Are Cold Showers Bad for You?

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Are Cold Showers Bad for You?

There seems to be an ongoing debate on the benefits and disadvantages of taking warm vs cold showers – but are cold showers actually bad for you? While it may not be great to religiously take long showers on the chillier side, numerous studies have shown that taking cold showers can have a positive impact on your health.

The Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

From easing symptoms of depression to improving overall immune function, there are a host of ways jumping into a frigid (sounds temping) stream of water can help your sense of well-being.  At least a few minutes in a cold shower daily can potentially:

  • Improve Your Circulation & Recovery Time 

When exposed to a sudden onset of icy temperatures, your body will naturally react by pumping blood at a faster rate in order to maintain a homeostatic core temperature. Circulatory problems can eventually lead to a number of ailments regarding the heart, like atherosclerosis, angina, or an arrythmia, which are all foreboding precursors to a potential heart attack . Taking a cold shower every day can assist in training your circulatory system to work more efficiently. 

Cold water therapy has also shown a lot of promise in its ability to speed up recovery time after a workout. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is caused by microscopic tears in the afflicted muscle and can cause a great deal of discomfort for some (like barely being able to move after a killer leg day), has been shown to improve in both pain level and onset after taking part in cold-water therapy. It’s thought to be effective due to constricting the blood vessels in the injured tissues and facilitating the body’s ability to flush lactic acid out of the muscles at a faster rate. While cold-water therapy is generally done by immerging yourself in icy water as opposed to taking a cold-shower and has a slightly higher level of benefit post-workout, it stands to reason that cold-showers tout similar benefits. 

Cold Showers Improve Productivity

Because exposure to cold water has been found to trigger the release of endorphins (the “feel-good” neurotransmitter) it has been proposed as an alternative treatment for depression. In addition to the release of endorphins, cold showers trigger the release of noradrenaline, which is responsible for the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. This means it will increase your heart rate and rate of respiration, increase blood flow, spike blood sugar levels and temporarily increase your blood pressure. While some of these “benefits” sound inherently negative, if the goal is to wake-up quickly or to feel alert and focussed then provoking this response can be a great way to kick a sluggish mental state into gear.  

  • Improve Immune System Function

As research is inconclusive, any findings on if cold showers are bad for you must be taken with a grain of salt, but there is some evidence that they can improve your immune system. This is because taking a cold shower is thought to increase your metabolism temporarily, which in turn leads to an increase in the production of white blood cells. White blood cells defend the body against infection and are responsible for destroying pathogenic and foreign agents and cancer cells, leading to some speculation that taking part in cold-water therapy may even assist in preventing cancer. 

One study completed in 2015 used 3018 participants between 18-65 years old. It took place over the course of 3 months, and at the end the group that took part in consecutive daily showers for entire period showed a 29% decrease in sick days taken. Whether the findings were due to a placebo effect or not is up for debate, but either way there was certainly a markedly positive outcome in the cold shower group.

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The Cons of Showering in Cold Water

The Cons of Cold Showers

For every yin there is a yang, and thus, not all the news on cold showers is good. As previously mentioned, cold showers are known to temporarily raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and trigger the release of glucose from your liver which isn’t advisable in those already suffering from high-blood pressure or heart conditions, or for those battling already high blood sugar levels. It can also trigger breathing problems in those with COPD, and furthermore is not advisable for those with severely compromised immune systems. 

It’s important to start slowly with any new health regime. It’s not prudent to jump right into a freezing cold shower on your first day and expect to maintain any level of comfort (unless you’re already a seasoned polar bear swimmer). It can put you off of the idea quickly, and aside from that it’s never a good idea to shock your system. If you need to begin by taking a “contrast” shower, which involves turning the water from warm to cold (and repeat), to ease you into the idea similar health benefits to purely cold-water showers have been observed. Alternatively, you can try to begin with cool water and slowly level up the intensity and length of your showers until you feel you have a handle on the experience. 

The Verdict

So, it would appear at first glance that cold showers offer an array of benefits to your health. Because research is murky, there’s no need to force yourself into this habit if it’s not for you – warm showers are perfectly fine and come with their own set of health benefits. But if you listen to word on the street and the limited findings available, it seems like cold showers are a great way to improve your vitality, increase focus, and give your immune system an appreciated boost. At the very least they’ll wake you up in the morning more efficiently than your double espresso.

Want to know more?

If you want to learn more about cold showers, or other ways to improve your health and overall wellbeing, head on over to our Blog! We also invite you to sign up for our free 30 Day Newsletter, where we send you a simple and easy tip or piece of advice every morning to help you improve your quality of life.

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