Are Cold Showers Good For You?
Cold showers have gotten much attention for their reported physical and mental effects, including improved circulation, immunity, energy, mental clarity, and skin and hair health. However, while some benefits have been proven, scientific research has not kept up with all the claims and more research is needed.
This article discusses the benefits and disadvantages of cold showers.
Is taking a cold shower healthy?
The benefits of cold showers are believed to result through a biological process known as hormesis. Hormesis is a phenomenon in which a low dose of a substance that typically stresses and damages the body instead creates a beneficial effect at higher doses.
The exposure to the extremely cold water kicks in the body’s fight-or-flight response, raising levels of endorphins and noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in stress, and attention. and cognitive function. Exercise and dietary calorie restrictions are other examples of hormesis.
If you’re sick, pregnant, or have a heart or lung condition, it’s best to avoid cold showers until you consult a healthcare provider to determine if they’re safe for you.
The proposed benefits of cold showers include improving circulation, building immunity, promoting weight loss, aiding in mental health, and more.
When the body comes in contact with cold water, it responds by increasing blood flow to the vital organs in the core to protect and keep them warm while decreasing blood flow to surface areas of the body. This increased circulation is proposed to be healthy for the body.
The benefits of cold showers on the immune system are still being researched. One study found participants who ended a hot shower with 30, 60, or 90 seconds of the coldest water temperature available for at least 30 days had significant reductions in sickness that caused leave from work but no overall illness days.
There is also some evidence that daily cold-water exposure might improve the body’s ability to fight cancerous tumours. Repeated cold water stimulation was also found to reduce the frequency of infections and improve the quality of life in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Cold water immersion, in which the body is covered in cold water when bathing or swimming, is known to increase metabolism. The body raises metabolism in an attempt to keep warm. Higher metabolisms burn more calories than lower metabolisms.
Cold temperatures are also known to activate the body’s brown fat (brown adipose tissue), which burns calories to try to keep the body warm. Whether burning brown fat can help reduce obesity and control blood sugar is still being studied.
Mental Health and Mood
Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase levels of endorphins and noradrenaline in the blood and brain. Regular cold showers may increase energy levels, with effects similar to caffeine.
Regular winter swimming and physical activity in the colder months significantly decrease tension, fatigue, memory, and negative mood. Studies have also shown that cold showers may be effective at relieving symptoms of depression.
Skin and Hair
Cold showers increase circulation and decrease inflammation, improving skin and hair health and appearance. Cold water also tightens skin pores. Although there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on the benefits of these showers for skin and hair, more research is needed.
Baths have been found to reduce the perception of fatigue after training, reduce muscle pain, and improve muscle recovery. While cold water immersion has been shown to have beneficial post-workout effects, not many studies have been done on whether cold showers offer the same benefits.
The biggest disadvantage of cold showers is the uncomfortable sensation of cold water on the skin. In one study, 91% of participants said they would continue daily cold showers despite the discomfort. However, of that percentage, only 64% actually took it.
Studies have also shown that cold exposure can impair cognitive function in adults, another disadvantage.
Cold water constricts the blood vessels and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Cold water exposure can cause arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) in patients with heart problems and produce pulmonary edema (when air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid).
Cold showers are typically not recommended for those with heart or lung issues, and anyone with these conditions should consult a healthcare provider before trying cold showers.
What’s better, hot vs. cold showers?
Whether a hot or cold shower is best depends on how you feel, what benefits you’re seeking, and even what time of day it is.
It can be stimulating and energising, so they are often recommended earlier in the day. Warm or hot showers can improve sleep, making them appropriate for evening or nighttime.
Cold showers increase blood flow to the body’s core while decreasing blood flow to surface areas, thus reducing joint and skin inflammation. Hot or warm showers open blood vessels throughout the body and can decrease muscle soreness and fatigue.
Some propose you can get the benefits of both showers by alternating between hot and cold temperatures or following a hot or warm shower with a 30- to 90-second blast of cold water.
How long should you take a cold shower?
To obtain benefits from a cold shower, you should spend at least 30 seconds in water between 50 and 60 degrees F. There’s no need to take a long shower—in fact, benefits begin to decrease after three minutes.
To ease the shock from cold water, try the following:
- Keep it short: When first trying cold showers, aim to spend no more than 30 seconds under the cold water. You can increase the time as your body adapts.
- Ease in: Instead of jumping into a cold shower, start with the water warm, then gradually adjust the temperature downwards.
- Try contrast showers: There are also possible benefits of taking contrast showers, which alternate between a hot phase of two to three minutes and a cold phase of about 15 seconds. Do this for three or four cycles and end the shower with the cold phase.
Cold showers are purported to have many health benefits. While research shows it can improve circulation, immunity, and mental health, research on their effect on weight loss and skin and hair health is still ongoing.
The main disadvantage of it is that many people consider them uncomfortable. It can also be dangerous for those with certain heart or lung conditions. Hot and cold showers have different benefits, so one is not better than the other.
This story first appeared on www.verywellhealth.com
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