5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers
by Daniel Wallen
You probably see cold showers as dreadful things that you’ve never put yourself through of your own free will; rather, they’re forced on you by circumstances beyond your control. The jerks in your dorm or apartment used up all the hot water or some inconsiderate person may have flushed the toilet before you were finished bathing. Ticked off and uncomfortable, you become irate at these people for making you have to endure this terrible thing… but what if I told you that you should thank them instead? If a person makes your shower go from hot to cold, they are doing a solid favor for your health and waistline. I invite you to consider five surprising benefits of cold showers!
There is nothing special about hot showers
Before we get into the actual benefits of cold showers, let’s establish the simple fact that hot showers are a luxury and not a necessity. Throughout most of human history, people had to bathe in whatever water was available to them. If you’ve ever swum in a lake, you can probably remember that said water often happened to be cold. The Greeks invented heating systems for public baths in the 1st century BC, but interestingly enough, many Greeks chose to continue bathing in cold water due to the health benefits.
1. Cold showers burn fat
There are two kinds of fat in your body: white fat and brown fat. White fat is the bad guy (think the Joker) and brown fat is the good guy (think Batman). White fat is the body fat we all know and struggle to get rid of. When we consume more calories than our body needs to function and we don’t burn those calories for energy, they are stored as white fat, which tends to accumulate at your waist, lower back, neck, and thighs. Brown fat is the good guy you might have never even heard of, and its function is to generate heat to keep your body warm. Here’s the good news: when brown fat is activated due to extreme cold, it burns calories to keep you warm, which could provide a helpful assist in your weight loss plan. How much of an assist? Scandinavian researchers found that exposure to cold temperatures increased the metabolic rate of brown fat by fifteen fold, which could help a person drop nine pounds in a year if sustained.
2. Cold showers boost recovery after exercise
Athletes often take ice baths after vigorous training do reduce soreness. You don’t have to take it that far, but you can obtain a similar benefit with a quick cold shower after your training sessions. Maybe dropping a pencil or walking upstairs won’t be quite so agonizing with a little dose of cold after all of that running.
3. Cold showers increase mood and alertness
Who doesn’t feel a bit groggy when they take that first step out of bed? This is something everyone struggles with, but if you’d like to put some pep in your step first thing in the a.m., take a cold shower before you go to work. When cold water pours over your body, your breathing deepens in response to the shock of the cold (this is your body trying to keep you warm by increasing overall oxygen intake). Your heart rate will also increase, resulting in a rush of blood through your body that will help you get energized for the day.
4. Cold showers strengthen immunity and circulation
Remember how I mentioned that cold showers speed up your metabolic rate, which helps you lose fat? The increase of this rate activates your immune system, which releases virus-fighting white blood cells that will help you get sick less frequently. Cold showers also increase your overall blood circulation, which can help you avoid hypertension and the hardening of arteries.
5. Cold showers give you attractive hair and skin
If you’d like to reduce the appearance of acne, cold showers could do the job. Hot water dries out your skin, while cold water tightens your cuticles and pores, preventing them from getting clogged. You can also use cold showers for shinier, more attractive hair that your partner can’t resist playing with. Cold water will close your cuticle, making it less likely dirt can accumulate in your scalp. For further reading that will help you improve your skin appearance, check out these four skin care hacks for people who think they’ve tried everything.
Put it in Practice
If you have read any of the James Bond books, you surely have noticed his unique take on showers. Bond, tough guy extraordinaire, started with hot water, but turned the temperature down to freezing cold for the very end of his bathing routine. This character quirk is theorized to be a nod to Bond’s Scottish ancestry, since a “hot-to-cold” shower is often referred to as a “Scottish Shower.”
If you’d like to take advantage of the surprising benefits of cold showers, I’d suggest starting off by emulating Bond’s bathing routine. You could also take an alternating shower by simply switching your water temperature from hot to cold every 10-20 seconds. When you’re feeling brave and have the mental toughness you need to survive the shivering, try a full blast cold shower on for size. Challenge accepted? Come back here and tell me how it goes in the comments.