I’m a sucker for germane topics, and with this current heat wave, this article piqued my interest. I’ve heard of the many benefits of taking a cold shower including reducing body fat, stoking metabolism, and even alleviating symptoms of depression, but this article took a different angle. The writer’s conclusion is that taking a 2 minute cold shower every morning gets him awake and ready to tackle life head-on, with all its messy complexities. Studies about cold showers have made claims about many other benefits, including the following :
1. INCREASES ALERTNESS
The initial shock causes deep breathing and increases our oxygen intake and heart rate, giving a natural dose of energy for the day.
2. REFINES HAIR AND SKIN
Hot water has the tendency to dry out our skin, so it’s best to use cold water to tighten your cuticles and pores, which will prevent them from getting clogged. Cold water can temporarily “seal” the pores in the skin and scalp too, preventing dirt from getting in. When it comes to haircare, cold showers can make hair appear shinier, stronger, and healthier by flattening hair follicles, and increasing their ability to grip the scalp.
3. IMPROVES IMMUNITY AND CIRCULATION
Cold water can improve circulation by encouraging blood to surround our organs, which can then help combat some problems of the skin and heart. As cold water hits the body, its ability to get blood circulating leads the arteries to more efficiently pump blood, therefore boosting our overall heart health, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, a natural health expert. It can also lower blood pressure, clear blocked arteries, and improve our immune system. More details can be found at circulation and immunity benefits can be found at http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/04/27/cold-water-immersion-benefits.aspx
4. STIMULATES WEIGHT LOSS
Cold showers can aid weight loss in an unexpected way. The human body contains two types of fat tissue, white fat and brown fat. White fat is accumulated when we consume more calories than our body needs to function, and we don’t burn these calories for energy. This body fat may pile up at our waist, lower back, neck, and thighs, and is the kind we struggle to eliminate. Brown fat is the good fat, which generates heat to keep our bodies warm, and is activated when exposed to extreme cold, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. Thus, cold showers can promote brown fat activity. A 2009 study found that exposure to extreme cold temperatures activated brown fat in 24 participants by a 15-fold increase, meaning someone could lose up to nine pounds in a year if they kept this practice up.
5. SPEEDS UP RECOVERY FROM MUSCLE SORENESS
We have all seen athletes taking ice baths after training to reduce muscle soreness, but a quick cold shower after breaking a sweat at the gym can be just as effective, especially in relieving delayed-onset muscle soreness. A 2009 study analyzing 17 trials involved over 360 people who either rested or immersed themselves in cold water after resistance training, cycling, or running. It found that 24-minute cold water baths were effective in relieving sore muscles one to four days after exercises with a water temperature of 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. However, some studies involved colder temperatures, which would presumably allow one to be in the cold water for shorter periods with similar benefits.
6. EASES STRESS
Jumping into the shower without letting it heat up, or going into the ocean without slowly acclimating to it, can help increase tolerance to stress and disease. A 1994 study found a drastic decrease in uric acid levels during and following exposure to a cold stimulus. There was also an increase in gluthathione, an antioxidant that keeps all other antioxidants performing at their optimal levels. The participants, who were 10 healthy people who swam regularly in ice-cold water during the winter, adapted to repeated oxidative stress.
7. RELIEVES DEPRESSION
Cold showers have been shown to relieve depression symptoms due to the intense impact of cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. Thus, it produces an antidepressive effect, and boosts moods, making it a pick-me-up. A 2008 study found that cold hydrotherapy has an analgesic effect, and does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence. This treatment included one to two cold showers of 38 degrees Fahrenheit, two to three minutes long, followed by a five-minute gradual adaptation to make the procedure less shocking.
See this article from the Medical Daily for more details- http://www.medicaldaily.com/benefits-cold-showers-7-reasons-why-taking-cool-showers-good-your-health-289524
The article that prompted this post really doesn’t expand on the benefits above, although many studies have reinforced these claims.
The main reason for his daily, somewhat masochistic ritual is to feel empowered to do anything, after you get the most difficult event out of the way.
Just as this works for the author of the article, I’ve noticed that the people who prioritize exercise as one of their first activities of the day usually keep doing it most consistently. This doesn’t hold for those who have a regular class in the evening; the motivation for classes, accountability and social interaction tends to keep them coming back. However, for those who’d rather work out independently, I see a consistent pattern of staying with a routine when it’s done in the morning, at least 5 out of 7 days a week, ultimately making it a habit. It’s worth a try, and if you feel so inclined to reap double benefits from daily exercise AND a daily cold shower, please let me know if and how it has enhanced your life!