5 science-backed reasons you should take cold showers
by Tobias • 5 minutes read
Last updated: 29 Jun, 2022
I know in the depths of winter there is often nothing better than a hot shower, but here it's the middle of summer, the days are long and warm and now could be the perfect time to reap the benefits of a cold shower. Cold water immersion has been shown to offer a myriad of health benefits, but for those without access to an ice bath, the cold shower is the next best thing.
They’re good for circulation
This is the main reason that cold showers should be a part of your daily routine. Cold showers can be massively beneficial to your circulatory system. By lowering your body temperature in a cold shower, your body has to work hard to try and warm up, the main way it does this by increasing blood flow to the surface of your skin and all of your extremities, that's why you will often feel your toes and fingers tingle. This tingling is actually tiny capillaries and veins opening up within your body, improving circulation.
They can help your muscles recover
For anyone that exercises with a lot of intensity, this benefit of cold showers is probably most important. Cold showers can aid recovery, it does this in a similar way to improving circulation. A cold shower increases your heart rate, this means that more blood is flowing around your body. The blood carries all the nutrients and minerals to repair and rebuild exhausted muscles, so the more blood there is, the quicker the recovery. Think of it like trucks carrying bricks to a building site, the building will be finished a lot faster if the trucks can take the highway to the building site instead of a single track road.
Helps fight depression
Some studies suggest that cold showers could improve your mood. This study in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that having a cold shower activates the sympathetic nervous system and increase the availability of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and endorphins. Due to this, people may be less likely to experience depression and it's symptoms.
Helps improve metabolism
Whilst conventional wisdom follows that body fat is bad, this is mainly aimed towards white fat. Your body has two important types of fat within it. White fat is the fat that is responsible for conditions such as heart disease and obesity. Brown fat is the lesser known type of fat that we are all born with. In adults brown fat is mostly stored in the shoulder area. Experts believe that brown fat is a relic of our ancestors ice age lifestyle when temperature regulation was vitally important, brown fat will actively burn calories when exposed to cold temperatures, it does this to maintain a safe core body temperature.
Simply taking a shower may not lead to weight loss without other lifestyle changes. But studies show that taking a cold shower 2 or 3 times a week could contribute to an increased metabolism.
Could improve your immune system
Our bodies are very adaptive to stressors, and cold showers could elicit an immune response as your body expects illness to coincide with frigid temperatures. While cold doesn't directly trigger your body to increase production of disease fighting cells, studies have shown that the increase metabolic rate and increased blood flow from cold showers activated the immune system to an extent.
I don't want to embellish the facts, so I will leave it as saying the science backs up that there is a measurable small improvement to the immune systems but perhaps a larger unmeasurable improvement as well.
How to take your first cold shower
So the science has convinced you and you are ready to take the plunge, but you aren't sure the best way to get started, just follow our simple step-by-step guide.
- Take your normal warm shower, Once you have cleaned yourself and finished washing
- slowly the lower the temperature, either all in one go or in graduated steps.
- Once the water is cold to the point you feel uncomfortable, start counting.
- Maintain calm and controlled breathing and try to take deep breaths.
For the first few times you take a cold shower, aim for 2-3 minutes, and gradually increase the amount of time you can handle it, there are diminishing returns so there isn't much benefit in staying in the shower for any longer than 10 minutes.
Once you have finished, dry off thoroughly and get dressed to get yourself warm again.
Cold showers are not a panacea for all the bodies issues, they should be used to supplement conventional medical treatments and not a replacement.
Those that are currently taking long term medication, for either physical or mental health issues, should not stop taking it in favour of any alternative treatment.
As we have shown, there are some benefits to cold showers but these do not outweigh the risks from completely stopping a prescribed medical treatment. Please err on the side of caution when trying new medical protocols and always speak to your doctor or medical professional before undertaking any changes to your normal medical routines.
Disclaimer: We provide this information for educational purposes only. No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
- Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030698770700566X
- science based effects of hydrotherapy - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/
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