The Benefits of a Cold Shower

I am more often than not the type of person to take a scalding hot shower; the kind where your skin turns red and blotchy and the air in the bathroom is stuffy and uncomfortable to breath.  And a hot shower like this has its benefits. Yet I have been challenging myself to take more cold showers lately. As I consider myself a rather health conscious person, I am frequently looking for little tips and tricks to improve my overall health and body functions.  I must credit Dr. Mark Hymans’ Broken Brain 2 web series during which I learned, from one of the contributing doctors, that taking a cold shower in the morning is a good way to reset and wake your body up in the morning. The idea of a cold shower first thing in the morning sounds terrible, but at the same time, it makes sense. The cold water certainly provides enough of a jolt  to wake one up, as often displayed in summer camp comedy films. This sparked my mission to figure out if devoting to cold showers was really worth it. Turns out it is. 

The shock of cold water rushing over your body forces your body to take deep breaths in order to keep warm.  This increases overall oxygen intake and sets a rhythm for the day.  Also, in order to keep warm your heart starts pumping blood at a faster rate which provides a burst of energy.  Fun fact: According to the New York Times, actress Katherine Hepburn swore by taking cold showers and credited them to her characteristic high energy!

 This fast pumping of blood also conditions your heart to improve circulation.  Improved circulation is important when concerning heart health as it can play a role in lowering blood pressure, clearing arteries, and strengthening the immune system.  (We all can agree that avoiding illness is best for our busy lifestyles!)  The consistent practice of taking a cold shower has been proven to aid in weight loss. This is because extreme cold temperatures cause the “brown fat” cells in your back and shoulders area, which are hit when taking a shower,  to generate heat by burning fat.  

For our athletes, or simply athletic people out there, cold showers can speed up muscle recovery and ease soreness.   Many athletes probably already know this, as ice baths are often a key part of training regime.  A quick cold shower after training can be nearly as effective as an ice bath. And often more enjoyable too!  This works by aiding with the decrease of inflammation in the tendons, muscles, and joints.  

Feeling good, looking good. Opposite of hot water, which often dries out and stresses skin, cold water is key to good skin. It causes your pores to shrink, which leaves tighter healthier looking skin, and prevents dirt and oil from building up. For this reason as well, it helps hair grip to your scalp, promoting thick healthy locks.  Cold water can also decrease inflammation of affected pores, essentially reducing redness and sensitivity of breakouts. 

For these reasons, I am working cold showers into my personal care routine.  It can be a tough challenge at first, but I believe the evidence goes to show that is worth it!  However, I will admit that I do not take completely cold showers. Usually I turn the shower to its coldest setting during the last 30 seconds of my shower. This provides enough of the jolt I desire. Tip: let the water hit your forehead/face where it can hit the vagus nerve which connects to your body’s nervous system, this will condition your body to the cold.  Overtime, I have come to find these last 30 seconds enjoyable and energizing! Another option is turning water from hottest to coldest every 30 seconds throughout the shower (starting on cold!). I find this really relaxing when I am especially sore.  

  Cold showers are wonderful and often a good choice for improved health. Yet sometimes a hot shower is good medicine.  If you are already really cold, taking a cold shower could be dangerous. Hot showers are good for relieving congestion and can be calming when the body is fighting an illness. Other than that, I advocate for cold showers.  Such an easy change for feeling and looking better.