I try to improve my health habits every year, so I decided to try a 30 day cold shower “fast”. It has been now over a year (26 June 2012) since my last hot shower!
Besides scientific studies that have proven the benefits of cold showers I experience the positive effects every day. You too will see and feel the following benefits if you start to take a cold shower every morning and/or evening.
Cold Showers Make You Sleep Faster and Deeper
This is my main reason for continuing to take them. Cold showers taken 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime slow down your heart rate by causing the slower pumping of blood in the nervous system. When this happens, the body’s temperature tends to decrease, encouraging the body to rest. This also causes a decrease of activity within the metabolic system.
Boosts Immune System
This is probably one of the most well-known benefits of cold showers. According to medical research, repeated exposure to the cold enhances the body’s immunity and improves survival rates in people afflicted with certain health conditions, such as non-lymphoid cancers, tumors, chronic pain, heart problems, and infections. This is possible because a sudden ‘coldness’ activates the sympathetic nervous system, stimulates cellular immunity, and increases the penetrability of the blood-brain barrier.
Fights Off Depression
Been feeling blue and weary lately? Then, it’s time you take a cold shower! By stimulating the ‘blue spot’ of the brain, the coldness produces noradrenaline, a substance that has been proven to alleviate depression. Right after a cold shower, you’ll gradually experience a happy feeling that’s referred to by scientists as euphoria. This euphoric feeling, which is also felt after exercise, is caused by the endorphins (a type of hormone) released into the body.
Controls Body Temperature
Another great benefit of cold showers is that through regulation of a healthy body temperature, cold showers control sweat production in the skin. This is the body’s response to the gentle stress caused by cold showers; a stress which leads to generation of internal body heat or thermogenesis. This effect also helps the body to normalize its own temperature the next time it gets cold. So, if you suffer from excessive sweating or cold feet and hands, then cold showers will help to solve these problems. In fact if you’re extremely sensitive to temperature changes, then cold showers are definitely for you. Amazingly, they actually help the body to adapt extreme temperatures and improve the body’s thermoregulation ability to keep its temperature within a specific boundary.
Losing Extra Pounds
In basic terms, there are two kinds of fat: Brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is mostly responsible for burning energy; while white fat serves as storage for energy. Once you take a cold shower, you are stimulating the production of brown fats. To produce sufficient heat for the body, brown fats (or cells) use up the glucose stored by the white fat. In addition this process helps to increase your body’s adiponectin levels. Adiponectin being a type of protein that regulates glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. So, the higher brown fat and adiponectin levels are, the more weight you will lose and the fitter you will stay!
Apart from losing weight, exposing yourself to the cold shower challenge for short periods (i.e. 5-15 minutes) stimulates the release of fatty acids, which are needed by the body to bring its temperature back to normal. This phenomenon usually happens as you shiver, which also deploys Glut-4 (glucose transporter type 4) to the outer muscle cells; thus helping with your long term lean muscles gains.
Promotes Better Blood Circulation
To achieve a good level of cardiovascular health excellent blood circulation is necessary. An easy way to improve circulation is to alternate hot and cold water while showering. Doing so will provoke vasoconstriction (veins tightening) and vasodilation (dilatation of blood vessels). These bodily processes cause the blood to circulate at a higher rate as the veins tighten. This will prevent you from acquiring certain conditions such as varicose veins, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and hypertension. When your blood circulation is in a good state, your performance will improve; and, you will feel good and look good too!
Improves Lymphatic System Functions
The main role of the lymphatic system is to produce and distribute lymph from tissues to the blood stream. These lymph carry away waste products and white blood cells, and they depend on muscle contractions in order to perform their function. Cold showers cause full-body muscle contraction, which efficiently coordinates with the lymphatic system and allows the fluid to travel throughout the body.
Encourages Deeper Breathing
After ‘cold shower therapy’, you will begin to notice a difference in your breathing pattern. You will start to inhale deeply, a consequence of your body’s attempts to deal with the shock and stress brought about by the coldness in the nervous and respiratory system. Through this process the lungs are opened further and will absorb an increased amount of oxygen. This gives you more energy and improved performance during sports and other physical activities. Cold shower therapy will also teach you a more controlled and slower type of breathing that is both relaxing, while enabling you to make calmer decisions.
