Cold showers are a truly magical trick to boost your physical and mental health. Thanks to popular extreme athlete Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, showering with uncomfortably cold water has entered the mainstream. From Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey to Victoria Secret’s Angel Miranda Kerr, it appears that even the busiest of people find the time for this remedy.
Whether you have seen it as a challenge on Instagram or heard about it from your granddad, you probably know that incorporating this procedure into your daily routine is often used to prevent colds and flu. According to famous biologist and Harvard’s professor Dr. David Sinclair, exposing your body to cold is proven to be one of the best ways to increase your longevity. So let us look closely at the reasons the hop on the cold shower trend.
What is considered cold?
A cold shower is simply a shower taken at a temperature below what is considered comfortable. While the exact definition may vary from person to person, most people would agree that a cold shower is anything below 68°F or 20°C. However, for the best results, it’s recommended to take shower with a water temperature of 60°F or 15°C.
If you’re new to cold exposure you should not dive into the low temperatures right from the start. Try decreasing the warmth of your water gradually. This way you can limit any risks and not quit after the first chilly shower.
Good news: Seven benefits of a cold shower for your health
1Improves the immune system
Cold water can help boost your immune system by increasing your white blood cell count. This helps your body fight off illnesses and stay healthy. A study that involved more than 3000 people between 18 and 65 years old showed that taking cold showers is connected to a 29% reduction in sickness absences. In other words, participants who took cold showers were sick fewer days of the year.
2Increases your metabolism by up to 350%
A study conducted in the Czech Republic showed that cold-water immersion at 14℃ increased the metabolic rate of participants by 350%. This means that cold showers can burn your energy quicker and help to lose weight.
3Improves blood circulation
Taking cold showers helps improve circulation by constricting the blood vessels in your body, which increases oxygen levels throughout your body. This can help reduce inflammation, improve muscle performance, and shorten recovery time after exercise.
4Increases energy levels
Cold water activates the sympathetic nervous system and, in particular, the fight-or-flight response. Our bodies perceive cold showers as a stressful and dangerous situation that increases heart rate and breathing rates and releases noradrenaline. This can give you an energy boost and make you feel invigorated and ready to take on the day.
Cold water exposure has been found to increase levels of dopamine by up to 250%. Dopamine is a chemical associated with happiness and motivation. It can reduce stress and anxiety, so taking cold showers is a great way to stay positive and relax after a hard day’s work.
Moreso, those who take cold showers often report feeling calmer afterward, as exposure to cold helps to regulate cortisol levels in the body, which is responsible for controlling stress. It also triggers an antioxidant response from our cells which helps our bodies cope better with stressful situations in the future.
6Good for your skin
Cold water can reduce pores and refresh the skin to give you that all-natural glow. The cold water also helps lock in moisture which can help protect against dryness and irritation, giving your skin an overall healthier appearance.
A recent meta-analysis of 52 randomised controlled studies showed that cold exposure could be a great recovery tool for the body after high-intensity exercises. Cold water immersion is connected to decreased muscle soreness. The critical factor is to use cold water immersion 6-8 hours after training so it does not limit gains in strength and endurance.
Reasons why a cold shower is not for everyone
Cold showers are pretty safe unless you have a heart condition or are at risk of having a panic attack. In these cases, the cold water shock response might lead to fainting or heart attack. This is another reason to start small and get used to cold showers little by little.
How to take a cold shower: Tested personally
It is easy to talk about taking a cold shower however it is another thing to actually do it. But, when you get down to it, there are a few very practical tips that can make the whole process a lot easier and help you reap even more of the benefits. Personally tested by our editorial expert and longevity enthusiast Michael Freeman, here are the top tips for how to take a cold shower as a beginner:
1. Start the right way
Do not try to jump in the ice-cold shower right away. I do everything I need to do in the shower under hot water. And then switch to the cold water. Some people recommend reducing the temperature gradually, but I did it a different way; I used the Wim Hof method.
I started with just 15 seconds but the coldest water possible. One week I did 15 seconds every day. Then next week I increased the time to 30 seconds. Then after one week I increased the time to 45 seconds. After one month, I did it for 60 seconds. It really helped me to build the habit gradually, step by step.
After three years, I do 90 seconds every single day.
Why 90 seconds?
According to one of my favourite experts in longevity, Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, it’s better to do cold exposure for 11 minutes per week.
In terms of the temperature of the water, his recommendation is that the temperature should be safe to stay for a few minutes. Although you should still feel uncomfortable during the procedure.
2. Be consistent
It works if you do it regularly. The goal is to build a habit and do it like regular routine. If you only do it two times a week I guarantee this habit will die and you will lose the excellent opportunity for your health, immunity and well-being. I feel good after each cold shower, energised and refreshed. Just switch your temperature regulator in the shower to the coldest position and start counting seconds. Every morning or evening as you wish. I do it every evening, but this is just my personal preference.
3. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Take long, deep breaths and focus on relaxing every part of your body as the cold water cascades over you. This will make the shower more bearable and help you stay in longer. Breathing certainly helps. I don’t know how it works from a physiological point of view, but it really helps in my experience!
4. Put your head away at the beginning
One practical piece of advice. Don’t put your head in a cold shower in the beginning. Your head is very sensitive to temperature, and you can get most of the benefits of a cold shower just by holding your head slightly away. I put my head under the cold water after 60 seconds as soon as my whole body is cooled already. This method came from my actual experience. I started wrong and put my head under the cold water from the beginning. It was challenging and very uncomfortable. When I shared my experience with one smart guy who does it much longer than me, he recommended this simple trick to me. It really works.
5. Time yourself
How can you count time when you take a cold shower? Don’t make it complicated. In the beginning, I used my Apple Watch, but the timer occasionally stopped, and there was a problem starting it because of my wet hands. The best and most straightforward solution is counting seconds in your head. It simplifies the process and skips dependence on any device. And it makes your mind busy and helps you to take this challenge. After 3 years, it is a small, competitive, challenge every time.
I split my 90 seconds this way.
Count the first 15 seconds, mainly on one side.
Then I count the next 15 seconds on the other side.
Then counting the next 15 seconds, I am back to the initial side.
And 15 seconds next back to the other side.
Last 30 seconds, I put my head under the cold water, and I courageously count up to 30.
Then go out and turn off the water. You can take a hot shower after to warm up. But I guarantee that your body will be hot enough to feel comfortable. I was surprised by such an effect, but our bodies are full of pleasant surprises if you challenge them the proper way.
Try. Enjoy. Repeat
Let’s sum up: Cold showers benefits
If you’re looking for a way to improve your immune system, forget about seasonal diseases like cold and flu, keep your body in good shape and energize yourself anytime during the day, a cold shower with its benefits may be helpful for you. When turned into a habit, this procedure may be just what you need to improve your circulation and mood, and increase alertness and productivity.
If you’re hungry for knowledge, here’s more:
Speaking about cold showers, it’s impossible to forget about the most prominent advocate for this procedure – a Dutch motivational speaker, Wim Hof. His love for cold exposure got him a well-deserved nickname – The Iceman. Watch his videos if you want to get inspired and incorporate the beneficial routine into your everyday life.
Here is another excellent video about the way cold showers can improve your whole life. Joel Runyon, an athlete and entrepreneur, speaks up on how getting uncomfortable in the shower led him to start his own business.
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