A daily cold shower benefits you in a myriad of ways – whether it’s improving your mood, boosting circulation, or just changing your state.
I’ve been using them for years to wake myself up, release fatigue and tension, and boost my mood.
Today we’re going to look at the effects a cold shower has on your system, the science behind why they happen, and why a cold shower is worth the effort – especially for runners.
By the way, we’re not talking about subjecting yourself to tortuous sub-zero temperatures (like jumping in a frozen lake) – to realize the benefits of a cold shower, you just need to turn the temperature dial to the minimum at the end of a hot shower, stand back, and embrace the change of state.
And if you’re a runner, you’re likely to be particularly good at embracing cold showers! Studies have shown that endurance athletes tend to have a higher pain tolerance (the study involved asking participants to hold their hand in ice cold water for as long as they could tolerate).
Likewise, a regular cold shower practice will develop that discomfort / pain threshold, which can help in your distance running (for example, marathon training).
In this blog, we discuss the benefits of taking that cold shower, how to take that first cold shower, and advice for making it part of your routine.
Let’s jump in!
The Benefits of Taking A Cold Shower, Explained
Cold Shower Benefits: Quick Disclaimer (Beware of quackery)
First off, I’ll say that cold showers are awesome.
A huge number practitioners swear by them. I use them practically every day (along with cold water immersion) to boost my state.
Yet, finding studies that confirm all of the reported benefits can be hard to come by.
And for every study showing that cold showers reduce the number of sick days someone takes by 29%, there are people questioning the claims that cold showers can help anything from fertility to cancer.
While there’s increasing evidence and studies to back up some of the claims of cold showers, there are many out there who claim that daily cold showers is a panacea to all the ills in your life.
Like anything when it comes to health and wellness, I like to tread carefully – I only quote studies I’ve checked myself and believe in, and share my own experiences.
The reason I’m so bullish on cold showers is because they help me immeasurably!
In other words, a daily cold shower is almost certainly going to make you feel better – but might not be the silver bullet for whatever ails you.
The following benefits of cold showers are widely studied and accepted (the last one is my favorite, and reason for doing cold showers)!
1. Cold Showers Wake Your Body Up
We have all woken up early for a workout and thought to ourselves, “It is way too early for this”.
Well, getting up, and getting yourself into a cold shower can get your mind ready for a workout, no matter how intense.
The cold shower has been shown to:
- Increase blood flow
- Increase oxygen intake
- Increase your heart rate
- Increase alertness
- Increase your endorphins.
The shock of the cold water wakes your body up and gets you out of the foggy feeling people experience in the morning. This increase in heart rate, blood flow and endorphins take your body out of that tired state and gets you ready to start your day. Doing this before a tough workout can help you start off strong and finish strong.
Taking a cold shower before a morning workout can put you in a headspace to perform to the best of your ability!
2. Cold Showers Help Reduce Muscle Soreness
A cold shower, especially post-exercise, can help with your recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
The cold temperature causes the veins in your muscles to contract, helping flush out lactic acid that has built up during exercise and can cause soreness and stiffness.
The North American Journal of Medical Sciences who stated “the faster you get your body temperature down after activity, the better you’re going to recover” For runners of any distance, recovery is a key component of training. A cold shower is great for days when you do your most intense training. This can make your workout the next day a bit easier and allow you to see more progress.
3. Cold Showers Boost Weight Loss (Though Not Much)
Some articles and sources claim that cold showers can boost weight loss by burning fat.
While there is some truth in this, it’s likely that any weight loss directly caused by cold showers is going to be minimal.
The science explanation: When some cells are exposed to cold temperatures, they begin to burn fat by generating heat. These cells are mostly found in the upper body area, where the water hits you a majority of the time. However, the amount of fat you’re actually going to burn in this process will be minimal compared with, say, the fat you’d burn going for a run.
For that reason, you’re more likely to lose weight as part of a healthier lifestyle, which cold showers can be a part of.
