Do Cold Showers Really Work?

Do Cold Showers Really Work?

Disclaimer: I am not a morning person.

I don’t pop up out of bed, throw open the curtains, and greet the day with unbridled joy.

Instead, my mornings often begin by hitting the snooze button, prying one crusted eye open at a time, and reaching for my phone to connect to the digital world before finally facing the real one.

How can I get my blood flowing to maximize my mornings?

A cold shower?

Brrrr. Just the thought of it makes me want to crawl right back into my toasty bed.

But evidence points to numerous health benefits, so I decided to turn my shower control to blue to see what happens when I chill out in the morning.

3 Benefits I Experienced Taking Cold Showers

I always thought that a nice, hot shower was the right way to wake up and start my day. But as the water temperature dropped, I noticed positive changes in my daily routine.

1. Better mood

“What’s got into you this morning?” my husband asked. “I mean in a good way.”

After I got used to the frigid water, I noticed that I was not only more alert, but more cheerful.

That’s not surprising. One study indicates exposure to cold water is known to wake you up and reduce stress by releasing beta-endorphins and dopamine, chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. A 2008 study concludes that “a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an antidepressive effect.”

While I wasn’t depressed, the cold water did seem to wash away my morning surliness.

 

2. Better workout recovery

A cold shower after feeling the burn not only put a spring in my step, but also helped my body bounce back more quickly.

Why?

Because that cold water might help manage the inflammation caused by a tough workout by redirecting some blood flow from my muscles to my skin, according to a recent study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine. The result: a faster recovery.

 

3. Better sleep

My mood was better, I was recovering from workouts more efficiently, and then I learned another reason to stay cold.

A study found that five minutes of cold-water immersion resulted in a greater quality of sleep.

So while my bathroom was filled with the sound of chattering teeth in the morning, my bedroom was treated to a chorus of z’s at night.

 

Was Taking a Cold Shower Beneficial for Me?

Of course, I tensed up at the first few shocks of cold, but the benefits of cold showers are obvious. The real challenge is getting started. (Joel Runyon shared his experience with cold showers in a TEDx talk and offered a primer for this.)

Two things to consider:

  • Duration The studies linked in this article recommend durations ranging from 2–5 minutes.
  • Immersion Speed Some of the studies recommend gradual immersion, starting with warm water and gradually reducing the temperature to 68–52 degrees Fahrenheit.

I don’t have a thermometer in my shower, so I decided to just go as cold as I could for as long as I could. I think I’m up to two minutes. But one day, maybe I’ll make it up to five. I can only imagine how cheerful could be!

Benefits of Cold Showers

Amy Klein

About

Amy Klein writes about health, fitness, science, sleep, diet and parenting. As the former editor of Brain World Magazine, she is particularly interested in the mind-body connection and how our motivation effects every aspect of our lives. Follow her on Twitter.