Benefits of cold showers

POSTED ON 04/04/2023 IN Therapy Research & Funding

Cold water has been used throughout time as a source of treatment, for our overall mental and physical well being. Hippocrates used cold water for the most serious illnesses in the past. Today with the use of modern technology cold water therapy is used to relieve pain and for muscle recovery too. A form of cold therapy is cryotherapy which involves exposure to cold air that is maintained at around -140 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes or so.


What happens to your body in cold water?

When you take a cold shower, your blood vessels constrict (vasoconstriction) and increase the blood supply to your organs. This results in more oxygen and nutrients being directed to your vital organs. When you leave the water your blood vessels open (vasodilation), allowing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to return to tissues and to remove waste products such as lactic acid build-up. If the lactic acid built up in your muscles, it would delay recovery and healing.

To expand on the benefits, when immersing in cold water, the sympathetic nervous system also increases the noradrenaline hormone in the bloodstream. This results in a rise in heart rate and blood pressure which in turn also helps your brain to release endorphins. This can help with your mental clarity, depression, and stress level regulation.


Cold showers to treat depression?

There are many case studies to test this theory and one found that the exposure to the cold activated the sympathetic nervous system and increased the levels of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline in the brain. A cold shower can shock the body and send electrical impulses to the brain which may have an anti-depressant effect. With the evidence that is provided online, there are many positive results from cold showers. So far I have not come across any negatives, of course the showers should be at a temperature you can tolerate and starting off slowly at small time intervals. 

If you are someone who does not want to take medication and want to find natural ways to feel better then it is definitely worth a shot to give it a go. Try a 1-3 minute cold shower every morning and journal how you feel throughout the day. Though there is data to support this, there is still not enough evidence and scientists will need to do more research on this topic to have a clear conclusion as there are many limitations in the case studies.


Is there evidence?

A study has found that cold showers have reduced sick leave from work by 29%, combined with regular exercise went down to 54%. Interestingly, the duration of the cold showers did not have a significant effect on the groups analysed. It was described to have caffeine-like results, raising energy levels. Furthermore, we know that cold-water immersion also reduced muscle soreness after physical activity.

Wim Hof known as the iceman puts his body through extreme cold conditions whilst maintaining his body temperature using his mind, breath work and willpower for his wellness. He speaks of the same benefits to the body, improved cardiovascular circulation, well-balanced mental health, and high levels of energy. Joe Rogan, a famously known podcaster also strongly believes in cold water exposure alongside many other celebrities but Will you try this method?


Written by Maryam Fazalzadeha