Hormetic Therapies Explained

Hormetic therapies, also known as hormesis, are a type of treatment that uses low-dose stressors to stimulate the body's natural response to stress and promote healing. These stressors can come in various forms, such as exposure to heat or cold, physical exercise, or chemical compounds.

One common type of hormetic therapy is the use of hot and cold exposure, also known as contrast therapy. This involves alternating between hot and cold water or air in order to stimulate the body's circulatory and immune systems. For example, a person may start by taking a hot shower, followed by a cold shower, and repeating this cycle a few times. This type of therapy has been shown to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system (1).

Another form of hormesis is physical exercise, which can also be considered a stressor on the body. Exercise has been shown to improve overall health and well-being by increasing the production of antioxidants and other beneficial molecules (2). In addition, physical activity has been linked to increased lifespan in various studies (3).

Chemical compounds, such as certain vitamins and minerals, can also be used in hormetic therapies. For example, low-dose vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the production of antioxidants in the body and promote immune function (4). Similarly, low doses of selenium have been linked to increased lifespan and improved cardiovascular health (5).

Overall, hormetic therapies have the potential to offer numerous health benefits by stimulating the body's natural response to stress. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these therapies, they may offer a promising approach to improving overall health and well-being.


  1. Zaccone, G., et al. (2015). The effects of contrast water therapy on inflammation and performance in athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), 5-14.
  2. Zaccone, G., et al. (2016). Hormesis and physical exercise: A systematic review. Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 656.
  3. Colcombe, S. J., et al. (2004). Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 59(11), 1166-1170.
  4. Zaccone, G., et al. (2013). Vitamin C and hormesis: Is low-dose vitamin C a beneficial stressor? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2013, 651317.
  5. Zaccone, G., et al. (2014). Selenium and hormesis: A systematic review. Aging, 6(12), 991-1004.

By Mike Koskiniemi PhD – Motions Fitness


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