If the thought of cold showers sends shivers up your spine – read on. There are massive health benefits. They cover your immune system, circulation, and stress response and even your skin / hair.
It is perfectly natural to enjoy a nice, warm shower. Letting that heat roll over you in the morning feels wonderful – especially if it’s not too warm outside of the bathroom. Conversely, the thought of taking an ice-cold shower seems like a crazy idea… However, there is scientific evidence that a cold shower might be the perfect way to start the day.
This guide to the amazing benefits of cold showers delves into the reasons why cold might be the new hot. The guide ends with a practical look at the act of taking a cold shower, and how you might not want to jump straight in.
If you are used to taking a warm shower, it can be a bit of a shock when you have that first cold shower. Simply the act of standing under cold water and remaining there takes willpower and a whole lot of deep breathing.
The cold water literally shocks the body. This is where some of the big benefits come in.
Suddenly your oxygen intake is increased, your heart rate increases, and your alertness levels are boosted.
This shock hardens your body, ensuring that your nervous system is trained to get used to coping with these levels of stress. This in turn has knock-on benefits for other parts of your day. If you then find yourself in a stressful situation at home, socially or in the workplace, you are better placed to deal with it.
The simple act of taking those deep breaths under the icy water decreases the amount of CO2 in your body, helping you concentrate as you head in the day. This can ensure that your focus levels are increased, potentially boosting your productivity and/or creativity levels going forward.
A study in 2000 reported that in cold water conditions, participants enjoyed an increased metabolism, increased heart rate and blood pressure. Neurotransmitters and hormones also showed positive changes. Cold showering increased levels of dopamine and norepinephrine and lowered levels of cortisol, known as the ‘fight or flight’ or stress hormone.
Studies have shown that the act of taking a cold shower will increase the number of white blood cells. White blood cells are those that help protect your body against disease. It is believed that this is related to an increased metabolism, which will in turn stimulates your immune response.
When the cold water from the shower hits your skin, it will cause the blood vessels on the surface to contract. This will divert blood away from the skin and will see blood vessels in deeper body tissues dilate, improving overall circulation.
One benefit of cold showers that will appeal to many people is weight loss. It’s already been mentioned that a cold shower can increase your metabolism and the immediate benefits that brings.
As well as this increase, a cold shower will also stimulate the generation of ‘brown fat.’ This is a specific type of fat that generates energy by burning calories. Many of these cells are situated in and around the neck and the shoulder area, the perfect spots for when standing under the shower.
There is anecdotal evidence that a cold shower can have positive benefits on both your skin and your hair. When the cold water hits your skin, it tightens and restricts the blood flow, which can give your skin a healthier glow. Cold water also closes and strengthens your hair cuticles. Cold water also has a positive effect on the Sebum layer, a naturally lubricated layer that protects both your skin and hair. Warm or hot water in the shower can dry out this layer.
While you might immediately have the urge to put the shower on fully cold and jump straight in. In doing so, you might have the shock of your life. If you are used to warm showers, this won’t be a pleasant experience, and it might put you off doing it ever again.
The ideal way to get started is to take gradual steps. When you first step into the shower, it can be an idea to start it warm. Then gradually decrease the temperature of the water, so it won’t quite have that immediate shock. You’ll still be taking deep breaths and gaining the benefits, without that shock value. Over time, you get more and more used to the cold, and can begin to lesser the temperature when stepping into the shower.
You should also try gradually increasing the time spent under cold water. 20 seconds will be plenty at the beginning. To really reap the rewards, you should work up to 5 or more minutes. Whether you do this before or after your regular shower / getting clean is a completely different debate!
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