You’ve snoozed your alarm three times already. There’s crust in your eyes, and your body feels weak. You jump in the shower and instinctually turn on the hot, steamy water, but the only answer to shaking away your exhaustion is switching the knob to ice-cold. It sounds daunting, but you know it does the trick every time.
Cold showers offer many health benefits, from increasing alertness to reducing stress and anxiety. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the pros and cons of cold water and why succumbing to the chill can be a good idea for your physical and mental health.
What are the benefits of cold showers?
Switching to a cold temperature for a quick rejuvenating rinse-off after a hot shower can help you feel fresh and alert at the start of your day. Chilled water improves your internal circulation and blood flow by constricting blood vessels and re-widening them. It can also boost your immune system, increasing the number of white blood cells in your body to help fight off infections.
Cold showers can also relieve symptoms of anxiety or depression by lowering your stress hormone cortisol levels and slowing your heart rate. The shock your body experiences when it comes into contact with freezing water can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for rest and recovery), just like acupuncture does. By stimulating this system, cold showers can:
- Boost alertness
- Improve your mental clarity
- Make you feel more relaxed
Not only do ice-cold showers benefit you mentally, but they can also heal you physically by reducing inflammation, relieving muscle soreness, and speeding up recovery. That’s why professional athletes resort to ice baths post-workout. Freezing water can also boost your skin health by evening your skin tone, tightening your pores, and preventing acne from forming.
Do cold showers have any side effects?
Although cold showers offer mental and physical health benefits, they’re definitely not for everyone, especially those with certain medical conditions or skin issues like eczema. Here are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- Shock to the body. Cold showers can cause a sudden and intense shock to the body, which can be uncomfortable or even painful for some people.
- Muscle cramps. Cold showers can cause muscle cramps, especially in those not used to the sensation.
- Dry skin. Cold water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dry, itchy skin.
Make it a habit
Many things that are unenjoyable can actually benefit your health long-term (like adding greens powder to your diet). Surrendering to a cold shower can reduce stress, improve your skin, boost your immunity, and make you feel more alert and ready for the day.
Start small by turning the knob to cold for 30 seconds, then increase it by one minute every day if your body can handle it. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking forward to kickstarting your wellness routine with 10-minute cold showers year-round.