Picture this: Your alarm goes off in the morning, you drag yourself out from under the covers, turn on the coffee maker, and step into a ... COLD shower. Wait, what? Where’s the hot water?The truth is that, when it comes to health benefits, taking a cold shower beats hot showers by miles. Swapping warm water for cold, even just twice a week, can have a tremendous positive impact on both your mental and physical well-being. Keep reading for six proven benefits of reducing the water temperature in your shower.
Improves Metabolic Rate
If you’ve been trying to kick your metabolism into high gear, a cold shower might do the trick. Research shows that exposure to cold water can reduce damage to the gastrointestinal system and help balance hormone levels, both of which help to improve metabolic efficiency. Taking cold showers can also burn brown fat (the fat we’re all born with — in contrast with white fat, which accumulates due to lifestyle). Interestingly, brown fat helps maintain body temperature in the cold, so taking cold showers is one of the best ways to activate it.
Scientists are still looking for conclusive evidence of a link between cold showers and weight loss, but maintaining a healthy metabolism is a good start. Your metabolism helps regulate your hormones, circulation, digestion, body temperature, and cell repair. In other words, taking a cold shower every other day can act as a cheat sheet for good health. Whether you’re seeking a new weight loss strategy or simply focusing on your health as you age, boosting your metabolism with a cold shower could help.
Strengthens Immunity to Illness
Cold water immersion is the fastest way to get sick, right? Amazingly, the opposite is true when it comes to cold showers. In fact, toughing out a cold rinse is one of the best things you can do to boost immunity and reduce your risk of getting sick. That’s because being in the cold triggers the body’s production of white blood cells that help fight off disease and infection. Briefly stressing your body with a bit of cold can induce your immune system to produce more leukocytes and lymphocytes, a.k.a. the front line of defense against sickness. Research has even shown that cold showers can improve resistance to certain cancers.
You know the euphoric feeling you get after a good workout? The one often referred to as “runner’s high?” You can thank a group of hormones called endorphins for it. Endorphins are produced by your brain in response to stress or pain, and along with giving you a mental health boost, they can also help relieve pain and promote relaxation. Exercise is one of the best ways to tap into the benefits of endorphins, but standing under a cold shower for five minutes can also do the trick.
Getting an endorphin boost doesn’t just feel great — it also has a lot of health benefits, including anti-depressive effects that can be helpful for people suffering from depression (or even just everyday stress and anxiety). According to the CDC, depression affects at least ten percent of Americans, and that number is even higher among older populations. Depression can be effectively treated with medication and talk therapy, but clinical trials have shown that taking a five-minute cold-water shower two or three times a week can help relieve symptoms of depression as well.
If you’re experiencing depression, seek consistent long-term treatment from a licensed therapist or healthcare provider. For immediate mood-boosting benefits, incorporate cold water therapy (alongside other healthy habits, like routine exercise) to your daily routine.
Increases Circulation and Blood Flow
For athletes, ice baths are a post-workout muscle recovery mainstay. Why? Because exposure to cold temps forces the body to pump more blood and circulate oxygenated blood more efficiently. This helps to reduce inflammation, heal injuries, and even improve your skin. While this is good news for everyone, cold showers can be especially beneficial for those suffering from health conditions that cause poor circulation. Chief among these are diabetes and high blood pressure.
The quickest way to reap these health benefits is by taking a cold shower after your cardiovascular or strength training workout. Not only will it help you recover faster and reduce muscle soreness, but going from a hot gym to a cold spray feels good. Two birds with one stone.
Alleviates Itchy Skin and Scalp
Dry skin and itchiness are common problems in fall and winter, and they’re often exacerbated by warm showers. Rinsing with cold water might take some getting used to, but the payoff is non-irritated skin and an itch-free scalp. Cold water can also strengthen your hair cuticles — meaning bye-bye frizz, hello soft and luxurious locks. If you find yourself piling on the lotion and conditioner in winter, give cold showers a try — they could be the solution you seek.
Wakes You Up in the Morning
The last (and most popular) reason for taking cold showers: It wakes you up and boosts your heart rate. If early hours aren’t your thing, standing under a cold spray for a few minutes will put some pep in your morning step. Showering in the cold is a shock to the system — but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
How can I incorporate cold showers into my routine?
Taking a steamy, hot shower is one of life’s great luxuries, and it might seem like too big of a sacrifice to give that up just for a few health benefits. But what if I told you that you could have both? Many of the health benefits of showering in cold temperatures result from just two five-minute showers per week. If you shower every day, the majority of your showers will still be warm.
You can also get used to cold showers by easing into them. Start off at your usual temperature, and then slowly reduce to a cold temperature. Healthcare professionals recommend this approach to avoid shocking your body (and to ensure that you aren’t scarred to the point that you never try a cold shower again).
The Bottom Line
Getting used to cold showers takes time, but once you do, you’ll likely find that you look forward to them. The endorphin rush and sense of well-being after cold exposure are addicting, and there’s no quicker way to experience quite so many health benefits. (Of course, if you choose to use cold showers to manage conditions like diabetes or depression, please remember that no amount of at-home remedies can replace the benefits of professional treatment and medication.)
While it’s possible that you give cold showers a try and decide they aren’t for you, it’s also possible that you enjoy the benefits of a cold shower so much that you convince everyone you know to give it a go. They’ll probably think you’re a little quirky at first — and then, like magic, they’ll become cold shower converts, too.