Now I know that this may sound like I have really lost my mind and that I’m bordering on insanity, BUT, cold showers are all the rage. Well, maybe not that popular (yet) but they are showing a lot of promise in the many ways that they can help improve our overall health. And the best part is they are easy and free!
Here is a summary of why cold showers need to be a part of your daily routine:
1. Immune function
One benefit of cold showers is that they may improve immune function. This effect may be due to the fact that the shock of cold water increases the production of certain cells and molecules that play a role in immune function, including leukocytes, granulocytes, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and natural killer (NK) cells.
A study conducted in 2015 found that those who took cold showers, for at least 30 seconds called in sick 29% less than those who took warm showers.
Cold showers may speed up metabolism. When you are in cold water, your body works hard to maintain a normal body temperature by increasing the body’s metabolic rate. Cold showers should not be used to replace a healthy diet or exercise routine, but they could help you lose weight or prevent obesity over time.
3. Mood and energy
Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, and approximately 5% of adults suffer from depression globally. (and after this winter I can only imagine it’s gotten worse, I know my mood suffered) Some common symptoms of depression include fatigue, feelings of sadness, low energy and self-esteem, problems sleeping, digestion problems and pain.
One study found that cold showers activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase blood levels of energizing neurotransmitters and endorphins such as beta-endorphin and noradrenaline. Additionally, cold water exposure may also send signals from peripheral nerve endings found in the skin to the brain, all of which could result in improved mood and energy levels. So, it makes sense that taking cold showers can increase circulating levels of certain neurotransmitters in the body which may result in an antidepressant effect.
The same way icing an injury can help to reduce pain and swelling, cold showers may help to reduce chronic pain and inflammation. This is because the superficial application of cold can decrease local metabolic function, edema, muscle spasm, and produce local anesthetic (pain numbing) effects. It was also found that regular cold water immersion helped reduce pain for those who suffered from asthma, muscle tension, arthritis or fibromyalgia.
5. Post-exercise recovery
When I was training for my marathon, I often took a really deep breath and soaked in an ice cold bathtub post-long runs. And it looks like I was in good company since taking a post-game or post-workout ice bath or shower is a common practice for many professional athletes.
A review of 17 studies found that cold water immersion can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which commonly occurs after exercise. Cold showers may also be effective for addressing exercise-induced hyperthermia, elevated body temperature caused by vigorous exercise in a hot environment.