The Benefits of Cold Showers
Thousands of people have incorporated cold showers into their daily routines. Cold showers are very powerful as they stimulate the mind and your body. Cold showers are an important part of the Wim Hof Method. According to Wim Hof, the method is build on 3 pillars: the breathing technique, controlled exposure to the cold and commitment (Ref 1). He states that by practising the Wim Hof Method, it will provide you with the means to cope with numerous stressors and challenges (Ref 1).
Cold therapy (cold showers, ice baths) works by lowering the body's temperature and locally constricting blood vessels. It brings down your heart rate, increases your circulation, minimises inflammation and helps with recovery after training (Ref 3).
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to cold showers and lots of science to back it up including:
Reduced stress levels. Having a cold shower puts your body under a small amount of stress which over time your body gets used to (a process called hardening). Hardening is the exposure to natural stimulus (such as cold water) which results in increased tolerance to stress and/or disease (Ref 1, 3, 4).
Higher level of alertness. The cold water helps stimulate your body, causing you to take deep breaths (helping with meditation) and therefore increasing the amount of oxygen in your body. This helps to you to be more focused throughout the day (Ref 1, 2).
Improves circulation. The cold water helps to improve blood circulation, thereby boosting overall heart health. It can also help to lower blood pressure (Ref 2).
Helps to strengthen your immune system. Studies have shown that taking a cold shower helps to increase the amount of white blood cells in your body which help to protect you from illness and diseases (Ref 1).
Increased willpower due to the strong mind that develops from taking cold showers (Ref 1, 4)
Weight loss. Research has shown that exposure to cold including cold showers helps to increase your metabolic rate and stimulate the generation of brown fat. Brown fat is the good fat which generates heat to keep us warm, and is activated when exposed to extreme cold. Brown fat has been shown to burn energy instead of storing it (Ref 1, 2, 3, 4).
Helps with recovery after training so that you can recover faster (Ref 1, 4). The cold water works by lowering your heart rate and increasing your circulation, decreasing inflammation and helps you to recover faster. It has also been shown through studies that it can help in relieving delayed onset muscle soreness (Ref 2, 3). Many athletes also use ice baths to help reduce muscle soreness after training.
Improves sleep (Ref 1, 4). Have a cold shower just before bed and see the difference.
Improves your cold tolerance (Ref 1). Getting used to cold showers makes you more tolerant of colder temperatures.
Refines hair and skin. Hot water has the tendency to dry out our skin, whereas cold water helps to tighten your cuticles and pores which prevent them from getting clogged. Cold water helps to 'seal' the pores in the skin and scalp, preventing dirt from getting in. The cold water helps to prevent our skin being stripped of its natural healthy oils too quickly. With your hair, cold showers can help make it appear shinier, stronger and healthier (Ref 2, 4).
Helps to relieve depressive symptoms due to the intense cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, thus producing an anti-depressive effect and boosts moods (Ref 2, 4).
Help boost your lymphatic system. Cold showers, when alternated between hot and cold water will help your lymphatic system, by contracting the lymph vessels when exposed to the cold and relaxing them when exposed to the heat. This essentially pumps the fluid that may have stagnated in your lymph vessels out, resulting in a stronger immune system and healthier you (Ref 4).
A study involving 10 people who swim regularly in ice cold water during winter showed that they had decreased levels of uric acid. High levels of uric acid has been associated with heart disease, fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and more. The study also showed an increase in glutathione. Glutathione is the body's most powerful antioxidant (Ref 3).
Makes you feel invincible!
How is the best way to incorporate cold showers into your daily routine?
If you have never tried cold showers before, it is good to build up the intensity and duration. For example:
Everyday in week one, start with a regular shower and finish off the last 15 seconds with cold water.
In week 2, have a regular shower and finish off with 30 secs of cold water.
In week 3, finish off with 45 seconds of cold water.
In week 4, finish off with 1 minute of cold water.
Now you can try complete cold showers (no hot or warm water AT ALL) and then ice baths!!!
Remember to always listen to your body and do what feels right for you
I have tried cold showers before but never had fully cold showers (except for when my water heater died last year and I had no choice LOL!). I would always put the warm water on and then at the end, add in some cold water but never just only cold water. I am on day 6 of my cold water challenge and am actually loving it!! I’m find that the feeling of the cold water first hitting my body wakes me up and then after a few seconds it doesn't feel so cold. It is not as hard as I thought it would be to go all in at once and I kind of like the challenge. I think it helps when you have the mindset 'I am going to do it' rather than 'do I have to??'. I am going to continue to my cold water challenge and see how long I go for. Hopefully I can make this a permanent part of my routine - even during winter!!
This is me on day 6 of my cold shower and I managed to stay easily 5 mins in the cold water!!
Let me know how you go!!!
1. Wim Hof. (2019). Benefits of cold showers. https://www.wimhofmethod.com/benefits-of-cold-showers
2. Borelli, L. (2014). Benefits of cold showers: 7 Reasons Why Taking Cool Showers Is Good For Your Health. Medical Daily.
3. Dr. Mercola. (2012). Why a Cold Shower May Be More Beneficial for Health than a Warm One. https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/04/27/cold-water-immersion-benefits.aspx
4. Russell, S. (2018). 16 Benefits of cold showers that will blow your mind. https://www.menprovement.com/benefits-of-cold-showers/