Did you know that having a cold shower is a wonderful way to heal, recover and generally feel good, particularly after exercise?
Now, we know the idea of a cold shower in winter sounds horrific, but now it’s starting to warm up outside… is it about time you try a cold shower occasionally and see how it makes you feel?
What is cold therapy?
Cold therapy, which is also called cryotherapy, uses exposure to cold temperatures to cool the body’s tissues which has therapeutic benefits.
Some of the ways you can apply cold therapy include cold showers, using a cold spray to numb a small area, cold immersion therapy or ice baths as well as localised ice application to treat injuries.
There’s also something called whole-body cryotherapy, which exposes the whole body to very cold vapors.
“There are multiple benefits to cold showers, most notably it can improve your mood, by boosting dopamine, your pleasure response hormone, and even increase your body temperature,” says Tracy Richardson, Therapist (MSc.)
Intrigued? Here are some of the benefits:
Reduces inflammation and prevents muscle soreness.
Cold temperatures makes your blood vessels tighten (vasoconstrict) and blood then moves to your body’s core and vital organs. Therefore, the blood naturally becomes more oxygen and nutrient rich. Then, as your body heats up again, the blood vessels expand, bringing the oxygenated blood back to your tissues. As it flows back, this helps to flush out inflammation which causes muscle soreness.
Improves circulation and accelerates your metabolism
Cold water sends your body into survival mode, working to maintain its core temperature and therefore stimulates your body to increase blood flow circulation. This can help not only with your health, but your skin will be glowing.
As your body expends energy to stay warm in the cold shower, it may help burn a small amount of calories and increase your metabolism.
Stimulates the immune system and helps prevent colds
The shock of cold water can help to stimulate the cells that fight off infection (leukocytes).
Reduces tension in the mind and reduces stress levels
Regular cold showers impose a small amount of stress on your body, which leads to a process called hardening, where your nervous system is gradually getting used to handling moderate levels of stress and can help you deal with stress in other situations.
Gives your skin and hair a boost
You may find that your skin and hair will start to look healthier after cold showers.
Amish Patel, Award-Winning Aesthetics Practitioner, Skincare Expert at Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic says; “If you take regular hot showers, you are stripping away the natural oils in the skin, which can lead to dehydrated skin or overly oily and even spot outbreaks. For the face, dry and acne-prone skin types benefit from lukewarm water to cleanse, then finish a final rinse of cold water as cold water won’t strip your sebum oil levels and is certainly beneficial to those that have rosacea as hot water causes your blood vessels to dilate which can increase the redness in the appearance of the skin. Showering in cold water will increase blood circulation giving your face and body a healthy glow, reducing open pores and invigorating you.”
Cold water also closes and strengthens the hair cuticles… meaning it’ll look glossier and healthier in no time!
You may feel more alert
Cold showers can trigger electrical impulses in the brain that can help boost your energy levels, making you feel more alert. It also stimulates us to naturally take deeper breaths, which decreases the amount of CO2 in the body, which can improve focus and concentration.
How to get started…
Start slow, perhaps by just reducing the temperature at the end of your shower and see how you get on.
Gradually reduce the temperature and keep it that way for a few minutes.
Take deep breaths as your body adjusts… perhaps even start just placing your feet or legs under the water, slowly moving other body parts in as you adjust to the temperature.
It may take a few weeks to become fully comfortable with having cold showers… go at your own pace.
“Cold showers are known for stimulating the immune system, which is why studies have actually shown those who take them are less likely to get sick. It’s also been shown to relieve symptoms of depression too. Many got the idea of daily cold showers from a remarkable man called Wim Hof, who recommends a cold shower each morning for up to two minutes- although I personally only manage one and a half in winter! My top tip is to, first of all, enjoy a hot shower and then suddenly switch to the coldest setting available. You might also want to use this time to think about the challenges of the day and week ahead and ensure that you feel positive about them,” says Sir Christopher Ball, co-founder of The Oxford Longevity Project.
Cold showers aren’t great for everyone. Here’s why they might not work for you…
- “Your body is ALWAYS trying to keep you safe. If a cold shower causes it to feel unsafe, for instance if you are unwell, under stress, or have a dysregulated nervous response from past trauma, it will likely elicit an increased activation of your fight/flight/freeze response and lodge a traumagenic instance within your body. This may inhibit rational thinking and and panic or are unwell it can actually be counterproductive,” says Tracy Richardson, Therapist (MSc.)
- If you’re already cold – it’ll mean, you’ll get even colder and will increase the amount of time it’ll take to warm up.
- If you’re already sick, the cold water might be a little too hard on your immune system.
- You may not find the benefits outweigh the discomfort you feel in the cold shower: it’s not for everyone!
- If you have any health conditions such as heart disease, it may put too much stress on the heart. People with Raynaud’s syndrome may also want to avoid this as that condition causes numbness in your fingers and toes when exposed to cold temperatures.