Cold showers are naturally en vogue as we reach summer’s hot, sticky summit. But there’s a whole lot more benefits to running your showers cold beyond cooling down after a warm day.
Multiple World Record Holder Wim Hof has led the icy renaissance for a number of years now while espousing it’s immune boosting effects, as ice baths and cryotherapy chambers have become par for the course for any and every elite athlete thanks to their effective role in recovery.
So, if you’re still stuck in your hot shower ways or simply want to affirm your cold shower beliefs, here’s a simple rundown of the benefits from an ice cool wash.
5 Cold Shower Benefits For Your Mind And Body
Helps Ward Off Illness
Nutrition, exercise, and rest are the three pillars on which good health is built. But could we add a cold shower to that list? Well, leukocytes, colourless cells that circulate in the blood to counteract foreign substances and disease, are stimulated by a shock of cold water. This process could then help your resistance to common illnesses, like colds and the flu.
In fact, a 2015 study on 3,000 volunteers looked at the effect of finishing a morning shower with a blast of cold water, versus showering as normal, and found that those who doused themselves with cold water took 29 percent fewer days off on average.
A Welcome Energy Boost
Anyone who has woken themselves up with a cold morning shower will have felt that rush of energy that comes with turning the blue tap all the way up. The deep breathing in response to our body’s shock from a cold shower helps us keep warm as it increases our overall oxygen intake. Our heart rate will also increase, releasing a rush of blood through our entire body. This circulation boost is thought to give us a natural dose of energy.
In fact, the same 2015 study also found the most commonly reported beneficial effect from cold showers among those surveyed was an increase in perceived energy levels, with many comparing it to caffeine.
Help Post Exercise Recovery
Aching muscles post gym? Perhaps a cold shower is in order. A 2009 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that immersing yourself in cold water after lifting, running, or cycling improved muscle recovery and soreness. It’s all down to the cold water constricting blood vessels and reducing metabolic activity, which then goes on to limit swelling and tissue breakdown.
After your skin warms up again, blood rushes back in, which helps move the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. This all serves to speed up your muscle recovery just in time for your next date with the squat rack.
While a cold shower in winter is probably no one’s idea of bliss, it could enhance your mood more than you might think. Exposure to cold environments is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of mood-boosting endorphins. Cold water on the skin is also believed to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
A study from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, looked into this hypothesis and found that cold water therapy did in fact “relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively” for those participants who took a cold shower for up to five minutes, 2 to 3 times a week.
Soft Skin And Shiny Hair
Anyone who suffers from dry skin should already be aware of the havoc wreaked by an ultra-hot shower. They can also make skin conditions worse by causing you to itch when the heat sets off mast cells containing histamine which release their contents into the skin. This causes an inflammatory response resulting in your need to itch.
Cold water in contrast will cause your blood vessels to constrict which can take away redness from your skin. A cold shower can also prevent your skin and hair from being stripped of its healthy natural oils too quickly which keeps moisture locked in while flattening ruffled cuticles to make your hair look less frizzy and shinier as well as preventing breakages.