If a cold shower is one of the most dreaded feelings in the world, why would you want to take one? The extraordinary cold shower benefits.
Cold water immersion or “cryotherapy” is a popular practice among athletes who use it to recover faster. But the health benefits from a simple, quick cold shower are available to everyone.
Learning why it works should motivate you to give it a try.
What are the benefits of cold shower therapy?
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Cold Shower Benefits: Table of Contents
- Improves Circulation
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps with depression
- Relieves stress
- Promotes weight loss
- Boosts Immunity
- Increases energy and alertness
- Improves skin and hair
- Supports reproductive health
- Builds Discipline and Willpower
- Does Taking a cold shower boost testosterone?
- How long should my cold shower be?
- How to Take Cold Showers
- Is a Hot or Cold shower better?
- Contrast Shower
- Disadvantages of a cold shower
1. Cold Showers Improve Circulation
Cold showers increase circulation by rushing blood to your vital organs thereby improving your circulatory efficiency and adaptability.
Your body’s first priority is to protect your vital organs. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures abruptly it causes your blood to circulate faster to protect your organs.
At first, your body has to work harder to maintain its natural core temperature. Eventually, your body adapts, meaning regular cold showers can make your circulatory system more efficient overall.
With a more efficient circulatory system, you can train harder and heal faster. It also promotes anti-aging, keeping you looking and feeling young.
Cold showers are one way that those who are sedentary can improve their circulation.
Those with poor circulation, high blood pressure, and diabetes may also benefit from more efficient circulation.
2. Cold Showers Reduce Inflammation
Cold showers reduce inflammation for a new injury by restricting blood flow to the affected area.
Heat and cold both change the amount of blood flow to the affected area, but at opposite extremes.
Cold temperatures cause vasoconstriction, the shrinking of blood vessels, in the affected area (1). Vasoconstriction reduces the amount of blood that can reach the affected tissue.
Heat causes vasodilation or the widening of blood vessels. Vasodilation increases the amount of blood that can reach the affected tissue.
Therefore, you should use hot or cold depending on whether you want more or less blood flow to an affected area.
Generally, new injuries such as tears, sprains, and strains cause acute inflammation. Your body responds to injury through your immune system. This immune response involves localized swelling, heat, redness, and pain.
Cold treatment restricts the blood flow to the affected area, reduces inflammation, and numbs the surrounding nerves.
You should use Ice or cold treatment within the first 72 hours of an injury (1). And It should be applied from 10 to 30 minutes at least three times a day in the first 48 hours. If you don’t use ice for at least 10 minutes, the cold may not have enough time to reach the injury.
If you apply ice for over 30 minutes, you risk frostbite. Always keep a layer of clothing between your skin and the ice.
Take cold showers to reduce inflammation in the first 72 hours of injury and after that use heat treatment.
3. Cold Showers Help With Depression
Cold showers help with depression by increasing blood flow and stimulation to your brain. It also increases endorphins which promote a feeling of well-being.
Applying water of various temperatures to your skin can alter your physiology and mood. Hydrotherapy is the application of water to help you heal and feel better both physically and mentally (2).
Hydrotherapy (cold shower therapy) is gaining popularity as a natural treatment for depression. Sadly, the CDC states that about 10% of American adults report depression at their physician visits (3). But the unreported number of those with depression could be even greater.
How does hydrotherapy work?
When you are exposed to cold water your surface blood vessels vasoconstrict or tighten (4). This causes blood to flow from your surface to your body core to conserve heat and protect your vital organs. The fresh flow of blood brings nutrients and oxygen to your brain and other organs and helps detox the area.
Conversely, warm water causes your blood vessels to vasodilate (relax) which makes blood flow to the surface. This blood flow helps your core cleanse.
Your skin has a high density of cold receptors (5). Therefore a cold shower most likely sends a large number of electrical impulses to your brain. These electrical impulses can provide a burst of energy, increase alertness, and have anti-depressive effects.
Studies show that hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms without any side effects or risk of dependency (5).
Cold exposure also increases blood levels of endorphins, noradrenaline, and increases the synaptic release of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) to the brain.
Endorphins have an analgesic effect which means they lower your perception of pain (6). They also promote positive feelings similar to morphine or a “runner’s high.”.
4. Cold Showers Relieve Stress
Cold water exposure causes oxidative stress which forces your body to adapt by producing more natural antioxidants.
One study found that cold water swimmers had more natural antioxidants and less free radicals compared to the control group (7). The researchers determined that this is the result of a natural adaptive response to repeated oxidative stress.
This means that the more often you take cold showers, the better your body can adapt to stress.
