Cold Showers – beneficial or torture for our bodies?
In our house, we will probably never agree on this topic. While my girlfriend is the biggest supporter of hot steamy showers, I prefer to attack the cold ones. Yes, I do mean attack because it’s not easy to break the psychological barrier. Today, I want to write about cold showers – one of the most neglected daily activities. We have been hearing for years that they are beneficial. But are they good enough to help us overcome the fear of the cold?
Cold Shower Benefits
Less stress and depression
A 25-year-old study proved that there is a drastic decrease in uric acid levels when taking cold showers. Also, the glutathione (the master of antioxidants which keeps all other antioxidants work at their prime levels) is increased dramatically. Because of the intense impact of cold receptors in our skin when a huge amount of electrical impulses is sent to our brain, cold showers can treat depression as well. To take advantage of both of these, you must shower at least 5 times per week with cold water for 3-5 minutes each time.
Cold showers stimulate the activation of brown fat (the good kind of fat) and more calories. This burns more white fat. White fat is what we store when we consume too much food and brown fat is what our bodies use to generate heat to keep us warm. However, this is more of an additional benefit and won’t get you fit only by itself. You need much more than just cold showers to burn that white fat off.
Muscle soreness and recovery
While we have all seen or heard about those athletes that jump into ice baths after intense workouts, having a cold shower it’s not as effective. You don’t necessarily have to take a cold shower immediately after a workout. What came as a surprise to me was that most trainers actually recommend it at least 30-60 minutes after the workout. The shower itself also has to be longer than the regular 2-3 minutes to have the maximum effect – at least 10.
Improved immune system and blood circulation
Cold showers naturally lower blood pressure, improve our immune system and clear blocked arteries. When the cold water touches our bodies, circulation helps the arteries for a more efficient blood pump. Circulation improves after the first few cold showers as the blood is surrounding our organs which leads to the next benefit…
Softer skin and hair
The cold water tightens our cuticles and pores and helps them to be clean. This is a temporary process but if you do it regularly the pores would be sealed for longer and dirt will stay away from our skin. While hot water dries out our skin and hair, the cold works the opposite way. By flattening the hair follicles, our hair can become shinier, stronger, and will grip easier to the scalp.
Our bodies react very unusually towards the shock of the cold water. When the coldness hits our bodies, they increase the oxygen intake with deep breathing and this warms us up. The heart rate inevitably increases as well and a rush of blood runs throughout our entire body giving us a natural energy boost.
How You Can Do It?
When doing the research about this topic from other people, I noticed a few different variations about the cold path we can take. The most radical experiments involved people who get the leaver all the way to the coldest part and then entering the shower. This is brave! And also leads to deep breaths, a bit of screaming and possibly resenting the whole process.
You can also try the easier way in. Starting with a moderate temperature and slowly turning the leaver to the blue part allowing our bodies to cope and adjust easily. The shock is smaller but this was considered as the “coward’s way”.
The alternating method involves starting with warmer water, switching to cold, back to warm, again to cold, etc. You can keep going for each leg and arm, for your belly and back separately and you can play with the leaver from warm to cold and the other way round. This provides a different way of a shock to the body because it can adjust to neither the cold nor the warm water.
What Do I Do?
If you are reading the blog regularly, you know that I like to finish it with my view on the topic.
I have been a fan of cold showers for a few years now. While I don’t do it constantly (usually I skip the winter because… I am a coward), I love it when the temperatures outside are above 15 (degrees Celsius). I was a fan of the “coward’s way” (as noted above) because it let me break the invisible psychological wall easier. By the time I was finished with the shower, I had the cold water run me down and I was more used to it.
However, with this research, I decided to jump over the coward’s trap and go all in from the start. It’s scarier and the shock is immense from the first cold water drop on my body. But I like it (eventually, usually after getting out).
Have I Experienced Any of the Benefits?
Yes, most of them. My energy levels definitely go crazy, especially after jumping to the brave method. I start breathing deeper and deeper in the first 30-40 seconds which gets me awake immediately. Then, even though I am done with the shower, I like to stay under the cold blast for additional 1-2 minutes, just for…fun (not the right word, I know).
My hair is better looking and my immune system rocks (please don’t strike me down). My muscles are less sore after a heavy workout. I am not a particularly stressed guy, but when I have a bad day, a cold shower is one of the activities that can get me out quickly.
I also think that having regular cold showers can help you build a stronger character. Because let’s be honest – not many people actually enjoy it. We see the cold showers as an obstacle, something that we need to “attack”. When we take care of that, we feel stronger and we should – not everyone can do it on a regular basis.
As usual, everyone has their own ideas on the topic. Quite some people have tried it, some liked it, others didn’t. Of course, I would recommend that you try it. Set yourself a challenge – a week if you haven’t done it before, a month if you are more experienced. See for yourselves if you will feel all of the benefits above or you will just have some like me. Then you can decide for yourself if it’s sufficient enough to be called beneficial, or if it was pure torture on your body and soul.