Cold showers can be unpleasant, but just like many other things in life that are good for you, they are not necessarily enjoyable. Recently I have been discovering the benefits of taking cold showers. Why? Cold showers have health benefits. So far, I’ve done seven solid cold sessions in a row. My goal is 30 days straight; my average is about three days in a row before I turn knob back to HOT to prolong this grueling challenge.
So, let’s get to the benefits…
The moment you step into your first cold shower, the only thing on your mind is how badly you want this experience to end. However, after about 30 seconds, your body just kicks in and you feel your blood triumphantly rushing back to your skin. Your breathing slows and you accept this decision that you have made. NO going back now. You’ve already made it past the hard part, and now just time to finish up.
Numerous studies have shown that exposure to cold enables the body to boost immune system fighting capabilities. The most widely noted research is by Professor Vijay Kakkar, founder of the Thrombosis Research Institute in London, who suggests that cold water boosts the circulation and stimulates immune cell production. It is thought that during the process of the body trying to warm itself up after being cold, the body’s metabolism speeds up which activates the immune system. The immune system starts to produce more white blood cells; the presence of more white blood cells means that your body is better equipped to fight infection.
It’s unclear how long it takes for this to have a lasting effect. The science is essentially this: your veins, just like any other muscle, work by contraction and expansion. When your body is exposed to cold, it automatically starts redirecting blood flow from your extremities to your internal organs causing your blood vessels to contract. As your body heats back up, your blood vessels start to expand. Just like any other exercise, the more practice your muscles get, the more efficient they become.
Now this is a no-brainer for athletes who have used ice compression for healing and baths to recover from injury. Every football player knows the big metal bin full of ice after practice and the “Big Game.” Well they’re not in there for fun, they’re there for cold immersion therapy. It’s helping them to walk the next day. When you exercise or use your muscles for an extended period, your body consumes all the oxygen available in and around those functioning muscle groups. This is known as the “aerobic” phase or the easy part of an exercise routine. However, after all that easily retrievable oxygen is depleted, your muscles enter the “anaerobic” or without oxygen phase. This is where you “feel the burn” everybody talks about. During this anaerobic state, your muscles then begin building up lactic and uric acid and you need oxygen to retard this process. As a result, you start breathing heavily. Short-term cold exposure has been shown to increase temporary and baseline levels of the glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced by plants and animals to help reduce damage to cells and assist in repairs of cell structures.
There are 5 good reasons to wake up with a cold shower. If you must ease into the challenge, try the “Scottish” or “James Bond” shower where you start warm and end cold. I find these particularly refreshing. If you’re counting, I will finally hit my 8th day in a row tomorrow!
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.