4 Benefits of Cold Showers for Health and Recovery
Polar plunging and exposure to cold water is viewed by many European cultures as the secret to robust health and longevity. Unlock these secrets with the benefits of cold showers.
There are many benefits of cold showers you could be experiencing, but chances are you aren’t taking them. Don’t worry, most people don’t.
Modern man has a fear of being uncomfortable; especially when it comes to avoiding the cold. However, by avoiding being cold most people are missing out on the many benefits of cold showers and other forms of cold exposure therapies.
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This fear of the cold is deeply rooted in old wive’s tales and stories mothers and fathers tell their children to get them to wear a coat in the winter. How many times have you been told that you will, “catch a cold if you go outside without a coat?”
“Modern man has a fear of being uncomfortable or stressed.”
Not only is this completely false, but not exposing ourselves to the cold and varying temperatures may actually be weakening our immune systems and hindering our ability to recover from intense exercise.
Now before we move any further lets acknowledge that exposure to extreme heat or cold will kill you. Just keep that in mind. With heat exposure (sauna) and cold exposure (cold showers), moderation is key to experiencing the benefits.
Benefits of Cold Showers and the Cardiovascular System
When most people think of the cardiovascular system, they primarily think of the heart, veins and arteries that push and pull blood through their body as they run.
However, in addition to the major centers of blood flow there are also numerous blood vessels and capillaries deep in the muscles and near the surface of the skin.
These smaller tubes help us regulate our temperature and supply our skin, hair and muscles with oxygen and nutrients to keep them healthy and functioning properly.
When we avoid heat shock (high temperatures) and cold shock (cold temperatures) we completely turn off this part of the system. The primary benefits of cold showers come from activating this part of the system regularly.
Many famous coaches and athletes like Laird Hamilton, Wim Hof, Paul Chek and others refer to this process as a, “cardiovascular massage.”
This cardiovascular massage is incredible for you and can greatly improve your health and mood if done regularly.
4 Primary Benefits of Cold Showers
Benefit #1: Increased Circulation and Detox
When you take a cold shower the muscles near the surface of the skin contract. This contracting pulls blood away from the muscles and pushes it back into the main blood stream. Biologically speaking, this is done to protect your organs and keep you alive.
Because blood in these parts of the body may not circulate as easily, regular cold showers can keep these tiny muscles strong so fresh oxygenated blood can recirculate deeper into the body.
This may also help push out fat, calcium and other deposits that form in these tiny tubes over time.
Benefit #2: Improved Exercise Recovery
The process of exposing ourselves to cold showers and then rewarming the body supercharges your circulation (as described above) which can help accelerate recovery.
By moving the metabolic byproducts of intense exercise (e.g., lactic acid) out of your muscles and into your body’s lymph system for elimination and recovery.
This can help reduce inflammation in the muscles, reduce soreness and supply the muscles with the additional oxygen and nutrients needed to rebuild.
Benefit #3: Improved Sex Drive
Several studies have been conducted on the benefits of cold showers and their effect on hormonal release and shown that regular cold water exposure can boost sex drive and increase testosterone by triggering the release of luteinizing hormone.
Cold showers also cause an instant release of adrenaline which we all know creates an incredible sense of energy and vitality.
Benefit #4: Improved Ability to Handle Stress
According to the theory of hormesis; when exposed to increasing amounts of stress like a cold shower, our body adapts and becomes increasingly tolerant of the stress over time so we can handle more and more of the stress.
One of the additional benefits of cold showers is that we may actually be trainining our bodies to react more slowly to all stressors in life, helping us to deal with intense exercise, kids, work stress, etc.
Because of this, cold water therapy is often used by mental health professionals to treat panic disorder, PTSD and other issues related to an over active flight or flight system within the body.
“Cold showers trigger the release of serotonin, aka the happiness hormone.”
Now, though I am not an expert on all of the biological processes taking place during cold exposure, I have experienced the benefits of cold showers first hand.
I have a regular routine of cycling between a hot sauna and a cold shower at least once a week to help me recover and if nothing else, relax from the crazy week. It is probably the best and easiest change I’ve made in my recovery routine.
I highly recommend you give at least one really cold shower a try before decided if they are for you.
If you are really feeling adventurous, here are some additional ways to experience similar or magnified benefits of cold showers:
- Polar Plunging in a cold river or pond (if available)
- Taking an ice bath or regular cold water bath where you can fully submerge the body
- Take a short walk outside in cold during winter (my personal favorite, especially at night)
- Sit in a hot sauna for 5 to 10 minutes, followed by a 1 to 2 minute cold shower. Repeating this process for 30 to 40 minutes.
Again, cold water can kill you! So enjoy the benefits of cold showers, but always be vigilant when doing so.
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