Taking a shower should be an invigorating and refreshing experience. Whilst most of us like our shower to be nice and warm, some prefer a cold shower for its supposed health benefits. Can cold showers actually be good for you? We decided to find out.
Back in the olden days, a cold bath or shower would be prescribed to people suffering from a wide range of ailments in a bid to cure them.
A cold shower certainly isn't everyone's cup of tea. In more recent times, it has been the suggested remedy for those who feel slightly over-amorous and the choice of sportspeople and masochists alike. Jolting the body into some form of reaction is nothing new when it comes to treating illness and disease.
But is there scientific fact behind the myths? What benefits does a cold shower actually bring? I looked into the subject, had a few cold showers myself, and discovered the following benefits.
The benefits of cold showers
While hot showers offer their own health benefits, cold showers can also help to improve your health and wellbeing. Of course, as I recently discovered myself, you’ll need to get used to the often breathtakingly cold temperatures, but many individuals claim all the health benefits are worth it. So, let’s take a look at 8 of these below…
1. Helps relieve depression & stress
The first surprising way in which cold showers can be beneficial starts with something we can't see but we can certainly feel: Endorphins. Endorphins are most commonly known as the hormones which make us feel satisfied, providing natural pain relief throughout the body. A cold shower stimulates the release of endorphins around our bodies, leaving us feeling happier and more satisfied.
But how does this work? Well, the sensation of cold water on the skin sends electrical impulses surging to your brain. The body feels challenged and releases the endorphins in response to this. That's why we usually feel more satisfied and happy after doing something that challenges us physically like putting up some furniture or doing exercise. Along with endorphins, adrenaline and oxytocin (the love hormone) are also released, giving us the sense of thrill and love.
A holistic alternative to traditional drugs to treat anxiety or depression, taking cold showers about 2 to 3 times per week for about 5 minutes has actually been shown to improve depression symptoms.
Another way in which a cold shower can affect your mood is to reduce the feeling of stress. But how? Cortisol, known as the stress or “fight-or-flight” hormone, is released in the body in response to stress. Since increased cortisol means increased stress, reducing the levels of this hormone is ideal for reducing stress, anxiety and even depression. Some researchers have found that when individuals are immersed in cold water, cortisol levels in their blood decrease.
2. Tightens skin & closes pores
Hot water can often dry out your skin and remove the natural oils needs for a healthy and long-lasting complexion. It is thought that if you splash your face with fresh, cold water after your bath you can tighten up your pores and your skin helping it to look radiant and youthful.
Tightening your pores is great if you're prone to spots too as it will help reduce the amount of dirt that can get into them. With healthier looking skin, you'll most likely feel more relaxed and confident.
3. Speeds up muscle recovery & soreness
As a child, did you ever hold an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas to your knee when you fell over? Have you ever heard an athlete boasting about the 10-minute freezing cold shower they take after a race?
But do you really know the reason for this? When you hold something cold against your body, both your heat and blood go to your core to try and keep you warm. When you remove the cold application, freshly oxygenated blood rushes to the area, essentially speeding up the recovery of injuries and aching muscles.
A review conducted in 2014 found that exposure to cold water actually triggers an automatic pain response called SIA (stress-induced analgesia). This is a reduced pain response following or during exposure to stress, which includes being immersed in cold water.
If you exercise regularly or play sport, you may want to find out more about the benefits of an ice bath in our latest blog post.
4. Stimulates weight loss
Whilst drinking cold water is thought to speed up metabolism and help burn fat, what about showering in it?
We have two types of fat in our bodies. White fat which clings to our lower back, stomach and neck—often caused by eating more calories than we burn. We also have brown fat which is healthy fat, used to keep our bodies warm and tackle white fat. Exposure to cold water can stimulate the production of brown fat volume which helps keep our bodies looking toned and healthy.
A cold shower can also help you lose weight in another way. The shock of the water can help to kick-start your cardiovascular system, resulting in an increased metabolism to start the day.
5. Increases alertness & gives us energy
Much like attaching a set of jump leads to a car, a cold shower will jolt the body into action. This, in turn, should leave you feeling more alert and energised. It may well be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it's certainly effective!
6. Leaves you with healthier hair
Similar to how hot showers can dry out your skin, repeated hot showers can also potentially dry out your hair, stripping it of its natural oils and making it look dull and lifeless.
By taking a cold shower you can improve the appearance of your hair, making it look shinier and healthier. Cold water flattens hair follicles, making it easier for them to cling to your scalp.
7. Aids & improves circulation
If you paid attention during Biology lessons, you'll know that our bodies operate at a core temperature of 37°C. When we encounter cold or hot temperatures, our bodies have to work hard to maintain a balance, to stop us from overheating or freezing. When we get too hot, we produce sweat which cools the skin. When we get too cold, we shiver which produces energy to warm us up.
Therefore, when we take a cold shower, the body has to work harder as a unit to maintain that core temperature, meaning your circulatory system becomes more efficient. This in turn could help lower blood pressure and improve your overall health.
One study conducted in 2019 found that a cold shower taken after exercising may even improve general hydration by naturally cooling the body.
8. Strengthens immunity
As we've already seen, jumping into a freezing cold shower will certainly give your whole body a short, sharp shock, triggering a defence mechanism. One upshot is that this can also stimulate the production of leucocytes in your bloodstream. Leucocytes are commonly known as white blood cells, which help to combat infection and defend against common illnesses like colds and flu.
By taking a regular cold shower, you could help build up your immunity, leading to fewer sick days at work.
Of course, this blog post is only intended to provide information. If you're looking to improve your health, it's best to speak with a health professional who can give you personal advice.
Why not find out more about the benefits of hot showers and work out which is the best option for you?
Ways you can enjoy a cold shower
Aside from simply switching your shower to its coldest setting and jumping in, there are less shocking ways of enjoying the benefits of a cold shower:
- Reduce by a degree each time
- Programme your temperature using a digital or smart shower
- Use body jets
- Use a detachable shower handset
Improve your shower experience
If you want greater control over your showering experience, check out our superb range of high quality showers.