You may be thinking ‘why would anybody take a cold shower’? It’s true that very few people wake up in the morning actually looking forward to such torture.
But jumping into chilly water is essentially a kind of therapy – known as hydrotherapy. The underlying premise of this cold water treatment is that regularly subjecting your body to the stress it brings can enhance health in a number of ways.
Unfortunately, these benefits are only seen once you adapt to the regimen. A once-a-year icy blast of water won’t do you much good.
If you think you’re ready to ditch your daily hot shower in favor of better physical and mental health, keep reading to find out more about hydrotherapy and what you can expect from it.
History of Cold Water Therapy
In ancient times, bathing in warm water simply wasn’t an option! Even when civilizations learned to heat their water, many of them – such as the Greeks – continued to use cold water for the health benefits. Then in the 1820s, a German farmer began claiming that hydrotherapy was a new medical treatment which used cold water to cure everything from injured animals to his own broken bones.
From here hydrotherapy soon spread and by the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy resorts existed in the US! However, their popularity began to decline in the 20th century as drugs soon came into existence as a way to treat illness.
Nevertheless, modern studies and many health and beauty experts tout the effectiveness of cold water therapy to this very day. Here are 13 reasons why you should give it a go:
1. Benefit Hair and Skin
Get glowing skin and the long, flowing locks you’ve always wanted. Experts say a cold water rinse benefits hair by causing the outer layer of the strands to flatten down, making them look smoother and shinier. This also helps to reduce moisture loss and prevent breakage – both vital for healthy hair.
Board-certified dermatologist Jessica Krant says that ice-cold or lukewarm water helps the skin by preventing it from being stripped of its essential natural oils too quickly. Why not also try some of these 55 natural secrets to ensure you enjoy the best skin of your life?
2. Stay Alert and Energized
As you can imagine, being hit with an icy blast of water at 7am is going to wake you up pretty quickly!
It also increases mental and physical alertness as the shock of the cold stream will increase your rate of breathing, boosting your oxygen intake, heart rate and blood flow. All of these physiological actions work to keep your mind sharp and your body energized.
Looking to reduce flagging energy levels without resorting to Arctic temperatures? Try these 22 quick tips!
3. Stop Stressing
Given that our lives are getting inherently more stressful, we should be doing anything and everything we can to reduce stress levels before they take their toll on our mind and body.
This is where cold showers come in – exposure to a cold stimulus has been shown to promote tolerance to stress and even reduce disease. It does this by lowering levels of uric acid in the body during and after exposure to the cold water, along with boosting levels of the important antioxidant glutathione in the blood.
Both these actions serve to reduce overall levels of stress, and equip you to deal with future environmental stressors more effectively.
4. Boost Circulation
An increased rate of breathing, oxygen intake and heart rate all lead to one thing – an increase in blood flow. Taking a cold shower daily will serve to improve poor circulation and all the symptoms that go with it like numbness in the limbs, decreased cognitive ability, fatigue, weakened immunity and cold extremities.
Another benefit of boosting circulation is that it will help reduce cellulite – that dimpled mass of skin which resembles cottage cheese or orange peel! Poor circulation is one of the main causes of cellulite and can seriously accelerate its formation.
If you have poor circulation, in addition to cold showers you may want to try some of these 16 natural treatments for the condition.
5. Reduce Depression
Possibly one of the best benefits of taking icy showers is their mood enhancing benefits. They stimulate what is known as ‘the blue spot’ – the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline, a chemical which plays a role in easing depression.
Cold receptors in the skin will also send a huge amount of electrical impulses to the brain, resulting in an anti-depressive effect.
Researcher Nikolai Shevchuk says, to get this psychological lift, take a cold shower of around 68 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes once or twice daily. Thankfully, you can enjoy a five-minute gradual adaptation to the temperature before turning the dial down to 68!
6. Ease Muscle Soreness
Athletes know that taking an ice bath after intense training speeds recovery by reducing swelling and flushing lactic acid – which causes muscle fatigue – out of the body.