Increased Libido and Improved Sperm Quality and Fertility
Are you someone who is trying to conceive a child? Then you and your partner might want to give cold shower a try. Based on a recent experiment, carried out by the University of California in San Francisco, exposure to hot then cold temperature increases men’s sperm count by 491%. Additionally, it improves the sperm’s ability to move spontaneously, which can be extremely beneficial if you are trying to have a baby.
Apart from reproductive hormones, cold water also provides a boost to the body’s glands, and aids in the production of adrenaline and thyroid hormones.
Helps You Save Money
Though not often mentioned, skimping on the luxury of a warm shower can decrease the cost of your utility bills. In addition, you can also look on this as a way of reducing your carbon footprint and giving the planet a helping hand.
Enhances Skin and Hair Condition
You see, when you take a hot shower, you dehydrate your skin. The hot water pulls water from your skin leaving it looking and feeling, dry and dull. To remedy this problem, you can apply oil to your body after you take a hot shower. However, this is unnecessary as taking a cold shower is a more efficient and healthy way to avoid dull and dry skin. One of the effects of a cold shower is that your blood will be circulating more fully throughout your body and face. The cold water will lock in moisture and overtime your skin will feel softer and look more beautiful. This, ironically, will result in a natural, warm glow. A cold shower also closes the pores of your skin and the cuticles of your hair. This prevents them both from clogging and makes the hair stronger. A warm shower, on the other hand, would open them up. Taking a cold shower after a hot shower can, however, can also be very good for your skin. This is because the warm water opens up your pores so you can clean them out and then the cold water closes them up again. Closing your pores is essential as it will prevent them from clogging with dirt, which can cause skin acne and other related problems.
Another benefit is that cold water makes your blood vessels constrict, which reduces the dark circles under your eyes (where skin is at its thinnest).
And Last, But Not Least, it Builds Character
For starters, a cold water shower taken for 10 minutes a day can build character. It may seem out rightly masochist, but standing under the shower and getting drenched with chilled water can develop your tolerance towards discomfort. And discomfort, as a wise man once said, is a prerequisite for success.
Mini Manual: How to Take Cold Showers
I prefer just the cold showers, but another way to activate your lymphic system is to take a cold shower after a hot shower or bath. Change the temperature slowly to acclimatize yourself. After the first shock and gasp of the cold water, you will soon get used to it. Continue to shower under the cold water for at least a couple of minutes.
Better Even Than a Shower…
Better even that shower, is a swim. Preferably in the sea, where you’ll absorb minerals through your skin. However, if you can only use a swimming pool then be careful of the chlorine. The gas given off by chlorine is very toxic and will affect you if you have allergies and/or immune system problems. After a swimming pool swim, you should wash the chlorine off with a brush. Use essential oils to aid the process (my favorite is coco oil or jojoba oil). If you can still smell chlorine on your skin or your hair then jump back into the shower!
Conclusion of Cold Shower Benefits
I know that the thought of jumping into the shower and soaking yourself with near freezing water sounds alarming, but given this remarkable list of benefits, taking the time to “test the waters” for just a four-week period is definitely worth it. Indeed, if you have thoroughly read the cold shower benefits (given above), then you are probably at least a little more convinced that they’re extremely beneficial to our overall well-being. If so, then the best way to start is by gradually switching from hot to cold shower so that the body will not experience those drastic changes in temperature. Just lower the temperature slowly and keep it colder for 30 seconds to 1 minute before you end your shower.
TIP: I cheated it a bit by starting my cold showers in the summer. This made the transition to winter so much easier.
FOR FURTHER READING ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF COLD SHOWERS, I RECOMMEND:
1.The 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferris
2. “Ten Health Benefits of Cold Showers”. Wake Up World, by Miller, Jordan and Miller, Kyla
4. “The Power of Cold Water”. Between the Temples, by Harris Chris
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