Updated December 26th, 2018
They sound terrifying if you’ve never done one. They sound amazing if you’re a veteran.
I talk a lot about cold showers around here. I’ve used them to get in shape, start a blog, and launch a business. They come with a ton of benefits, including clarity of mind and fearlessness. In the past I’ve focused specifically on the mental and psychological aspects of cold showers but, as it turns out, there are quite a few scientifically proven health benefits of taking cold showers as well.
There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation and folklore surrounding cold showers, so I’ve tried to comb through that and sort out the scientifically backed facts from the urban legends.
The Health Benefits of Cold Showers
Better Immune System
There are countless studies that show that exposure to the cold improves your immunity.
Cold water immersion has been shown to increase metabolic rates because it causes shivering and activates your immune system. Experiment participants who participated in six weeks of immersions benefited from an increase in plasma concentration, as well as T helper cells and lymphocytes.
In Sweden, it’s common practice to let small babies take naps outdoors in the cold. It has been shown that these babies end up more resistant to disease and that they 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 one step further and dump a whole bucket of cold water over children’s heads in a ritual called Rodnichok or cold springs. They do this year-round for children between the ages of two and six. Again, this is in Siberia. These kids are tough. It’s been shown that about 95% of the kids who participate are healthy through the flu season. On the other hand, only 75% of the the children who don’t participate in this ritual stay flu-free.
Lesson learned: if you want to be healthy, stick to the cold setting on your shower!
When your body is exposed to cold, it requires more heat to warm you up. To heat you up, it has to process more energy, which means it has to burn more fat more efficiently than normal. Being cold can also activate brown fat, which is a sort of good fat that helps generate heat, boost your metabolism, and burn fat.
Over time, cold water exposure improves circulation. Since exposure to cold causes your blood flow to be redirected to your vital organs, your body is forced to circulate your blood more efficiently.
Regular cold showers help to reduce heat loss, decrease your core body temperature, and regulate your overall body temperature.
Relief from Symptoms of Depression
Cold showers have been shown to help relieve symptoms of depression. Due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, taking a cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which can result in an anti-depressive effect. So, if you need a pick-me-up, jump in the shower and turn it to the blast setting.
Healthy Skin & Hair
Cold water helps to close pores. Closed pores keep your skin looking smooth and healthy, without drying your skin out as hot water can. The cold water helps keep your hair shiny and your skin soft, rather than itchy, ashy, and dried out.
A 1993 study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed a link between having cold baths and having high testosterone levels. We don’t have the direct link to the study, but try it out for yourself and see. We promise that, after spending five to ten minutes in the freezing cold water, you’ll at least feel like more of a man.
As you can imagine, an increase in testosterone can lead to an increase in fertility. Hot baths and showers drastically decrease sperm count. So, if you’re looking to pop out a few mini-mes, and want to give your little swimmers a fighting chance, make sure to turn your shower to cold.
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. That’s a response that the best cup of coffee in the world can’t beat.
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.
Ice baths have long been used by elite athletes to help reduce inflammation after a workout. They alleviate DOMS 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.
Cold showers can get you to breathe deeply by forcing you to pause and hold your breath as a sort of automatic reaction when the cold water hits. This helps open up your lungs (just like physical exercise does), bringing 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 often advised to take cold showers. This might be because after the initial shock of the shower, your body calms down and relaxes.
Personal note: I’ve noticed that I sleep better and deeper when I take cold showers.
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. Whew!
Health Benefits of Cold Shower Therapy™ Video
One of the main benefits of taking cold showers is developing the ability to subject your body to a certain level of stress in a controlled environment. By doing this, you teach your body to adapt to stressors and become stronger. Whether it’s respiratory, circulatory, or simple temperature regulation, you’ll find your body becoming stronger.
Of course, these are just the physical health benefits of taking Cold Shower Therapy™. I personally think the mental and psychological health benefits of taking cold showers alone make it worthwhile.
TLDR: Take cold showers. They might just change your life.
The Official CST App
My Cold Shower Therapy™ TED Talk
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