Wellness tip: benefits of a short cold shower

Sometimes, nothing feels better than a hot shower after a long day of work at a desk or at the gym. But experts say there are many health benefits to adding short cold showers into your weekly routine.

History of Cold Showers

In recent years, reality TV show hosts and TikTok creators have popped up, touting the benefits of cold water immersion on our physical and mental health. But the practice of using cold water therapy has existed for thousands of years. Ancient Greek and Roman accounts of using cold water for therapeutic purposes date back as far as 3500 bc. And since the 1960s there has been research into the benefits of cold water immersion as a post workout recovery strategy. But not everyone has access to a cold body of water to submerge themselves into regularly, so these days, experts recommend the benefits of short cold showers.

woman in shower with black bathing suit

Benefits of Cold Water

Researchers have found that cold water stimulates our bodies for multiple mental and physical health benefits. So, how does it work?

Improves Longevity

Dr. Mark Hyman writes about hot and cold treatments to improve longevity. In his new book Young Forever he talks about the science of hormesis - which is the low dose of something that would be harmful in high doses, in order to change homeostasis. According to Hyman, hormesis, "is this idea that little stress that we give to our bodies creates a response that makes us healthier and stronger." 

Decreases Depression by Increasing Endorphins

Cold water sends electrical impulses to your brain, which causes endorphins to be released. Endorphins are also known as happiness hormones. A clinical trial has found that people with depression who took a cold shower for up to 5 minutes, 2-3 times a week, experienced relief in their symptoms.

In his podcast episode "The Benefits Of Hot And Cold Therapy & Other Longevity Hacks" he explains mood benefits of cold therapy: 

"[Cold therapy] activates dopamine... [a]nd it creates a sustained release of dopamine, which is what we’re all trying to get more of for pleasure, focus, attention, feeling good, alert, and just able to really do stuff. And it’s really quite amazing."

Supports Weight Loss by Improving Metabolism

There is evidence that taking a cold shower can help activate brown fat, which is a type that helps generate heat for your body by burning calories.

trees and snow and brook

Improves Complexion

Cold water tightens the pores and seals moisture into our skin and hair, while also preserving natural oils. The restriction of blood vessels may make the face appear less red or inflamed

Increases Circulation which Helps Heal Injuries and Reduce Inflammation

Decreasing the temperature of an area of the body speeds up the delivery
of warmer, higher oxygenated blood to the area. This is why athletes will ice and injury to bring down inflammation. A cold shower, or a cold swim, creates the same effect but for your entire body. This increase in circulation can also benefit people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or poor circulation.

woman in pool with snowy trees

Boosts Immune Systems

The shock of cold water stimulates leukocytes, which help fight infection in the body. And a 2016 Study found that participants who practiced a hot-to-cold approach of showering were 29% less likely to need to call in sick to work. The hot-to-cold shower is a hot shower followed by a 30-90 second burst of cold water.

Possible Risks of Cold Showering

Despite increasing evidence in support of the benefits of a short cold shower, doctors do explain that they may not be healthy for everyone. If you are feeling sick, have recently been hospitalized, have heart disease, or are immunocompromised a cold shower may actually cause more harm than good. Additionally, mental health experts underline the importance of treating cold showers as a possible addition to your traditional treatments, rather than as a replacement for any therapy, medications, or other treatment you may be receiving.

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