By Joe Martino
There’s nothing like a warm shower when we want to relax or even warm up on a cold winter day. The idea of subjecting ourselves to cold showers can actually seem crazy at times given how luxurious it has become to enjoy hot showers. But the truth is a cold shower can provide a lot of benefits that you may want to consider.
1. Improves Immunity & Circulation
Running cold water over your body at the end of a shower can improve circulation as blood is sent throughout your arteries to surround your organs. It can be viewed in the same way we run certain systems at high performance every so often to keep it maintained and well oiled. Increased blood flow can also help certain skin and heart issues as well as lower blood pressure, help clear blocked arteries and improve our immune system.
2. Improves Hair and Skin Condition
Hot water can dry out your skin and hair. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are high levels of chlorine coming out of our showers which has a drying-out effect on skin and hair as well. If you can run your shower colder or finish cold at the end, it’s a natural way to keep your skin and hair from drying out as cold water tightens cuticles and pores. This helps to prevent natural oils on the scalp and skin to be stripped away so easily. By keeping a proper oil balance you will have soft, shiny natural looking hair. This also helps to keep the skin and scalp cleaner as well.
3. Increase Alertness
Have you ever woken up early in the morning and felt tired hopping in the shower and as you feel the warm water running over your body you want to jump right back into bed? This is where cold showers can come in handy. As cold water hits your neck it causes you to do that almost slightly shocked deep breath. This increases oxygen intake and also gets the heart rate up which pumps blood through the body faster giving the body a nice natural surge of energy.
4. Eases Stress & Depression
Cold showers have also been shown to help decrease stress levels. One study found that exposure to cold helped decrease uric acid levels and increase glutathione, an antioxidant considered to be one of the most important for a healthy body. The participants swam regularly in ice-cold water during the winter months and it was found that they adapted to repeated oxidative stress.
Another study found that cold hydrotherapy (i.e. cold showers) helped to improve moods and had an anti-depressive effect with no bad side effects or creation of dependency. Subjects were tested with one to two cold showers at 38 degrees Fahrenheit that were two to three minutes long. These were followed by a five-minute gradual adaptation to make the procedure less shocking.
5. Speeds Up Muscle Soreness and Recovery
A study conducted in 2009 found that people who rested or immersed themselves in cold water after their exercise saw a decrease in onset muscle soreness caused by resistance training, cycling or running. It was found that a 24 minute bath in water with temperatures around 10 – 15 degrees celsius (50F – 59F) was most effective. Taking a cold shower after your workouts would still have a positive effect on muscle soreness as well. The longer you go the greater the benefit. Research also believe that alternating hot and cold at the end of a shower after a workout may help reduce pain and speed recovery by decreasing blood lactate concentration.
So how do you do it? Well you turn on the water cold and hop in.. sort of. There’s actually some differing ideas on exactly how to take a cold shower and one of the ways that I’ve used most is listed below from blog.iamgary.com.
- Turn the water on, set to cold. Some people will tell you to start warm and decrease the temperature slowly each time you shower, then start a little colder each day. Yes, that method will eventually result in taking a cold shower but you’re going to miss out on the heart-pounding exhilaration that you only experience fully the first couple times you take a cold shower. It doesn’t have to be ice cold, just cold.
- Feet first. Your feet will adjust to the temperature fastest so get them under the spray and work your lower body under the water as quickly as you can. By the time the water is splashing your stomach you’ll be looking for a distraction so…
- Hands second. Get your hands and arms wet, then splash water over your torso. By now your legs and front should be thoroughly wet.
- Head under! You’re going to be be breathing heavily and involuntarily so be careful not to inhale any water through your nose or mouth. You’re going to feel alright, like hey I can do this, but you’ve forgotten part of your body…
- Back last. Millions of nerve fibres are routed through your spine so getting your back wet is the hardest part. You’re going to feel a lot of sensations, almost an electrical charge crackling up and down your back. Get this wet last then finish washing and scrubbing. Good job, you’ve taken a cold shower.