It sounds crazy. Hot showers are probably one of the most luxurious and relaxing experiences in your morning. Why in the world would anyone want to replace the comfort of a warm shower with the shock of a freezing cold one?
It turns out that, just like eating spinach instead of chocolate, a cold shower is a less-than-pleasant experience that is surprisingly good for you. From helping with weight loss to easing depression, cold showers can offer a wealth of benefits to anyone brave enough to take the plunge.
This one really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Just as slapping yourself in the face to stay awake on a long car ride, cold water’s metaphorical slap in the face will help you wake up in the morning.
Why? Because when the cold water hits your body, you reflexively react by gasping in shock, giving your system a jolt of oxygen. Your heart rate increases, as well, circulating that oxygenated blood throughout your body and giving you a natural boost of energy.
Better Circulation And Immunity
According to a study by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, taking a cold shower helps speed up your circulation and even improves your immune system.
When your heart rate increases in response to that shock of cold water, it doesn’t just energize you, it also stimulates white blood cell production, which helps your body fight off infection.
Cold-water hydrotherapy has even helped to stimulate the immune systems of cancer patients and other people with poor health.
Healthier Skin And (Maybe) Hair
There’s no getting around it: Hot showers are terrible for your skin. Your skin has a natural layer of oils that lock in moisture, and hot showers strip that layer away more quickly than cold ones, leaving your skin more likely to dry out and even develop rashes.
There’s some evidence that cold-water rinses may also be better for your hair, closing the cuticle to seal in the moisture from your conditioner. The scientific jury is out on this one, but we know that cold water certainly doesn’t hurt your hair, unlike hot water and skin.
Quicker Weight Loss
Surprising, but true: Cold showers (and cold temperatures in general) can help you lose weight. Cold temperatures force your body to burn off fat in order to keep warm.
A 2008 study showed that men who stayed in a 60-degree room metabolically burned more fat than men who stayed in a 68-degree room, even when sitting perfectly still. No one has studied exactly how much weight loss this could mean, but it’s clear that a cold shower can stimulate your body to burn fat in ways that a hot shower simply can’t match.
Relief Of Muscle Soreness
There’s nothing like a warm shower on your aching back, or is there? Science shows that a cold shower may be a better bet. Just like putting ice on a stiff or cramping muscle, taking a cold shower can ease muscle strain and speed up recovery.
In a 2009 study, scientists had 10 men perform bicycle exercise and then relax in a warm room or a tub of cold water. The men who relaxed in cold water had faster muscle recovery times than the men who rested in the warm room. It’s easy to see how taking a cold shower would help more than a warm shower.
Less Stress And Depression
You’d think that taking a cold shower would make you more depressed and anxious, not less, but that isn’t what the science shows. A 2007 study shows that cold showers flood your brain with endorphins and electrical impulses, providing a natural mood boost.
The study didn’t look at anyone with full-scale clinical depression, so if you have been diagnosed with depression, cold showers are no substitute for your usual therapy or medication. However, if you just need the occasional pick-me-up, or if you want a natural boost to supplement your regimen, cold showers may be just what the psychiatrist ordered.
No, they don’t just help you live longer by making you less depressed and giving you a better immune system, cold showers help you live longer by increasing the level of antioxidants in your body, fighting off the free radicals that cause your cells to age.
A 1994 study of swimmers showed that the ones who swam in cold water had higher levels of a critical antioxidant than the ones who swam in warm water. So remember when you step under that cold water that it’s a superfood for your nerve endings.
And remember, just as you occasionally indulge in chocolate, you can sneak in a warm shower every now and then. We won’t tell.