4. Cold Showers Can Increase Circulation
Experts recommend taking a cold shower because it can increase your circulation. After a long workout, especially on a hot day, your body temperature can reach higher than normal ranges, which makes it work harder.
When that ice cold water starts to hit your skin, it makes the blood circulate faster, allowing you to get back to a normal internal temperature. This extra blood flow to certain areas of your body also decreases your recovery time. Taking a cold shower before you run can lower your body temperature and help keep your temperature down during your run.
Even if you have not worked out, increasing your circulation is good to avoid hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
5. Cold Showers Can Boost Your Immune System
Cold showers trigger the body’s white blood cells, prompting them into action to attack any unwanted substance floating around.
A study in 2009 showed that people that started a daily cold shower practice took 29% less sick days – whether this is directly down to improved immune response, or perhaps other secondary factors, is unclear.
But regardless, a cold shower prompts your body into fight-or-flight mode, braced and ready to take on infections.
6. Cold Showers Can Help Keep Your Skin Healthy
All Runners know that after a long workout, your skin may be dry or itchy from sweating. According to Healthline.com taking a cold shower can do wonders for your skin and hair. One key benefit is the cold water can soothe itchy skin, plus taking a hot shower every day can dry out parts of your skin.
The cold water can be soothing to your skin, and leave it looking healthier!
Adding this into your routine might not be easy, continue reading to see our advice on making these a little more bearable!
7. Cold Showers Prompt an Instant State Change
A brisk cold shower is the perfect antidote to a sluggish mind.
We all know what it’s like to have long days at work, ongoing stress from various quarters, and begin to feel unmotivated.
Cold showers can cure all this.
Often by the end of a work day, I find myself restless, tired, and unsatisfied by any tasks I didn’t get the chance to finish.
On these days, I use a cold shower to draw a line in the sand – it provokes an instant change in my state which helps reset my mindset and get me into a more relaxed state.
While I also enjoy unwinding by going for walks, runs, or spending time with family, when I want an instant switch to turn off all the day’s headaches, I go for a cold shower.
How To Start A Cold Shower Habit: Taking Your First Cold Shower
The best thing about cold showers is that they are equally effective when taken after a hot shower.
Here’s my step-by-step guide for how to take your first cold shower:
- Get in the shower, set it to a hot, soothing temperature with high flowrate (think as if you’re taking a shower to unwind and massage your back).
- Stick with the hot water until you’re completely heated up, the shower is full of steam, and you feel that warm shower glow. Take as long as you want with this step, it’s part of getting into the cold shower mode.
- Once you’re getting tired of the hot shower, turn the temperature dial all the way to the coldest setting. Do not adjust the flowrate – keep it at maximum.
- Stand facing the showerhead, so it strikes your crown, forehead, face, and chest (i.e. don’t stand with it at your back).
- As the water begins to turn cold, don’t shy away from it. Think to yourself how you’re embracing the power of the cold water. You should immediately notice a state change – your breathing will deepen, you’ll feel blood flow and a surge of adrenaline.
- Embrace the cold for as long as you comfortably can. Begin to move around to expose different parts of your body to the cold, focussing on the core. Raise your arms to get cold water under your armpits – that’s an area that often retains heat.
- Try to stay in the cold water until you’ve quelled all the steamy, warm sensation caused by the hot water – in other words, as long as you comfortably can.
- Don’t over-do it on your first day. You’ll naturally build up more tolerance to the cold water, and be able to extend the interval as you go.
The best way to develop a cold shower routine is to do it every day.
Cold showers should be a part of your routine, and compliment what you are already doing. These benefits of waking your body up quicker, reducing muscle soreness, increasing your circulation and helping your skin are things that all runners and athletes alike can benefit from.
If you are a runner or an athlete of any kind, adding a cold shower to your routine can help you elevate your workout and your recovery to the next level.