human popsicle. And no, Walt Disney wasn’t actually cryogenically frozen.
The three minutes can feel quite long, particularly in the first cryotherapy session. With each passing second the temperature in the body cools rapidly, causing it to shiver more vigorously. Most people certainly feel relieved when their time in the chamber is up.
As the clothes go back on and the body defrosts, many find niggling aches and pains have immediately disappeared. However, the effectiveness of the treatment varies from person to person. Some may need a few repeat treatments to really reap the benefits. For those who think it will be a miracle cure for aiding weight loss, it is important to know that cryotherapy works best when combined with exercise and a good diet.
If the chamber isn’t your thing, other options are available including “Freezio” – a physio session that includes cryo treatment focused on a certain problem area. There are also a whole host of cosmetic treatments including the “°CRYO Elemis Biotec Facial” and the “°CRYO Slim Cellulite.”
It may be more expensive than a cold shower, a bag of ice for the bath or a cinema ticket, but cryotherapy has certainly emerged as one of the world’s, ahem, “coolest” health trends.
Featured photo Shutterstock
Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.