Cold showers are said to deliver numerous health benefits, both mentally and physically. But are these icy downpours actually any good for us, or are they just another fad that will fall by the wayside like fat burners and detoxes? Can a cold shower really kick-start your morning and turbo-charge your day? We take a look at the evidence…
How Cold Showers Effect the Body
A somewhat grimacing thought to many, a cold shower or ice bath does offer some serious health benefits to those brave enough to take the plunge (pun intended). For decades professional athletes have raved about the decreased recovery time and overall body stimulation that taking an ice bath or freezing shower can have on your body when you’ve pushed it to the extreme.
When your body is submerged in freezing temperatures it reacts by producing heat and concentrates on minimising the loss of heat from your body, hence why we start to shiver – this is the body’s natural reaction to assist with pumping warmth around our core and limbs.
Exposing yourself to cold water is also great for your complexion: it minimises pores and increases blood flow to the skin’s surface, ensuring improved renewal and repair. Furthermore, cold showers can increase your metabolism through a process called thermogenesis, where your body has to work harder to stay warm, therefore using energy and burning fat at the same time.
Cold Shower or Ice Bath?
This really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Cold showers are more suited to the everyday man looking for a boost of energy in the morning, whereas an ice bath is usually reserved for athletes after training.
If you’re feeling somewhat adventurous then try having a shower where you expose yourself to different temperatures throughout. Start the shower off normally (i.e. a warm, comfortable temperature) then alternate between slightly warmer and colder water. This increases the oxygen flow and detoxifies your body while decreasing blood lactate concentration, which is proven to speed up muscle recovery.
If just the thought of freezing cold water is enough to put you off, don’t fear – like anything, once you’re under the shower your body will start to acclimatise to the temperature and become less shocked. You don’t have to go full throttle, either – ease yourself into it and try the aforementioned alternating method for a few days then see how you get on; if you feel the benefits, then turn that nozzle to zero. If not, go back to your usual routine.
The Effect of a cold shower on Your Brain
A busy life means we are always looking for easy ways to reduce stress and be more mindful, so how can a cold shower help? Well, there have been numerous studies suggesting that cold showers can raise levels of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps to calm and soothe your mind. So when you’re really up against it, put five minutes aside and take a cold shower.
If you’re someone who suffers from depression or anxiety then the benefits of taking a cold shower can also help to improve your mental health. Studies suggest that exposure to colder environments and colder activities activates our sympathetic nervous system, which will increase the beta-endorphins and noradrenaline – feel good hormones. Of course, this shouldn’t be viewed as a permanent fix, so if you’re struggling make sure you reach out to a loved one and book an appointment with your GP so you can get the help you need and deserve.
In conclusion, whether it’s for your mental wellbeing, a lifestyle change or the physical benefits, we could all use a cold shower or bath from time to time.