Some of us have heard of cold showers (insert joke here). Maybe some have even tried them before. But how – besides waking us up — can they benefit our health in the long term?
Simply put, cold showers are showers taken with cold water—not lukewarm water, not “mildly” cold water, but water with temperatures of 21 Cº or lower. Usually, cold water showers can last for about three to seven minutes, depending on the experience, needs, and health conditions of the person.
Studies have shown that cold showers help improve immunity by triggering an increase in the metabolic rate, which leads to an increase in white blood cell production, which in turn protects us from illnesses. The cold also triggers the lymphatic system, which takes waste, bacteria, and microbes away from our bodies.
Cold showers may also help us lose weight by exposing stores of “brown fat” to the cold, which then forces it to burn calories in order to generate heat.
Cold showers can alleviate depression, and elevate our moods. Exposure to cold increases the release of noradrenaline in the brain through the stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system. Cold showers boost endorphins and reduce cortisol, freeing us from the negative effects of stress and anxiety. You will definitely feel more energetic and alive after being under a cold water spout for a few minutes!
But that’s not all: cold water is believed to be helpful in reducing inflammation, healing skin problems such as acne and eczema, and improving sleep quality.
Since cold water constricts blood vessels, thus reducing swelling in muscle tissues, it can be helpful for people suffering from muscle soreness.
Cold showers also increase mental and emotional resilience. By forcing our body to do something it naturally avoids, our minds get stronger, and we develop willpower and gain better control of our emotions. It reminds us that we can overcome and control our thoughts, actions, and fears.
How to Get Started
Ease into cold showers slowly. The next time you take a routine shower, stay under the water after you’re done, and turn the water temperature down in small increments. Each time the temperature drops, you should feel a little uncomfortable. That’s normal! When you’re comfortable with the new temperature, turn it down a little more. Keep doing this until the water is at a temperature where the “uncomfortableness” doesn’t subside. This is when the magic happens. Hold for as long as you can under this temperature. The next time you take a shower, try cooling the water down even further and holding yourself underneath the water longer.
When starting out, don’t force yourself to stay too long under the water. At first, you might only be able to hold yourself under the freezing water for a couple of seconds. That’s okay! Slowly work your way up to longer periods of time, aiming for the 4-5 minute range. Gradually increase the time you stay under the spout, and allow your body to adapt to the cold.
Stay relaxed throughout the cold shower. Focus on breathing deeply through your nose, and exhaling slowly through your mouth.
Be consistent with taking cold showers. You don’t have to do it every day; but by incorporating cold showers into your schedule, you’ll reap both short-term and long-term benefits.
It might be easier to start by showering your head and neck first, as that’s the place you might be dreading the cold the most. Once that’s over and done, everything else gets easier.
Cold showers are amazing and invigorating. They offer lots of benefits and are simple and straightforward to take. I encourage you to start integrating them into your life.