The concept of standing under a freezing cold stream of water may seem like a form of torture to some, but there are a growing number of people who swear by its alleged benefits. With reported physical and psychological health benefits, we are going to take a look at how this possible torment can actually be a treat for the body.
The History of Healing H2O
The use of cold water for healing can be traced back eons. The Spartans are well known for using icy water as a way of tempering the body and boosting stamina and strength (claiming that hot water was unmanly!) and in the 1820’s hydrotherapy became a classified treatment in Germany. Probably the most famous advocate of cold-water therapy is James Bond would start a shower with hot water before turning it to cold to reap the testified benefits of this simple treatment.
Hydrotherapy has declined within the 20th century due to the more widely accepted efficacy of westernized medicine but its popularity is flooding back to the fore.
You don’t need to be a stone-cold spartan or a modish MI6 agent to benefit from this treatment, so what are the cold hard facts about cold showers?
1. Give Fat The Cold Shoulder
Research has shown that ice cold showers can promote fat loss. By routinely showering in cold water, unwanted ‘brown fats’ within the body are activated to be broken down at a rate as high as 15 times faster than when showering at a normal temperature.
With the cold water forcing the body to work harder to maintain a regular, steady core temperature, this action also boosts the body’s metabolism.
However, due to the short duration of an average shower, it can not merely be used or relied upon as a sole weight loss method.
2. Healthy Hydro Healing
As well as boosting the body’s metabolism, cold showers can also increase the rate and speed at which white blood cells are produced. White cells are integral for fighting disease and infection and therefore an upsurge in white cells can result in an improved level of immunity.
Research has shown that those who take regular cold showers are 29% less likely to take time off work due to sickness, implying that cold showers can dampen the severity of some illnesses.
3. In Cold Blood
Any blast of cold water urges the body to work harder to generate and deliver warmth around the system. In doing so, the increased blood flow to deliver heat to the vital organs also ensures a healthy supply of blood throughout the body and an increase in circulation. Better circulation not only elevates the respiratory rate but also improves cardiovascular health.
4. All Washed Up
The improvement of circulation within the body also boosts the lymphatic system which is essential for detoxifying cells. This more effectively that the lymph glands can remove waste and toxins the greater the ability for the body to combat infections and malaise.
5. Keep Your Head Above Water
By regularly taking cold showers you can help develop a nervous system that is resistant to the effects of emotional tensions. Stronger emotive resilience and a reduction in oxidative stresses can help develop an emotional state that is better prepared for the strains of everyday life.
6. Cold Comfort
Being better equipped to deal with stress can also have a bearing on more deeper emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Cold water is believed to reduce the levels of uric acid within the body and activate the sympathetic nervous system, as well as boosting levels of glutathione.
Ice cold water is said to stimulate the ‘blue spot’ on the brain. This cranial region is key for releasing noradrenaline and endorphins which can aid with alleviating depressive symptoms.
7. Ice, Ice Baby!
Even a small increase in heat is known to affect the male testes – with hot baths being considered to be the equivalent of a male contraceptive!
A temperate environment can (sometimes) have a detrimental impact on testosterone and fertility levels, and conversely it is therefore thought
that cold temperatures can have the opposite effect, thus boosting sperm and increasing potency.
8. Walk on Water
Ok, so we can’t guarantee that cold showering will provide you with the wherewithal to perform impossible acts but ice-cold water can be used to enhance your physical state, endurance and recovery lengths.
With cold water improving circulation, there is a purported reduction in lactic acid, a relief from heat exertion and a decrease in inflammation. This is believed to lead on to faster muscle recovery times and a reduction in the feelings of fatigue related to physical performance.
Moreover, the experience of cold-water showers can cause the blood vessels to constrict, slowing the rate that nerve receptors work which lowers a person’s perception of pain, almost creating an anesthetic-like effect for the injured.
9. Bathe In Glory
Whilst you may find a hot bath relaxing and soothing, if you’re wanting to boost hair and skin health then turning to cold showers is said to be the road to glossy glory. Cold water stops both the hair and skin from releasing copious amounts of natural oils and consequently this helps improve the health and resilience of both hair and skin.
10. Shower and Snooze
For a better slumber try dropping the shower temperature before you drop into bed. Ice cold water can provide a tranquilizer-style effect which can enhance your overall quality of sleep.
So, if you’re captivated by the concept of the chill – here’s what you need to know about getting started.
1. Bookend Your Bathing
By starting off and ending with a warm shower and reducing the temperature midway through, you can still experience the positive benefits whilst enjoying your usual cleanse. Once your system becomes acclimatized to the temperature fluctuations you may find you can withstand the cold water for longer.
2. Easy Does It
Generally, a cold shower is classed as when the water is less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 21 degrees Celsius). However, a person’s own perception of cold varies and this needs to be taken into account. Try reducing the water temperature incrementally every 10 seconds until you reach your limit.
3. Don’t Get Cold Feet
Blasting your body with cold water truly is a mind over matter scenario. Much like working out or going to the gym, you may not feel like you want to but once you’ve started, you’ll be glad you did. Set yourself a time goal and try to stick to it.
4. Head To Toes
Most cold shower gurus feel that immersing their heads in cold water is the least appealing part, so start with your head first and, by ‘ripping off the band aid’ you’ll find the remainder of your cold shower more of a doddle.
Other useful facts:
- Avoid eating a large meal before a cold shower. Your body will already be in the digestive process, and by plunging your system into cold water you’re effectively asking your body to multitask.
- Do not use cold showers as an alternative to your usual medication or prescriptions – it should be used to enhance but not replace.
- Those with weak immune systems, heart conditions or any concerns with their health should always seek medical advice prior to taking a cold shower due to the alteration in core temperature and fluctuating heart rate.