The Cleansing Benefits of Cold Showers
Most mornings, dousing yourself in a spray of ice water is the last you want to do. But is it something you should do anyway?
Many of us are accustomed to showering in the morning before heading to work or tackling household chores. A bout of steamy warmth is often a great way to freshen up after a good night’s sleep and keep your skin nice and clean. But while hot showers do have their upsides where detoxing your skin is concerned, it might surprise you to hear that cold showers also provide a multitude of unique health benefits and hacks that you’re likely missing out on.
If you’re wondering what health benefits cold showers can give you or how to even start taking cold showers in the first place, we’ve got your hydrotherapy answers right here.
What Do Cold Showers Feel Like?
If you’ve ever jumped into a cold pool before, you’ll know that your body’s initial reaction does not feel good. Your muscles seize up, goosebumps ripple across your skin, and your breathing comes out short. Virtually every fiber of your being screams “Get out!”
But you’re also probably aware of what happens if you stay in the water a little longer: your body adapts to the temperature and gradually relaxes. Breathing becomes steady. After a while, you might not even want to leave the pool—the air itself feels colder than the water now!
Taking a cold shower provides a similar experience without the need to force yourself into the frigid water straight away. In fact, many people start their showers warm-to-lukewarm before slowly easing their deluge into cooler temperatures. This allows the body to acclimate a bit more easily and lessens the bite of the cold.
Are Cold Showers Good For You?
So why would you want to subject yourself to freezing cold water at the crack of dawn anyway? For a lot of reasons, it turns out!
Blood circulation is the key to cold shower benefits: when your body is exposed to cold water, it enters a state of brief shock, during which time the circulatory system kicks into high gear to increase your heart rate and blood flow. This in turn stimulates your blood vessels, pumps blood more quickly throughout your body to warm you up, and adapts you to the temperature. Incidentally, this process also jumpstarts many of the body’s daily functions, including metabolism. That means a cold shower gives your body an early advantage for the day and helps it achieve weight loss more easily. Cold showers also won't give you as much dry skin as hot showers because cold water preserves the body's natural oils. If you suffer from itchy skin or a flaky scalp, cold showers might be for you!
But your general wellbeing isn’t the only aspect that benefits from a dip in the cold—your immune system also gets a boost. In fact, studies have demonstrated that exposure to cold water for winter swimmers greatly increases the body’s white blood cell count, providing it with a better defense system to ward off invaders. That’s right: giving yourself a jolt of cold water in the morning will help keep diseases at bay.
There are also plenty of mental health benefits provided by a cold shower routine. For starters, the very act of making yourself withstand cold water requires a good deal of discipline and determination. Incorporating cold showers as a regular activity enhances your willpower and your ability to endure discomfort. These two qualities easily carry over into nearly all aspects of your life. Not only that, but the stress you impose on yourself during a cold shower hardens your nervous system and produces endorphins, allowing you to handle greater amounts of stress you may encounter from day to day. All of this produces an anti-depressive effect for a clearer, sharper mind, even going so far as to reduce high blood pressure to an extent.
What about your muscles that fight through the cold? If you suffer from soreness, chronic pain, or cramping in your muscles, cold showers help to relax the body and heal achiness by reducing inflammation. This is why cold water therapy, cold water showers, and ice baths are utilized by many athletes between games in order to promote faster recovery and better cardiovascular and muscular performance (contrary to popular belief, however, cold water immersion is not ideal after rigorous physical activity and exercise if you are attempting to build muscle, and might even cost you muscle growth).
How Can I Start Taking Cold Showers?
Don’t forget that taking cold showers is difficult by nature and takes time to get used to. If you plan to give it a try, stick to warm water and try ending the shower with cold water to acclimate your body temperature. Gradually introduce the cold water for longer periods of time to improve your tolerance to cold exposure. The Wim Hof Method for breathing during a cold shower is highly recommended; practice this pattern of deep breaths and you might find cold temperatures easier to handle!
A word of caution: never force yourself to bathe in ice-cold water for extended periods of time. If your body can’t adapt to the temperature or duration you choose, you might end up getting sick (just like if you spend too much time outside in the winter without proper clothing). Slowly work yourself to taking cold showers no longer than five minutes at a time.
Should I Still Take Hot Showers?
With all this talk about the health benefits of cold showers, it might be tempting to assume hot showers have nothing to offer. If you are worried about losing your time for warm, comfortable showers, don’t worry: hot showers and hot baths should still have a place in your daily routine!
Unlike cold water, hot water opens your pores to allow toxins to flush out of your body, meaning you are overall cleaner afterward. Additionally, hot showers and warm showers are still incredibly useful for alleviating congestion and cold-like symptoms, as they help your sinuses clear so you can breathe more easily.
And let’s not forget one of the most important factors: hot showers feel great! Providing comfort for your body isn’t a bad thing in moderation and can help you relax after a hard day of work. The mental health benefits of giving yourself a feel-good hot shower every now and then are significant. And ultimately, hot showers are likely still your best option after winding down from a workout in order to preserve the inflammation process in your muscles that eventually leads to muscle growth.
Immunity Starts With the Hands
While cold showers are a huge boon to your immune system, defense against disease can begin in the palms of your hands!
Be sure to check out Muse Health’s Fragrance-free Hand Sanitizer for a high-quality sanitizing solution that keeps your skin smooth and soft thanks to natural moisturizing oils.