Cold showers can help boost your immunity and health… I have been trying this (sometimes torturous) technique on and off over the past few years. I don’t really do cold water (I only swim if I’m melting), but the evidence of health benefits is compelling enough to keep me going back.
“Most people in Australia over-shower, they shower too often for too long and dry their skin out,” says Sydney dermatologist Stephen Shumack. “It’s best to have a shower as cold as possible for as short as possible, like one to two minutes.”
It can be extraordinarily hard to persevere, especially the first few days. But, here’s what it can happen:
1. It gets easier
As with most things, it gets easier with practice. Rather than just drenching myself, I start with my arms, then legs. Head and back I find the toughest… gulp! I also turn the pressure right down (this will help you save water costs too)
2. Your skin and hair will love you
Eczema and acne patients are generally recommended to replace blistering hot showers with quick, cold ones. The improvements can often be seen within days.
Our skin produces oil and fat, which lubricates the surface layer, keeping it smooth and supple. Hot water can remove that oil layer, thereby drying out the skin (a common complaint for eczema sufferers) Cold water won’t do this. (think about wiping up an oil spill in the kitchen – hot water is far better at removing it). This also helps keep your hair shiny.
3. It can boost your immune system
Looking back through history, you’ll find people have spoken of the health benefits of cold water for years. Hippocrates, supposedly instructed his patients to take cold baths. Wim Hof, the Dutch “Iceman” can sit in icy water for hours and claims he can control his immune system. Sports professionals regularly have ice baths after a game.
The first “high level” evidence of the benefits came from Dutch researchers in 2016. Their study of 3000 people found those who finished their showers with a blast of cold water took 29 per cent fewer sick days during the one-month period.
Regular cold showers trigger an increase in the metabolic speed and the amount of white blood cells in the body, which then help fight diseases.
4. It clears the mind and boosts endorphins
I certainly feel invigorated after a blast of cold water at the end of my shower, and I actually feel warmer too. This is caused by the blood rushing to your organs to keep them warm. Better circulation = better overall health
According to researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, cold showers can reduce stress and anxiety.
Patients with depression were asked to take a short, 20-degree shower every day and found “cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively”. They explained cold showers boosted endorphins and hormones in the blood and sent an “overwhelming” amount of electrical pulses to the brain, “which could result in an anti-depressive effect”.
5. It saves money and energy
This is an obvious benefit. Cold showers mean lower energy bills.
There’s also a bonus benefit – heating water is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, so cold showers can help you reduce your environmental impact too.