Are there any health benefits to a cold shower?

Many people prefer warm showers to cold showers. However, some studies have shown that using cold water may be beneficial to physical and mental health

man taking cold shower
Taking a cold shower can provide several benefits to your body

This article covers some of the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of cold showers for a variety of physical and mental benefits.

Increased alertness

Taking a cold shower can make a person feel more alert, largely due to its effects on the body.

According to a meta-analysis of existing cold water immersion research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, cold showers have many physiological effects on the body.

These include:

  • increased heart rate
  • higher blood pressure
  • elevated respiratory rate

Coldwater also increases the body’s metabolism because it has to work harder to maintain a stable temperature.

That said, cold showers do create a sense of invigoration and alertness, which may prompt a person to be more physically active.

Stronger immune system

A study in the journal PLoS One found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school.

The study enrolled 3,018 people who took a hot shower then used applications of cold water for 30–90 seconds based on their research group. One research group took warm showers as usual and did not use cold water at all.

Although those who took cold showers were less likely to call in sick for work, they did not report fewer sick days. The researchers concluded that cold showers might make a person’s illness feel less severe, allowing them to continue with their daily activities.

They did not find a difference between the people who took a cold shower for 30, 60, or 90 seconds. This led them to conclude that cold water triggers the body’s immune system regardless of duration.

Boosted mood

Some researchers theorise that cold showers can have mood-boosting benefits.

An older article in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that because cold showers activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the availability of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and endorphins, people may be less likely to experience depressive symptoms after a cold shower.

Quicker cooling after sports activities

Coldwater immersion therapy (submerging the body in ice or a cold bath) is a common practice in many athletic activities.

Physical therapists that specialize in sports have suggested that cold temperatures can quickly relieve heat exertion and reduce inflammation. A study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that taking a cold shower can relieve exertional hyperthermia, compared with no treatment at all.

Improved physical recovery

A meta-analysis of 23 peer-reviewed articles in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that cold water immersion and contrast water therapy (first using hot water, then cold) can help enhance recovery and reduce feelings of fatigue.

This research could help athletes use cold water techniques to reduce feelings of fatigue related to their physical performance.

Reduced pain

According to an article in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, applications of cold water can have local anaesthetic-like effects for pain relief.

Exposure to cold water can cause the blood vessels to constrict, which can help reduce any swelling and edema that causes pain. Coldwater can also slow the speed at which nerve signals conduct impulses.

This can reduce the rate at which nerves transmit pain signals to the brain, which can lower a person’s perception of pain.

People have used cold water therapies for centuries as a treatment to invigorate and enhance their overall well-being. Some scientific studies support the beneficial effects of cold showers on mental and physical health. Even brief bursts of cold water can be worth incorporating into a regular shower routine.

Source: Medical News Today