Is it good to have a cold shower every day?
The simple answer is yes, it is good to have a cold shower every day. In fact cold water therapy has a number of amazing health benefits. However, before you go jumping into an ice bath or a frozen lake, I highly recommend you start your cold water therapy slowly for the best and safest results.
Cold water therapy, also known as therapeutic hypothermia, is believed to have been practised for over 5,000 years. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, the most ancient medical text known (dated 3500 B.C.) make numerous references to the use of cold as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of various ailments and injuries and ancient Egyptian texts suggest using cold therapy applications to treat skin irritations (1)
When healthy, our body has the innate ability to quickly adapt to different conditions and cold showers and ice baths are an example of this. Some of the benefits of cold water therapy include:
The medical hypothesis that cold water therapy could improve mood and treat depression was researched and tested by the VCU School of Medicine in Virginia USA. They concluded that taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes 3 times per week relieved symptoms of depression via several mechanisms (2) including activating the sympathetic nervoussystem, increasing endorphins, our happy hormones and stimulating peripheral nerve communication with the brain.
They also found there was no negative impacts of the cold showers on the study participants.
Improve metabolism and weight loss
Cold water therapy can increase your metabolic rate as your body boosts your metabolism to reinstate your normal body temperature and increases the generation of brown fat. Brown fat, unlike white fat, is a healthy type of fat that is important for healthy hormones, heart health and preventing insulin resistance. Therefore, theoretically, cold water therapy could be beneficial for weight loss, but should be combined with a healthy eating and exercise regime for the best results.
When we immerse ourselves in cold water, our body temperature will drop and in response our body works to reinstate its ideal temperature thereby increasing circulation. As cold water therapy improves circulation, it may be beneficial for anyone suffering conditions with impaired circulation such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis(3). Some people also report their skin looks better as a result of cold showers, possibly also due to improved circulation.
Muscle and injury recovery
In the same way ice reduces inflammation when applied to an injury, cold water therapy also reduces inflammation and increases circulation promoting repair and speeding up recovery.
There are many studies showing the significant of benefits cold water therapy on reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a technique well known to many professional athletes (5).
Improved immune function
There is some evidence that cold water therapy can stimulate the immune system and therefore improve our ability to fight illness.
A Dutch study demonstrated this comparing two groups of participants, one group practiced breathing and cold water therapy and the another did not. When exposed to a bacterial infection, the cold water therapy group had fewer symptoms and produced more anti-inflammatory chemicals and fewer pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to the infection compared to the other group.(4)
Before you go jumping into an ice bath or a frozen lake, I highly recommend you start your cold water therapy slowly for the best and safest results.
How to start your cold water therapy
It is important to take a sensible approach to cold water therapy, especially if you have issues with blood pressure or cardiovascular health. Start gently! For example, at the end of your warm shower reduce the warm water and increase the cold. Try this for 30 – 60 seconds. Each day continue to reduce the amount of warm water at the end of your shower and challenge yourself of stay in the cooler water a little longer each time. Build up to taking cold shower. Once your body is accustomed to the cold water and you are enjoying the benefits then you can have some fun by taking a winter swim in the ocean or trying an ice bath. Again, be sensible and start with a short exposure and build up over time, you don’t want to give yourself hypothermia!
Apart from the metabolic advantages of cold water therapy, most people report improved energy, invigoration and a sense of achievement in challenging themselves to go outside their comfort zone.
If you use cold water therapy, please share your experiences with us! We would love to hear how it has helped you.
(1) History of Neurosurgery, “Cold as a therapeutic agent” Published: 17 February 2006
(2) Nikolai A Shevchuk, Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression, Medical hypotheses, Published: Nov 2007
(3) “Hot-and-cold-therapies-explained” www.arthritisnsw.org.au Published 2021
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