Since ancient times human have bathe in cold waters for health benefits. Even after they had developed water heating system, they still continued to bathe in cold water. For example, the ancient Greeks, Russians, and Romans all used dips in cold waters for health and spiritual reasons.
Japanese practitioners of Shinto of both ancient and modern times would stay under ice cold water falls where they would mediate, this traditional practice is known as Misogi – you know, that one badass that just stands in the middle of the water fall as gallons and gallons of ice cold water drops on him, yeah that guy.
What is even more badass are the Ancient Spartans who would wake up early in the morning on splintered boards to two hours of intense calisthenic workout (bodyweight workout) followed by, you guessed it, a dip in freezing cold water. People who bathe in warm water were considered weak! Cold water was believed to condition their bodies and minds to be strong, vigorous and always prepared for battle. Don’t forget about the great Battle of Thermopylae where a small greek army of just 1000 men, 300 of whom where Spartan, in total fought of hundred of thousands of Persians, they all died and were aware of their faith long before they went there. If this doesn’t scream badass, I don’t know what does.
And there are tons of other ancient cultures and nations that used bathing in cold waters as a method of improving their body’s both physical and mental health.
All of this is translated in modern times as well with athletes and fitness experts using cold showers to rejuvenate the body and benefit from all the various health pluses they can tap into by taking a cold shower or a cold bath.
We’ve all seen how David Beckham dives in a large container filled with ice cold water after an intense workout. And how many other athletes who have repeated the same.
Haven’t you ever stopped and asked yourself, why? Why are so many ancient cultures doing this? Why are so many modern athletes continuing the ancient old tradition of bathing in cold water? Have they all tapped into a secret to a stronger body and a healthier life? All of these questions and more will be answered in today’s article:
The 12 Health Benefits Of Cold Showers
That’s right! By taking cold sowers you actually boost your body’s fat burning capacity. This is primarily linked with the fact that bathing in cold water has a boosting effect on your metabolic rate (MR).
A recent study published in 2014 by the Naturopathy Clinical, SDM College of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, Ujire, India, concludes that when the human body is immersed in water where the water’s temperature is approximately 14°C there is a significant increase of the body’s MR – roughly 350% (read more about the study here).
Logically speaking that does make sense. Your body’s external temperature starts to drop and as a result your body starts to generate as much internal thermo energy as it possibly can so that it can protect itself from the cold temperature. As a result your breathing increases and more, your heart rate increases, and there is more oxygen going through your body. All of this requires energy to complete (i.e. calories are needed to fuel all of this).
This does however decrease with time as you walk out of the shower. You can increase the duration, however, by letting your body heat up by itself instead of using any external influences such as a towel, blow heater, radiator, or any other temperature augmenting tool.
If, of course, you are incapable of lasting so long without using a towel, then what you can do is go in front of the mirror and repeat to yourself “I am a p*ssy” 30 times… every morning… for the rest of your life (joke).
Cold showers also help you activate what is called brown adipose tissue or brown fat which is considered to be the healthy counterpart of regular (white/yellow) stored body fat. The function of brown fat is to transfer energy from food into heat, or in other words, once activated brown fat helps increase the temperature of the human body and thus assist with body fat reduction. In adults brown fat is located on the upper back (traps) and neck, and on your chest above your clavicles. Try to aim for those spots when you are showering with cold water, unless you decide to go for a cold shower bath (which is the better option)(read more about brown fat here).
A study conducted in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed a link between taking cold baths and having high testosterone levels. Logically speaking this is linked with the temperature of your gonads.
Think about it, why exactly are your balls hanging in that special pouch? What is
furthermore, why do they hang lower when it’s hot,
and higher when it’s cold
Simple, the sack is the consequential evidence of evolution that our bodies go through. It’s a mechanism that helps keep our genitals a tad bit cooler than the rest of the body, because that’s the optimal temperature for their function.
Heat seems to be a real testosterone killer, it reduces testicular weight and negatively impacts spermatogenesis.
