The thought of stepping into an icy shower might already be giving you chills, but bear with me here when I say: if you start integrating them into your regime, your body will shortly be thanking you for it.
Before we get into why, I’ll share a little background on the start of my cold shower addiction. Cold showers are second nature to me now, but it all started quite a few years ago, after a trip with some great friends to a healthy living resort in Miami. Minus the quality R&R time of just getting to be with close friends, the entire trip revolved around giving our healthy lifestyle a shot in the arm. From intense workouts to massages to yoga classes, we were focused on rejuvenating our healthy lifestyles.
Well, after our workout on the first day, we found at the end of one of our pool decks a set of contrasting baths – one hot tub with a timer and one cold tub with a timer. Apparently the hot tub was used first to relax muscles and blood vessels, followed by the cold bath to tighten blood vessels and increase blood circulation to internal organs.
Needless to say, we jumped in.
And wow – what an experience! The immediate movement out of the cozy, relaxing warm water into frigid temps all the way up to my forehead was a shock … but in a great way. It felt like a shot of caffeine through the veins. Like everything inside of me jolted to life at once.
That experience motivated me to better understand what was happening inside my body through the contrasting baths, and how both heat and cold immersion could play such a critical role in overall health and recovery.
Here I’ll share with you the benefits I’ve discovered regarding cold showers (which are any showers with the water below 70 degrees) and what they can do for you. Trust me: once you know and feel the benefits, a momentary dip in the cold won’t deter you.
Benefits of a Cold Shower
1. Increased Circulation
Cold water encourages you body to reroute blood to your organs to keep them warm and nurtured, while warm water brings blood back toward the muscles and skin. A cold shower followed by a blast of warm water, or vice versa, boosts circulation to keep blood and nutrients moving throughout your body.
2. Decreased Soreness Post Workout
The same way ice reduces inflammation in an injured area, cold showers can help reduce soreness. You douse your body with cold water to lower your internal temp, so that when it heats back up, it does so quickly, delivering freshly oxygenated blood to muscles. That delivery in turn can facilitate a quicker recovery.
3. Possible Improvement in Weight Loss Efforts and Improved Metabolism
One study has shown a potential connection between certain fat cells (brown adipose tissue, also known as BAT) and energy expenditure when exposed to cold water. Other studies show that lengthy blasts of cold water shock the metabolic system, which is responsible for, among other things, caloric burn. When our body is exposed to cold temperatures, it activates brown fat cells in order to generate heat (mostly through shivering), which can increase your calorie burn.
4. Energy Boost
This seems to not require too much of an explanation, but clearly, a shot of cold water will force your eyes open, get you moving and put your mental state in a ready position. Aside from the shock, studies also show it can activate your sympathetic nervous system to release neurotransmitters and endorphins that can give you a shot of alertness [*]
5. Increased Resistance to Stress
A blast of cold water is no joke. If you’re not in the mood, it can be almost infuriating. But here’s the thing: you’ve chosen to take the frigid temps straight on, so you get to choose how to deal with it. Do you choose a reaction or a response? Response, right? A thoughtful and deliberate choice of how best to handle the stress in front you.
As you practice the practice of response over reaction with cold showers, you also practice your ability to handle other types of stressors.
6. Bolstered Immune System
From less frequency of calling in sick to work to potential disease prevention, the list of the benefits of cold showers for a healthier body and system is long, though not entirely proven. That said, they have been found to be a regular habit of the healthy.
This may be due to the fact that cold showers stimulate leukocytes, which help your body fight infections and common illnesses.
7. A Blast of Endorphins
Remember how cold showers can activate your sympathetic nervous system? Many of the same enorphins and neurotransmitters that are released during this process that give you an energy boost can also help reduce symptoms of depression and low mood. [*]
How to Work Cold Showers Into Your Routine
Cold Showers Are a Supplement
Let’s start with that. Your healthy lifestyle needs to be as holistic as your eating or workout regimen. So, by no means are they the only way to achieve the aforementioned perks cold showers offer. Focus on using them as a supplement to bolster your overall health-focused efforts.
Start With Contrast Showers
No need to go submerging yourself head to toe in not-so-warm water immediately. Try alternating warm and cold water at the end of your shower. Give yourself a blast for 30 seconds of cold, then move the dial back to warm. Try it a few times, increasing the duration of the cold parts each time.
Dr. Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest and forefather of natural medicine, was a huge proponent of contrast showers, as they helped ease his tuberculosis diagnosis, allowing the cold water to force all blood to the middle of the body and the hot water to rush back out to rejuvenate the body’s entire system.
First and as always, consult with your physician before adding any intense practices to your lifestyle. Make sure you have a full understanding of your body, genetics and all that is going on in, inside and out.
Second, specifically if you have any heart issues, cold showers are not a good idea. The blast of cold water forces your blood vessels to restrict, and that can exacerbate any heart diseases and cause a cardiovascular reaction.
Has your life changed at all since starting with cold showers? I and the community would love to hear about it, so drop a comment below!