7 Health Benefits of Taking Cold Showers

By HumanWindow
Updated on 4 July 2020
Fact Checked

Taking a cold shower is not something that most people want to do, but there is now plenty of scientific research pointing to numerous health benefits of this shivery practice.

Drenching yourself in cold water is a practice which dates back centuries. Hippocrates recommended it, and Charles Darwin engaged in the practice to improve his ailing health.

To most people in modern society, taking the plunge in an ice-cold shower first thing in the morning – or at any other time of day – is not particularly appealing.

But there is plenty of evidence which points to some significant physiological and psychological benefits of taking regular cold showers.

The purpose of this article is for us to take a closer look at the main benefits you can expect to see from taking cold showers often.

So let’s now take a look at the main cold shower benefits in a bit more detail.

Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. Our articles and the products featured in them are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Always speak with a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, exercise routine, and/or taking any supplements.

1) Boosts Happiness (And Reduces Depression Symptoms)

Feeling a bit down? Try taking a cold shower.

It may not seem like it’s going to have any effect, but there are scientific studies which suggest that immersion in cold water can help to treat depression symptoms.

The study was conducted in 2007 and participants took a two to three minute cold shower once or twice daily. The results showed that cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms surprisingly effectively.

The reason why this happens is because cold showers trigger dopaminergic transmission in the mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal pathway. What does that mean? Simply put, cold water exposure stimulates a surge of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which can help to make you feel happy, right away.

Another study tracked the effects regular winter swimming had on participants’ moods. It found that after four months of regular cold water swimming, the subjects were more energetic, active and brisk than the control group.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling low, or are struggling with anxiety, try turning the temperature right down and stepping into a cold shower for a few minutes.

2) Improves Circulation

Taking a cold shower can help to stimulate blood flow and increase your heart rate.

We already know all about the importance of regular exercise when it comes to our overall health.

Good circulation is often one of those things that’s overlooked as a key component for making sure that you’re in tip-top shape.

Poor cardiovascular circulation can lead to problems such as fatigue, high blood pressure and muscle cramping, so making sure that your blood is being pumped through your body can help to boost your overall health.

Good cardiovascular circulation can improve heart health, boost the immune system and enhance mental performance.

When you’re immersed in cold water, the blood rushes to surround your vital organs. This causes your heart to beat faster and more efficiently as the nutrient and oxygen rich blood is delivered to every cell in your body.

Put simply, taking a cold shower gets your heart beating faster and forces more blood around your body, leading to improved circulation. Doing this on a regular basis may help to promote overall heart health.

3) Increases Alertness

If you’re feeling groggy, try stepping into a cold shower for a few minutes to revitalize you and wake you up.

When you first step into a cold shower, you may find yourself gasping for air as you try to adjust to the low temperature of the water.

As we mentioned above, cold water immersion will raise your heart rate pretty quickly and cause you to take deeper breaths, and this is in turn will help to raise your energy levels.

Initially you may start off taking short breaths, but as you get used to the temperature, you’ll end up taking deeper breaths, causing you to inhale more oxygen and boost your alertness.

If you imagine yourself stepping into a cold shower right now, you’ll probably automatically feel yourself as being more alert and awake.

So the next time you’re feeling a bit run down, try stepping into a cold shower for a few minutes.

4) Boosts Willpower

This may be something of an obvious one, but if you’re able to get yourself to do uncomfortable things on a regular basis, it can help to train your mind to tackle challenges face on, rather than dancing around the problem.

Do you struggle do build willpower in certain areas of your life?

Do you regularly find yourself giving in to temptation?

If so, developing a ‘cold shower mindset’ could be a very useful tool in helping you to improve certain aspects of your life.

Let’s face it, most people don’t want to take cold showers. But by forcing yourself to step out of the comforts of modern-day life every once in a while, it can help to remind yourself what you’re capable of.

If you’re able to make taking cold showers a habit, it can help you to develop a more disciplined approach to all areas of your life.

5) Could Boost Metabolism

Cold water immersion, when practiced regularly, has been shown to boost your body’s metabolism.

You’ve probably already guessed that a cold shower can force your body to burn more calories as it works harder to keep itself warm.

Cold showers can help to improve heart health

Cold showers can help to improve heart health (Photo: Adobe Stock)

However, the more interesting study is one that showed that exposure to cold water can promote healthy brown fat as opposed to white fat.

Brown fat is activated when we are exposed to extreme cold temperatures, and it helps to eliminate white fat, which is what is piled on around our waistline when we consume too many calories.

6) Reduces Muscle Inflammation

If you’ve ever taken part in any strenuous exercise, you’ll probably already be familiar with the sensation of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

This is when you’re muscles ache and feel painful in the days following the activity.

You probably already know that strenuous exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle fiber, which are then repaired.

Cold water immersion has been shown to reduce the chances of you suffering from DOMS.

That’s because cold water helps to lower the muscle tissue’s temperature, causing the blood vessels to constrict. This helps to reduce inflammation and can help to bring relief following intense exercise.

You’ve probably already heard about athletes taking cold showers or ice baths after exercise, and this is one of the reasons.

7) Improves Lymphatic Circulation

The Lymphatic System is a network of vessels that runs through your whole body and acts as the ‘waste’ system to keep you healthy.

The Lymphatic System helps to drain out waste, bacteria and microbes from your cells to help keep you as ‘clean’ as possible.

Taking a cold shower can help to drain out your Lymphatic System.

This is because cold water immersion causes the Lymphatic vessels to contract, forcing fluid though the system and clearing out the waste.

This will then cause your body’s white blood cells to attack and destroy and of the waste in the fluids.

In short, taking a cold shower can help to force your body to clean itself of waste.

What Are The Dangers of Cold Showers?

Now that we’ve covered some of the main benefits of taking cold shower, now it’s time to take a look at some of the possible dangers.

In general, taking a cold shower isn’t a dangerous move, uncomfortable as it may feel.

You may have to get used to the shock of the cold water hitting your body, and learn to control your breathing as a result, but this comes with practice.

That being said, if you suffer from any heart problems, are pregnant, or are over the age of 60, it’s probably best that you do not take cold showers, as they could cause some problems.

Simply put, if you have any underlying medical conditions, do not try any form of cold water therapy before speaking to a certified medical professional.

If you’re in doubt, just have a chat with your doctor before starting your cold shower regimen.

Conclusion – Final Thoughts

So, that brings us to the end of our look at the scientifically-proven benefits of making cold showers a part of your daily ritual.

We’ve walked you through the main physiological and psychological benefits of regular cold water immersion.

Taking cold showers can help to reduce muscle inflammation, boost alertness, burn fat, as well as helping to drain the Lymphatic system.

Developing the discipline of taking regular cold showers can also help you to build stronger willpower, which can benefit you in other areas of your life.

In summary, taking cold showers on a regular basis is certainly a habit worth developing for a number of different reasons.

Dr Gabor Mate
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