5. Cold Showers Promote Weight Loss
Cold showers may promote weight loss by activating beneficial brown fat. Brown fat burns unhealthy white fat for energy and warmth.
You have two types of fat, white fat, and brown fat. White fat is that fat that stores around your body that you want to lose. It promotes heart disease, diabetes, and many other metabolic diseases (8). Conversely, brown fat promotes energy production and weight loss.
“White fat stores energy as large droplets” explains Dr. Francis Collins, “while brown fat has much smaller droplets and is specialized to burn them, yielding heat.” (8)
Brown fat has a large number of mitochondria which produce energy which contains iron, giving them their brown color.
Brown adipose tissue (brown fat) has an important role in adult health. For example, it is inversely related to your body mass index (BMI) (9).
What this means that the more beneficial brown fat you have, the less harmful white fat that you store.
Where is your brown fat located?
Infants have a high proportion of brown fat (about 5% of their body weight) on their spine and shoulders for warmth (8). But even adults have a small amount around their shoulders and neck. How can you increase your brown fat?
Brown fat, meant to keep you warm, activates in response to cold temperatures like a cold shower.
Cold showers and other hydrotherapies have many evidence-based health benefits, but the mechanism is still not clear (10).
6. Cold Showers Boost Your Immune System
Cold showers may help prevent common illnesses such as colds and more serious diseases such as certain cancers.
Cold water exposure stimulates the leukocytes in your blood. Leukocytes are a type of blood cell that helps your body fight infection and other diseases (11).
One study found that cold showers may even help prevent certain cancers. Cold exposure “can increase and the numbers and the activity of peripheral cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, the major effectors of adaptive and innate tumor immunity, respectively.” (12)
This means that cold showers can boost your natural cancer-killing cells.
7. Cold Showers Increase Energy and Alertness
Cold water exposure activates your sympathetic nervous system giving you energy and preparing your body and brain for action.
If you want to wake up fast, then start your day with a cold shower. The shock to your system activates your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), increases endorphins and noradrenaline (5).
Endorphins lower your perception of pain (6) and promote positive feelings similar to morphine or a “runner’s high.”
Noradrenaline (norepinephrine) is the primary neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system.
Noradrenalin prepares your body for instant action, it: (13)
- increases heart rate
- blood pressure
- dilates air passages in the lungs
- narrows blood vessels in non-essential organs
- strengthens the force of your heart’s contraction
Take a cold shower first thing in the morning to wake up instantly. Or, take one when you need a burst of energy. Unlike caffeine, cold showers always work to wake you up and won’t keep you up at night
8. Cold Showers Improve Hair and Skin
Cold showers support healthy skin and hair by improving circulation, preventing drying, tightening pores, and preserving your natural oils.
Cold water tightens pores and cuticles which prevents them from getting clogged while hot water tends to dry your skin (14).
According to dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD, “the cold will flatten the ruffled cuticles and lock in moisture to prevent breakage.” (15) This means that cold showers can keep your hair healthy and moisturized.
Also, dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D. warns that hot water can “strip healthy natural oils from your skin too quickly.” (16)
Lastly, cold water improves your circulation efficiency. This allows your skin to cleanse from the inside and receive a consistent flow of nutrients.
Lastly, cold water gives you a rosy-cheeked, all natural glow (14).
9. Cold Showers May Support Men’s Reproductive Health
Cold showers may support men’s reproductive health but not necessarily increased testosterone.
One study found that “sperm concentration and percentage of fast motility showed a significant decrease from spring toward summer and fall…with recovery noticed during the winter” (17). They argue that the higher fertility rate in winter and spring helps explain the peak in deliveries during the fall.
Is this seasonal or does temperature play a role?
Another study tested the optimal temperature for “DNA, RNA, and protein syntheses in the human testis” (18). They studied testicular tissue at 28 °C, 31 °C, 34°C, and 37 °C in vitro.
They found that the maximum temperature for DNA synthesis is 31°C (87.8°F). Also, the RNA and protein synthesis maximum is at 34 °C (93.2°F) or 37 °C (98.6 °F).
They conclude that the temperature sensitivity of DNA synthesis may be a primary cause of infertility.
Cold showers stay well below 31°C (87.8°F), but the average hot shower stays above this critical temperature. This includes hot tubs and saunas that reach temperatures above 31°C (87.8°F).
Does Taking a Cold Shower Boost Testosterone?
One study tested the effect of physical exercise and cold stimulation on testosterone in men. The study found that exercising boosted testosterone levels by 20.8% (19). On the other hand, cold water stimulation decreased testosterone by 10.0%.
