A cold shower, as the name implies, is when you crank the temperature of your shower down, away from the typical comfort of a steamy rinse. Some people take cold showers from start to finish, while others take a traditional warm shower and add a final few seconds of cold water for an invigorating finish. Many people swear by the energizing and health-boosting properties of this unusual shower style.
When I was traveling in Switzerland in August, saunas were common place along with cold bath and shower options. Since it felt wonderful and revitalizing, I decided to do some research on the health benefits. I found out that cold hydrotherapy comes with many benefits, including ones that affect the mental and psychological aspects of the system.
Cold hydrotherapy can be defined as taking a shower with temperatures under 70 degrees and for at least 3-minutes. If one is fearless, then you can also take cold baths with water and ice. Our neighbors to the way north will seek out ice ponds for their bathing preference. Start with a 30-second shower and increase the time as comfortable (or as comfortable as possible.) You can also start with lukewarm and then turn the shower colder until it is at the coldest setting and let the water run on your head and the front and back of your body for 3-minutes.
Below, I have listed a number of health benefits from taking consistent cold showers.
1. Increases Energy
Besides the fact that there’s nothing quite like ice cold water to wake you up, cold showers can actually boost your energy levels. When you jump into a cold shower, the nerve endings in your skin stand up because of the ice world you just entered. Your heart starts racing and you start breathing rapidly as your body adjusts.
2. Encourages Lymphatic Movement
Your lymphatic system takes waste away from your cells to help you fight disease. It’s separate from your blood vessels, but it’s moved around by the contraction of your muscles. Cold showers cause your entire body to contract and this forces your lymphatic system to push lymph fluids throughout your body, stopping them from pooling in one part of your body as they would if the lymphatic system were compromised or inefficient.
3. Decreases Inflammation
Ice baths have long been used by elite athletes to help reduce inflammation after a workout. They alleviate delayed muscle soreness by constricting your veins, thereby removing toxins from your blood. When you get out of the bath, your system is flushed with fresh, nutrient-rich blood that can help repair muscles and tendons.
4. Can Help with Weight Loss
Research has shown that cold showers (and exposure to cold in general), in addition to increasing metabolic rate directly, stimulate the generation of brown fat. Brown fat is a specific type of fat tissue that in turn generates energy by burning calories. Cold showers, then, are an effective tool for people who are looking to lose a few pounds.
5. Improves Immune System
Scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in your body. Experiment participants who participated in six weeks of immersions benefited from an increase in plasma concentration, as well as T helper cells and lymphocytes. Also, cold water immersion has been shown to increase metabolic rates because it causes shivering and activates your immune system.
6. Increases Tolerance to Stress
In general, exposure to the cold gives your body a higher tolerance to stress. Over time, this leads to the strengthening of your body and immune system (as we talked about earlier). Cold showers have also been used to reduce chronic pain, body aches, and inflammation, improve hair health and kidney function, regulate the nervous system, deepen your breathing, help fight fatigue, and improve sleep quality.
7. Refines Hair and Skin
When it comes to hair and skin, one of the most natural ways to maintain your appearance is with cold showers. Hot water has the tendency to dry out our skin, so it’s best to use cold water to tighten your cuticles and pores, which will prevent them from getting clogged. Cold water can “seal” the pores in the skin and scalp too, preventing dirt from getting in.
8. Improves Circulation and Heart Health
Cold water can improve circulation by encouraging blood to surround our organs, which can then help combat some problems of the skin and heart. As cold water hits the body, it’s ability to get blood circulating leads the arteries to more efficiently pump blood, therefore boosting our overall heart health, according to Joseph Mercola, a natural health doctor. It can also lower blood pressure and clear blocked arteries.
9. Relieves Depression
Cold showers have been shown to relieve depression symptoms due to the intense impact of cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. Thus, it produces an anti-depressive effect, and boosts moods, making it a natural pick-me-up.