From childhood, many of us dreaded when one of our family members would use all the hot water, and we would be left to take a cold shower as fast as possible. It would seem bizarre that in some parts of the world “cold bathing” is a common custom. The central claims of cold showers are that they have beneficial health effects such as an enhanced immune system, cardiovascular circulation, and muscle recovery. Not only are all these claims true but there much more benefits to taking cold showers
Immunity is the most researched benefit and has the most backing, out of all the claims, it is common practice in places like Sweden to let young babies sleep for short periods in the cold. The result is that they have better sleep quality and become more immune to disease. The kids eventually grow up, and they are shown to miss fewer days in school to sickness than those that stayed indoors.
To optimize this process you will want to start with warm water and finish with cold, this dilates and then constricts your blood vessels ultimately enhancing your immune system.
A study by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine has proved that cold showers have an advantageous effect on people who are afflicted with depression. The cold water affects a large number of cold receptors we have in our skin which increases the electrical impulses that are sent from peripheral nerve endings to the brain which aids in relieving depression.
Personal Note: I’ve always launched into a good mood after taking a nice cold shower.
Burning off fat:
There are many more studies that also prove that cold showers help you shed fat. Firstly everybody has what is now known as white and brown fatty tissue; Brown fat is necessary as it is critical in warming our body when we get cold as part of thermogenesis (production of heat in the human body). White fat, on the other hand,
is also stored but it is a surplus, more than we require, this type of fat leads to all sorts of health problems as well as just being obese. Luckily, when you take a cold shower, the conversion process begins, and the body starts burning fat to keep us warm which burns calories as well.
You won’t lose one hundred pounds by taking cold showers, but it can help hit white fat stores around the body that you’re having trouble shedding.
Elevated & efficient circulation:
As your blood vessels constrict in the cold water, you will feel your body naturally trying to breathe deeper to compensate for your body’s demand of more oxygen. Rapid breathing may happen, and you will realize that you will run out of breath much faster than normal, it’s completely natural for beginners. The body reacting naturally to cold water activates thermogenesis which causes your blood to circulate faster to keep a healthy internal body temperature, as well as prioritizing blood to your vital organs.
Over time your body will become better and better at adjusting its internal temperature to be ideal, and it will become more efficient. You will soon turn on the icy water, and your body won’t jolt, it will feel less cold, and your body will send waves of heat to wherever it is needed. This can especially be perceived after the shower is over, a complete warmness will overtake you.
A process that could help the other way round is known as a
contrast shower developed by Dr. Sebastian Kneipp. He suggests getting the water as cold as you can handle for one minute then change to as hot as you can handle, your repeat this cycle three to five times for maximum benefits and a fun challenge.
Softer smoother and shiner skin/hair:
While hot water opens pores, cold water closes them. This results in smoother skin that looks and feels healthy, acne starts to diminish, and any itchy, dry, or ashy patches of skin you have will eventually soften and glow. Your hair will also begin to look a lot shinier and will not look or feel dried out.
Our reproductive organ is on the outside for a reason it requires a slightly lower average temperature than the body does.
We also know that when the testes are heated, testosterone decreases and the volume of sperm decreases, in some cases sexual functions will start to diminish.
In contrast, the cold water will raise your testosterone production and increase your sperm count by almost five times. If you still have doubts a study done has concluded that all men have on average higher sperm quantity, quality and mobility in the cold months of the year compared to the warmer ones.
Rapid energy reserve:
If you have ever been struck with cold water at any time you know this to be true, it’s nature’s energy boost. This boost happens because you’re initially breathing rapidly, the nerves all over your body, specifically your skin go on alert, standing up, and then your heart starts racing as well. In my experience, it’s more effective than caffeine and doesn’t have the downsides
Enhanced waste patrol:
The purpose of the lymphatic system is to rid your body of the toxins that cells produce, and help guard against diseases. Your muscle contractions control it, when you take a cold shower, your whole body starts to contract whether you want it to or not. This process results in lymph fluids spreading all over your body to do what they do best. A bad lymphatic system would have a conglomerate of lymph fluid uniting in just one area of the body causing mass inefficiency.
Regeneration & less inflammation:
We’ve all heard and seen top-level athletes taking ice baths after a hard workout or game. They do this because they know it will alleviate muscle soreness by compressing their veins eliminating toxins that had appeared in their blood from the muscle tearing. The result is nutrient-rich blood throughout their body which will help regenerate the torn muscles and reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Expand breathing efficiency:
While you initially have a desire to hyperventilate, you will soon breathe deeply and hold your breath in reaction. Over time this will help you get more oxygen through your lungs by assisting them in opening up more efficiently.
To practice this precisely, you should try breathing through your nose with your head in the water or holding your breath. You will notice that it is much more difficult at this temperature.
Deep quality sleep:
Your body needs fluctuations in its core temperature throughout the day, more specifically dips and peaks. To increase your sleep quality, experts recommend that your exercise regularly and intense enough to break a sweat and raise that heart rate. When you take a cold shower your at the other end of the spectrum the cold internal body temp which is optimal for your body during sleep time.
Insomniacs are sometimes advised to take a cold shower due to its ability to relax and calm down.
Enhanced stress tolerance:
Taking cold showers introduces your body to certain degrees of stress and in different parts of the body. Gradually this will strengthen those areas of the body. In some cases, cold showers have reduced body aches, inflammation, and chronic pain.
Discipline and willpower:
As a mental benefit, you will gain priceless control and will power. By overriding the comfort zone of your body and embracing what is uncomfortable but ultimately comfortable and healthy, you will benefit greatly. This type of practice transfers into all other facets of your life.
What about hot showers?
Hot showers have benefits as well, and if done right you can get the best of both shower types for maximum benefits
Such benefits include:
- Relaxing the Muscles
- Activating the parasympathetic nervous system, making us tired
- Aiding in reducing blemishes
- Relief from some respiratory illnesses
More specifically the steam from a hot shower is considered by many throughout history to be a “natural remedy.”
It helps to:
- Clear out blocks in your nasal passageways
- Unblock airways
- Loosen clusters of phlegm
The downside of hot showers:
- When taking hot showers, they tend to irritate your skin and dry it out rapidly. It is even said to cause damage to the keratin cells which we have on the outermost layer of our skin. When we interrupt these cells, dry skin is the result, and the cells cannot lock in moisture.
- If the water is too hot, it can be dangerous to those that have high blood pressure
- Possible to make you itch, heat can cause mast cell to release histamine and other contents inside the skin resulting in itching.
- Any previous skin conditions will almost certainly be made worse in a hot shower.
But how do I get all the benefits?
As I mentioned, there is a method known as the contrast shower where you switch from the hottest to the coldest temperatures you can handle in intervals. Ideally, this shift will happen 3-5 times so all you have to do is get your time table set up in your mind and enforce it no matter how hard it may be. Learning to embrace the cold and hot showers may take time, but now you know all the bodily processes going on as you overcome your temporary discomfort for greater future comfort.
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