Looking at the previous study, hot showers may be even worse for testosterone levels.
Many people claim that cold showers boost testosterone, but I am yet to find the data.
Relative to hot showers, cold showers appear to be better for reproductive health and testosterone.
10. Cold Showers Build Will Power and Discipline
Every time you take a cold shower, your willpower grows. This gives you the discipline to take control of your life.
The first time you take a cold shower, it takes all of your willpower. Eventually, it becomes a habit, and your body adapts to the cold. You will also conquer your fear of running out of hot water.
Turn the water to cold for a few seconds at the end of your regular shower. Then for your next shower, stay under the cold water for longer. Your willpower and confidence will grow, and you will want to take on other healthy changes.
How Long Should My Cold Shower Be?
You can get many of the benefits of a cold shower in just a couple of minutes. Almost instantly, your blood will flow to protect your vital organs and your parasympathetic nervous system will be activated.
You need at least 10 to 15 minutes of cold exposure to activate your brown fat. This is when your body attempts to warm itself beyond shivering by burning white fate.
An ice bath is another option, but be careful as frostbite can happen within 30 minutes.
Use long cold exposure sparingly, about once or twice a week. Because your body may adapt to being in the cold all the time by storing more fat.
How to Take Cold Showers
The easiest way to start taking cold showers is at the end of a typical shower. Turn the water to a cooler temperature for a few seconds at the end of your shower. Every time you take a shower, extend your cold water time until you reach 5 minutes.
In the summer, take a cold shower without turning on the warm water. In the winter, alternate between hot and cold.
Is a Hot or Cold Shower Better For You?
Both hot and cold showers have benefits, the key is choosing the right one for the right time.
Cold showers are best for the morning, giving you energy and alertness to start the day. Taking a cold shower in the morning will even help you fall asleep at night. This is because stress hormones are released at the right time of day.
Related: How to Fall Asleep Instantly
Cold showers are also useful for reducing inflammation by reducing blood flow to the affected area after an injury.
Benefits of Hot Showers
- Hot showers or baths help you relax for sleep or stress reduction.
- Warm water relax you before bed
- Warm water helps heal injuring that are older than 72 by increasing flow to the affected area.
Hot Cold (Contrast) Shower
A contrast shower involves switching between hot and cold water. First, cold water causes your body to rush blood to your vital organs feeding them nutrients.
Then hot water forces your body to send blood to your skin to cool your core. This rush of blood brings oxygen and nutrients to your skin.
Also, wastes move up to the surface. Your pores open up, allowing you to cleanse from the inside out.
How to do a contrast Shower
Start with hot water, as hot as you can take it, for 30 seconds. Then turn the water to as cold as you can stand it for 30 seconds. Do as many sets as you can take up to 8 sets. Start with shorter sets at first until you can adapt.
Starting your contrast shower with cold water at first may be more painful. The feeling is similar to warming your cold hands after being outside in the cold. But your body should adapt eventually.
Always end your contrast shower with cold water to tighten your pores and hair follicles.
The James Bond (007) Shower
The James Bond character (007), started in a series of novels and short stories written by Ian Fleming. In these stories, James Bond Started his shower hot, and he turned the water to cold for the last few minutes. The James Bond shower is also known as a “Scottish Shower.”
Disadvantages of Cold Showers
- Cold showers are inconvenient, especially during the winter.
- You need more willpower to take a shower.
- You should not use cold showers if you have a fever as your body needs heat to fight off infection.
- Cold showers taken before bed may keep you up at night.
Why You Need A Shower Filter
Your skin absorbs the water from your shower along with all the chlorine and other toxins. You absorb about a cup of tap water when you shower.
Further, when the water is heated, toxic gases are released and inhaled from the steam.
I recommend the 15-Stage Shower Filter with Replaceable Cartridge (click here to check out current pricing on Amazon). It removes heavy metals, chlorine, and other toxins. It does not reduce the water pressure, and it is designed to fit on all shower heads.
I can feel the difference when I travel, and there is no shower filter.
Conclusion: Cold Showers Are Worth It
You can get the health benefits of a Cold shower within a couple of minutes. The benefits include:
- improved circulation
- reduced inflammation
- help with depression
- stress reduction
- fat loss
- energy and alertness
- hair and skin health
- reproductive health.
The reason that cold showers are effective is the same reason they are dreaded, the shock to your body. Cold showers give your body a good kind of stress which causes it to adapt. The more you take cold showers, the healthier you will be and the easier they become.
Do you take cold showers? Did you notice any improvements? What is your favorite method?
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