A 2009 analysis of 17 studies found that athletes who either rested or immersed themselves in cold water after resistance training, cycling, or running enjoyed relief from sore muscles for one to four days after exercise.
That’s all well and good for those hardcore competitors out there, but what about those of us who merely want some relief from pain after our daily gym session? While not quite as effective as a full bath of ice, a cold shower can go a long way to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness in these situations.
The low temperatures will help reduce swelling, remove some lactic acid and get the blood flowing.
7. Aid Weight Loss
Surprisingly, opting to wash in cold water is an almost effortless way to shed weight.
There are two types of fat in the body – brown fat, the kind we need as it generates heat to keep us warm; and white fat, the kind we all work so hard to lose.
According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, brown fat is activated when exposed to cold temperatures – such as a cold shower. This results in an increase in energy and calories burned to keep the body warm.
A study carried out in 2009 found that exposure to extreme cold temperatures activated brown fat by up to 15 times it’s normal activity, meaning a nine pound weight loss in one year may be possible in some fans of the cold shower.
Check out these 50 other evidence based weight loss tips.
8. Build Willpower
If you struggle to stick to a healthy eating regimen, study plan, exercise routine or anything else that requires a little willpower, perhaps you need to work on building your willpower up before tackling these goals?
Psychologists now believe that willpower is like a muscle – the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes in the long run.
Cold showers are one way to exercise your willpower muscle! After all, if you can face into a 68 degree shower immediately after waking, you can do anything! This mental strength and discipline will soon seep into other areas of your life and, before you know it, you will be able to achieve all the targets you have set for yourself.
9. Strengthen Immunity
Believe it or not, cold water may help prevent colds and flu, rather than causing them like many would think.
A 1993 study carried out at Britain’s Thrombosis Research Institute in England found that taking daily cold showers increased the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells compared to people who took hot showers. The researchers suggest that, as the body tries to warm itself during and after a cold shower, metabolic rate speeds up and activates the immune system, which leads to the release of more white blood cells.
A German study also discovered that an occasional winter swim in cold water causes oxidative stress, but when done regularly, it leads to an adaptive antioxidant response. This means the body is better able to combat oxidative stress once it becomes accustomed to cold-water exposure, something researchers believe could translate to increased tolerance to environmental stress – such as exposure to viruses.
10. Increase Testosterone Production
The same study by Britain’s Thrombosis Research Institute mentioned above shows that cold water showers can increase testosterone production in men.
Releasing testosterone is important for building muscle and increasing muscle mass. It also helps boost male libido and overall strength and energy.
11. Improve Male Fertility
In addition to increasing testosterone levels in men, taking cold water showers may help fertility levels.
Multiple experiments done in the 1950s and 60s showed that hot baths can render men temporarily infertile! Those who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for three weeks had decreased fertility levels for the next six months.
In 2007, University of California at San Francisco researchers showed that men who stopped taking their weekly 30 minute bath or hot tub session soon showed a sperm count increase of up to 491%, along with improved sperm motility.
While a hot shower won’t have such a dramatic effect, sticking to cool may be best!
12. Help the Environment
Typically, 20% of every shower is essentially lost while people stand around waiting for the water to heat up. When you consider that the average shower is a little over eight minutes long, that’s quite a lot of wastage. And, for a standard shower head, every minute wasted equates to 2.5 gallons of water!
Other research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that the waste levels may be even higher — 30% of shower water overall and 41% of hot water energy.
It’s easy to see why taking a cold shower helps cut down on this waste – you don’t need to see any water go down the drain while you wait for the temperature to heat up and you’ll also be far less tempted to lounge around in there than you would be in a warm, steamy shower.
13. Save On Energy Bills
Hot water showers are major sources of energy usage and are one of the largest drags on the hot water heater in the home. In fact, water heating itself accounts for almost 17% of total home electricity, according to the Department of Energy.
Therefore, cutting back on hot water showers offers double the money saving benefits – reducing dollars spent on water and power.