There’s nothing like a nice, hot shower. Right? Well… maybe not. According to certain studies, it turns out that cold showers actually have a lot of health benefits you probably don’t even know about. It makes sense. Olympic athletes use cold showers during training, and so do people looking to trim a few pounds quickly. It may not seem like an appealing idea at first, but one look at the benefits might have you waking up to an ice bath, or at least a cold shower, on a more regular basis!
- It Increases Alertness
So it sounds like a bit of a rude awakening. But it turns out that the deep breathing that accompanies that kind of shock to the system will also increase your heart rate, and release a rush of blood through your body. It kick starts your day with a dose of energy that rivals that of your first cup of coffee! If it’s still intimidating, keep in mind that as well as the fresh energy jolt you’re gaining self-discipline and willpower. Sure, the first few times it’s going to feel uncomfortable. But a small stressor early in the day will slowly build your tolerance over time. This allows you to face the challenges of the day, knowing your body, at least, is up for it!
- Boosts Your Immune System
This one sounds totally counter-intuitive, given the old wives tales around the common cold. And though a lower body temperature can be an indication of some health issue, you don’t get sick from cold outside your body. Quite the opposite: in 1993, an English study confirmed that exposure to cold water actually increases the level of white blood cells in your body, which are the cells used to fight infectious bacteria. It’s also good for uric acid levels, and increasing antioxidants. Uric acid is the acid secreted during stress, and can cause a lot of health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Exposure to cold water lowers the uric acid level. Antioxidants are responsible for fighting off free radicals, including those which cause cancer. Basically, being exposed to cold water causes your white blood cells to rush in to warm you up. And this means a huge boost to your immune system.
- It’s a Mood Booster
It’s true! Though you may think a cold shower is a drag, your body and brain love the sudden shock to the system. Specifically, to the “blue spot” in the brain, which is responsible for the production of noradrenaline – a chemical very important in staving off depression. In extreme cases, cold water has even been used to treat more severe forms of depression. Test patients in a study were exposed to 2-3 minutes of 20 degree Celsius water, sending electrical impulses from their peripheral nerve endings, into their brain. The study reported that patients experienced significant pain and symptom relief, with no side effects, unlike treatment with traditional medication. And while a short, sharp shock like a cold shower can raise your heartbeat, a soak in a cold tub, as your body adjusts, will actually lower your heart rate, which can reduce stress. Cold water does it all!
- It Prevents Muscle Soreness
Though you may prefer to sweat it out in a sauna, Olympic athletes are sitting it out in ice baths, before and after a big match. Ice baths, or even cold showers, cause muscles to constrict, and also help prevent swelling from overworked or bruised muscles. It also tightens up your blood pressure, helping with the removal of waste products, such as lactic acid, that build up during a harsh workout. Cold showers can repair sore muscles in only 4 days. If you’re not quite brave enough for an ice bath, try a cold shower. Just keep the spray directly onto the sore point. The closer you can get it to five minutes, the better.
- It’s Good For Your Skin
Our skin is full of natural oils that we don’t want to lose. Washing in warmer water can cause your pores to open all the way up, which means you lose oil and dry out your skin. A hot shower can make your face red and puffy, while a cold one leaves your skin clear and tight all day long. And as a bonus, your makeup will go on smoother, too, thanks to those tiny, constricted pores! It also helps to soothe and heal a sunburn. And lastly, keeps your hair shiny and cleaner longer than a more traditional hot shower.
- It’ll Help You Burn Fat
Maybe you already know that shivering burns calories, but did you know about brown fat? There are two kinds of fat in the world, brown and white. White fat is the excess fat that shows up in your stomach after you’ve had a great holiday. Brown fat is what keeps your organs warm in extreme weather. It burns a lot of calories to keep you going, much more than a hot shower would do. The cold also increases your heart rate and metabolism, so you can keep burning that yucky white fat, even when you’re out of the water!
The prospect of taking a cold shower every morning instead of waking up gently under warm water may be a bit intimidating at first, but the health benefits are definitely worth the trouble. It’s not just the increased resilience you’ll gain, either. Between the immunity boost, the muscle relaxing, and the fantastic fat burning properties, cold water is almost a miracle cure. Don’t just take my word for it. Ditch the hot water for a couple days of cold showers, and you’re guaranteed to see, and feel a difference, in your skin, your muscles, and your state of mind.