And it’s not all about the balls, it’s about your body’s survival instinct. Going through those rapid changes in temperature sends out a signal to your brain that your body is in distress and will need more strength to be able to live through it. Low temperatures activate testosterone product and we can see this from another evolutionary stand point.
Have you ever noticed how men from more northern countries tend to be…harrier. Longer and thicker beards, hair, and body hair as well. Then take a look at people from the south where the temperatures never drop below 25°C. The difference in hair growth is caused because of the differences in temperature. Our body’s attempt to warm itself up. That type of hair production is linked with testosterone production.
According to the same study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold water baths saw an impressive increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to people who took warm or hot showers. According to scientists this is linked with the rapid increase of the metabolic rate as it activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.
A number of studies conclude that people who take cold showers on a daily basis increase their immunity against various diseases and illnesses such as:
- Varicose veins
Athletes for years have used cold showers or cold baths as a method of quicker recovery. After a hard and sweaty workout at the gym (or wherever) go to your bath and fill it up with cold water where you can sink your whole body into. You can beyond that and actually practice cold showers on a daily basis to improve recovery even more.
When the external surface of your body goes through a drop in temperature your body sends out more blood to the effected areas, logically, to heat itself up. All of your muscles that have been trained vigorously at the gym will be flushed with more blood resulting in more healthy nutrients filling them up and consequently reducing recovery time.
Another good reason to take cold showers after a strenuous workout is because they have been linked with reduction of cortisol concentration in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is closely connected with catabolism (muscle breakdown)(read more about it here).
According to 2014 Naturopathy Clinical study (the one mentioned above) immersion in water that is of 14°C temperature has shown a significant increase in noradrenaline and dopamine (the happy hormone) concentrations with 530% and 250% respectively (read more about the study here)
These two hormones are linked with improved feelings of happiness and joy as well as (if applicable) relief symptoms of depression.
This is one of the main reasons why after a nice cold shower there is the sense of uncontrolled laughter that follows. Or maybe I’m just insane.
Seriously though, on a more personal level cold showers do really help lift up your spirit after a long and disappointing day. I used to work for this really cruddy restaurant (which’s name I will not mention, because I don’t want to steer hatred towards that place) where the boss for whom I worked was an ass, they paid a pretty low wage, and I wasn’t even allowed to keep the tips, we didn’t even share them, all of it went to the business. Whenever I had to go there, I had to literally force myself and put a fake smile for 6 hours. Cold showers truly helped me be more energetic and more welcoming to even the undesirable moments of my day.
I understand that what I am describing is no way close to what depression is, but it’s just a pretty good example of how cold showers lightened up my day and made me forget about the shitty bits of it.
There is nothing better than a cold shower to wake you up early in the morning or to get you psyched about something, like a hardcore workout. Cold showers are shown to have a powerful long-term impact on your energy levels.
One of the reasons for this excitement and rapid energy boost is because of the high density of cold receptors in the skin, taking a cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral endings. These impulses, along with the two hormones listed above, are also considered to have an anti-depressive effect on the body but they are also the main reason why we get that rush after a bathing in cold water.
Let’s not forget that your heart rate increases, blood circulation also, your breathing increases so that you can take in as much oxygen as you possibly can, and more nutrients are traveling around your body and in your muscles, all of this activates your body and puts it into a kick-ass environment where nothing seems to be impossible.
Good circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. An improved and healthy blood circulation also helps decrease recovery time after strenuous exercise and work.
When the surface temperature of your body drops down (for whatever reason) your body’s blood storages are sent to your organs so that they can be protected from the dropping temperatures. Warm water reverses the effect causing blood to travel away from your organs towards the surface of the skin, sometimes even making you feel faint and light-headed.
You can use cycles of warm and cold water to improve your body’s circulation. Other nations such ash the Fins like to take this to the other extreme where they would sit in a molten hot sauna for a couple of minutes and afterwords submerge in ice-cold (literally, there is usually a whole dug in the frozen ice) water for a couple of minutes.
