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5 Benefits of Cold Showers

At first glance, taking a cold shower sounds like a crazy idea. While cold showers are certainly not comfortable, they are definitely beneficial.




The 5 main health benefits:


1. Become More Resilient to Stress

Every time you take a cold shower, your body undergoes a stress response. The rush of cold water activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as the “fight or flight” response. During this response, your body releases the stress hormones norepinephrine, cortisol and adrenaline.¹ Exposing your nervous system to small amounts of these stress hormones can build your tolerance to stress over time.


2. Increase Energy

As mentioned, the cold jump-starts your sympathetic nervous system. The rush of adrenaline also wakes you up. A 2016 study found that people who took cold showers reported boosted energy levels.² The participants mentioned that the energy-boosting effects of the cold shower is similar to caffeine.


3. Reduce Symptoms of Depression

One study found that taking a cold shower 2 to 3 times per week was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression.³ The sudden shock from the cold water activates the release of endorphins, aka “happiness hormones”. Endorphins can help relieve symptoms of depression, increase feelings of wellbeing, and minimize discomfort.⁴ After the shower, the endorphins leave you with a feeling similar to a runner’s high.


4. Boost Immune System

Several studies have found that cold showers stimulate the production of leukocytes or white blood cells. White blood cells are essential to fight off diseases.⁵ One study also found that people who regularly took cold showers called out of work less.⁶


5. Improve Circulation

Taking regular cold showers also increases blood flow. While immersed in the cold water, your body must work harder to maintain a proper internal temperature. This increases circulation as blood rushes to the essential internal organs to protect them from the cold. The shock from the cold also stimulates faster breathing, which increases oxygen intake. Efficient transportation of oxygen through the bloodstream is essential for maintaining certain bodily functions. The cold water also helps lower inflammation.⁷ This is why athletes use ice baths to recover after a workout.


How cold should my cold shower be?

Any water below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a cold shower. You can start by gradually lowering the temperature. However, the colder the better, especially since your tolerance towards the cold will increase over time. Crank it all the way down.


How long should my cold shower be?

You should progressively increase the duration of the cold shower. Start with 30 seconds, and slowly work your way up. Ideally, you should be aiming to stay in for 5 minutes.



Additional Tips


Focus on taking deep breaths. This increases oxygen intake and eases your mind from the initial shock of the cold.

Listen to some music. This helps to distract you from the cold. Singing along may also help, as singing releases endorphins.

Just be. Feel the sensation of the cold. Embrace the discomfort. It’s helping you in the long run.

“When you go into the cold, you cannot think. You have to be. Your learn to be…to be the best version of yourself” — Wim Hof


Endnotes

  1. Buijze, G. A., Sierevelt, I. N., van der Heijden, B. C. J. M., Dijkgraaf, M. G., & Frings-Dresen, M. H. W. (2016). The effect of cold showering on health and work: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 11(9).

  2. Ibid.

  3. Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted Cold Shower as a Potential Treatment for Depression. Medical Hypotheses, vol. 70, no. 5, 995–1001., doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2007.04.052.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Shevchuk, N. A., & Radoja, S. (2007). Possible stimulation of anti-tumor immunity using repeated cold stress: a hypothesis. Infectious agents and cancer, 2, 20. https://doi.org/10.1186/1750-9378-2-20

  6. Buijze, G. A., Sierevelt, I. N., van der Heijden, B. C. J. M., Dijkgraaf, M. G., & Frings-Dresen, M. H. W. (2016). The effect of cold showering on health and work: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 11(9).

  7. Bleakley C.M, Davison G.W (2010). What is the biochemical and physiological rationale for using cold-water immersion in sports recovery? A systematic reviewBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 44:179–187.