A short sharp shock in an icy shower may be better for you than you might imagine.
Civilisations across the world and across time have bathed in cold water for the health benefits
The Spartans felt hot water was for the weak and unmanly, and first century Finns would sweat it out in saunas and then jump into an ice cold lake or stream. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank, and ancient Russians took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which is believed to cleanse the spirit. We take a look at the real world benefits of a cold shower.
Cold showers may seriously improve your health
It turns out that there are some benefits of cold showers. They can improve the body’s health, fitness, and recovery. So, what are some of the potential health benefits of a cold shower?
1. Weight Loss stimulation: Not all fat is created equal. When you take a cold shower, brown fat (the good fat) is activated, resulting in an increase in energy and calories burned to keep your body warm. According to one study, cold temperatures can increase brown fat by 15X the normal amount, which can result in 9 lbs/4 kg of weight loss per year.
2. Cold Showers Improve Circulation: Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower improves circulation. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water causes the refreshed blood to move towards the surface of the skin.
3. Strengthens Immunity: In a study by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to those who took hot showers. Another study in the Netherlands showed a cold shower resulted in a statistical reduction of self-reported sickness absence.
4. Energised Breathing: Step into a cold shower and the first thing you are going to do is take a big deep breath, giving you an oxygen rush and massive boost of energy! The boost of energy can be a healthy alternative to a morning coffee that will kick your physiology into another gear.
5. Cold Showers May Help Relieve Depression: Cold showers stimulate what is known as “the blue spot,” which is the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline – a chemical which plays a role in alleviating depression. Studies suggest the mild electroshock delivered to the brain by the cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
The benefits of a cold shower continued…
6. Reduce Stress: Along with increasing your adaptation to stressful situations, research suggests the cold will lower levels of uric acid, and boost levels of Glutathione in your blood – making you less stressed in general.
7. They’ll Improve Your Skin & Hair: Ice cold water can help our skin by preventing it from losing too many natural oils. It also helps your hair appear shiny, strong & healthy by keeping the follicles flat and increasing their grip to the scalp.
8. Increases Fertility for Men: If you’re trying to become a dad, cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases, and vice-versa when they’re cold.
9. Builds Strong Will Power! Doing something you are resistant to, every single day, right when you wake up, takes a lot of mental strength. And over time this mental strength and discipline will become an automated habit that echoes into every area of your life.
10. They wake you up but they also put you to sleep: Somewhat counterintuitively, while cold showers wake you up in the morning, cold therapy is also one of the best ways to get an incredible night’s sleep. Studies suggest that cooling the brain of those with insomnia reduced the amount of time it took them to fall asleep and increased the amount of sleep they got, bringing their results in line with the participants who did not have insomnia.
You Don’t Have to Start Off Cold, But a word of warning
You Don’t Have to Start Off Cold! You don’t need your whole shower to be cold to gain all the benefits. Start with a normal, warm shower and then switch to an icy blast at the end. Give your body a chance to get used to the cold and take deep breaths to boost the oxygen spreading around your body.
This will come as a relief for many. You can start your shower off hot and enjoy it. But for the last 3 minutes it must be as cold as it goes!
Added bonus: you’ll save a fortune as cold water is a lot cheaper than hot!
(Note: some people with certain conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure should avoid cold showers because of the shock to the body’s system. If in doubt, ask your doctor before leaping into an icy shower).
An alternative to using just cold showers all the time is to alternate between hot and cold several times during one shower.
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