One of the most noticeable changes is how after each consecutive cold shower that you take you start developing a better control over your reaction and breathing when your skin touches the water. It will also benefit your concentration as with every cold bath you will be focusing your mind on your breathing and keeping yourself calm.
This is also one of the things that will take the longest!
It doesn’t really have much of a fitness benefit that will help you improve your physique or anything like that but it sure as hell as an important psychological implication as it does help you improve your mental connectivity with your body so that you can better stabilize its reaction to the cold water.
This is the main reason why there are tons and tons of fitness models that go through cold showers – it helps them slow down the aging process of their skin, hair, nails, pretty much everything. Retaining your good looks is probably of top priority to you as well, don’t you dare lie you beautiful creature you!
This is logically connected with all of the above given benefits of cold water immersion. Simply put, because there is more water streaming through your organism that means that there are more nutrients being delivered to your skin and to your hair giving them a healthy shine and slowing down the aging process.
Furthermore, cold water is known to deliver a health benefit for your skin as it closes up your cuticles and pores.
Hot/warm water is known to dry out the skin, so if you have any rashes on your elbows or knees make sure to bring down the temperature and unleash that cold shower on yourself.
Remember that face I told you I make when I walk out of the shower, there is a reason for that.
Due to all of the above given benefits, cold showers make hell of a pre-workout pump. Or to be even more precise a pre-everything. As I mentioned above, bathing in cold water really pumps you up and makes you feel as if nothing is impossible and as if you are the strongest human to walk this planet. You can use that extra energy boost that you legitimate get and all of that adrenaline boost as well to have an extraordinary workout or whatever it is that requires your full attention and heart to complete.
This is also a really good way to improve your blood circulation by using a different methodology. Instead of shifting the temperature of your water, why not shift the internal temperature of your body. Cold shower before and after a hard and sweaty workout will really help you improve your circulation health.
If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or generally pissed off at something or somebody then cold showers can help you, seriously! Cold baths train your nervous system to be more resilient to stress.
According to the study conducted by the Herzog-Julius Hospital for Rheumatology and Orthopaedics, Bad Harzburg, Germany in 1999, cold showers act as a wee form of oxidative stress on your nervous system (read more about the study here). Overtime, as you continuously expose your body to this type of stress it begins to adapt to it. Ultimately, you turn into this calm and relaxed individual who doesn’t give two shits about his/her troubles. Ok, that was a bit far fetched, but you do start reacting to stressful situations in a more calm matter with less sweating and less shaky hands.
In the first couple of days this will be almost impossible to notice as you won’t be able to clear your mind during the cold shower as your body is still adapting to this type of shock and stress that your body is going through. After a month or so you will start noticing some serious changes in the way you act – starting from the point where cold showers/baths will be your best thinking and relaxation time (no joke).
Ironically cold showers don’t just wake up you they help you fall asleep as well. According to many the best time to take a cold shower, if your aim is to improve your sleep, is about one hour before you go to bed. For optimal sleep our bodies need to be cool.
Some research suggests that cold water immersion can trigger our body’s sleep signalers, which helps you get to sleep even faster and helps you experience even deeper and more relaxed sleeps late at night.
This is also closely linked to the whole notion of testosterone improvement. We all know that testosterone is produced mainly after your workout (for a very short period of time) and late at night before you go to bed and during your sleep. A well rested and relaxed sleep will help you improve testosterone production in your body and thus assist with your muscle growth and development.
Bathing in cold water is definitely a tool that you would want to have in your arsenal. The amount of benefits that it has over your mental and physical health are quite impressive, not to mention that a huge chunk of benefits and improvements are not mentioned in this article, if I were to do that I would need a whole lot more space (not even kidding, about 12500 words to write about all of the key benefits of cold showers that were discovered over the years).
This also shows us that we can learn a thing or two about health improvement from our ancestors.
Check out this video to study on some good techniques on how to properly take a cold shower and find out about more potential benefits.