They sound terrifying if you’ve never done one. They’re sound amazing if you’re a veteran.
I talk a lot about cold showers around here. They’ve got a ton of benefits: clarity of mind and fearlessness to name a few. In the past I’ve focused specifically on the mental & psychological aspects of cold showers, but as it turns out, there’s quite a few actual scientifically studied health benefits of cold showers as well.
There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation and folklore around cold showers so I’ve tried to comb through and sort out the scientifically backed evidence from the urban legends. For more information, see the sources below.
The Health Benefits of Cold Showers
Improves Immune System
There are countless studies that first and foremost, cold exposure improves your immunity.
Cold water immersion has been shown to increase metabolic rates due to shivering and activating the immune system. Those that participated in 6 weeks of immersions showed s a trend to wan increase in the plasma concentrations as well as T helper cells and lymphocytes.
In Sweden, it’s common practice to let small babies take naps outdoors in the cold. They’ve not only shown to be more resistant to diseases, but they also seem to sleep deeper and more soundly.
(Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21537988 & http://herkules.oulu.fi/isbn9789514296673/isbn9789514296673.pdf.)
In Siberia, they take it step further and dump a whole bucket of cold water over their heads, in a ritual called Rodnichok or cold springs. They do this year round for ages 2-6. Again, this is in Siberia. Those kids are tough. It’s shown that about 95% of the kids who participate are healthy through the flu season as opposed to 75% of the those children in groups that don’t participate.
Lesson learned: if you want to be healthy – stick to the cold setting in your shower!
When your body is exposed to cold, it requires more heat to warm you up. To do so, it has to process more energy and in doing so helps you burn more fat, more efficiently. It can also activate “brown fat”, which is a sort of good fat that helps generate heat, increase your metabolism and burn fat.
Cold water exposure over time is shown . Since cold exposure causes your blood flow to be redirected to your vital organs, it forces your body to circulate your blood more efficiently & effectively.
Regular cold showers help limit heat loss, decrease core body temperature and regulate overall body temperature.
Cold showers have been shown to help relieve depression symptoms. Due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect. So if you need a pick-me-up, jump in the shower and turn it on blast.
Keeps Skin & Hair Healthy (not dried out)
Cold water helps “close” pores. This keeps your skin looking smooth and healthy while not drying your skin out as hot water showers can sometimes do. The cold water will help keep your hair look shiny and keep your skin soft, rather than itchy, ashy and dried out.
A 1993 study done by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed cold baths to be correlated with high testosterone levels. We don’t have the direct link but try it for yourself and see. We promise at least that after spending 5-10 minutes in the freezing cold water, you’ll feel like more of a man.
As you can imagine, an increase in testosterone can lead to an increase in fertility. Not only do they give you energy, but hot showers drastically decrease sperm count. So, if you’re looking to pop out a few mini-me and want to give your little swimmers a fighting chance, stop make sure to turn your water to cold.
Besides the fact, that there’s nothing quite like a ice cold water to wake you up out of a daze, cold showers can actually increase energy. When you jump in teh shower, the nerve endings on your skin will stand up due to the ice world you just entered. You heart starts races and you start breathing rapidly as your body starts to adjust. That’s a whole response that the best cup of coffee in the world can’t match.
The lymphatic system takes waste away from your cells to help fight disease. It’s separate from your blood vessels, but is moved around by the contraction of your muscles. Cold showers cause your entire body to contract and forces the lymphatic system to push the lymph fluids throughout your body rather than pooling in one part of your body as it would if it were compromised or inefficient.
Ice baths have long been uses by elite athletes to help decrease inflammation after a workout. It can work to help alleviate DOMS by constricting the veins throughout your body and thereby removing toxins in your blood. When you get out, your system is flushed with fresh, nutrient-rich blood that can help repair muscles & tendons.
Cold showers can force you to breathe deeper by forcing you to momentarily pause & hold your breath as sort of an automatic reflex when the cold water hits. It helps open up the lungs (similar to doing physical exercise) and helps bring in more oxygen.
Remember the sleeping babies from earlier? Well, they’re not the only ones sleeping better at night thanks to the cold. Insomniacs are recommended to take cold showers to help aid sleep. It might be because the feeling you get after the initial shock of the shower helps your body calm down & releax.
Personal note: I’ve noticed that I sleep better and deeper when I’m taking cold showers than when I’m not.
Tolerance To Stress
In general, cold exposure gives your body a higher tolerance to stress by purposely exposing it to stress. Over time, this leads to strengthening and hardening of your body and your immune system (as we talked about earlier).
Cold showers have also been used to reduce chronic pain, reduce body aches, improve hair health, kidney function, reduce inflammation and regulate nervous system. Deepen your breathing and help fight fatigue and improve quality of sleep. Whew!
Health Benefits of Cold Shower Therapy Video
One of the main benefits seen throughout all these is the ability to subject the body to a certain level of stress under a controlled environment. By doing this, you teach your body to adapt to the stressors and become stronger. Whether it’s on a respiratory, circulatory or simple temperature regulation, you’ll find your body strengthening and hardening to these small stressors.
Of course, these are just the physical health benefits to cold shower therapy. I personally think the mental health benefits & the psychology of taking cold showers is worth it in and of itself, if you needed to know – there’s a whole suite of reasons why taking freezing cold showers might be the next big healthy thing you start doing.
TLDR: Do it. It might just change your life.
What Does Cold Shower Therapy Actually Do?
Cold Shower Therapy Sources & References
For more on cold showers and their benefits, check out the links below.
- Siberian Times