A few months ago, I (re)stumbled on the practice of having cold showers instead of hot ones. It’s the sort of thing I’ve tried a few times, half-heartedly, and always given up about three showers in. This time, though, I’ve been having cold showers for near on ten weeks. Here’s just some of the benefits I’ve noticed in that time:
- They wake you up really well – better than coffee. Which is a bonus for me, since I no longer drink caffeine on a regular basis.
- Paradoxically, this effect can also be used to help put you to sleep. The cold, followed by your body warming up again, helps produce sleepy chemicals when you have a cold shower in the evening. It’s a similar effect to having a hot bath, as the Japanese like to do. In fact, insomniacs are sometimes advised to have cold showers to help them sleep better. Whether I shower in the morning or at night, I’ve been sleeping better overall.
- They lower your utility bills. My shower is now exactly as long as it takes to get clean, and not a skerrick longer. (Usually that’s about four minutes, with hair rinsing.) This translates to a lower water bill. And not using hot water will lower your electricity or gas bill, too. At a very ballpark estimate, my cold shower habit has cut $5-10 a month off our utilities – a respectable $60-$120 annual savings.
- They take less time in the morning – which leaves more time for other, more interesting stuff. Like eating breakfast in peace, blissfully alone while the toddler slumbers.
- Having one after a workout helps recovery. I find I’m less sore after an intense workout if I have a cold shower, and ice baths have been used by athletes for post-workout recovery for years. The cold constricts blood vessels, which helps them push lactic acid out of muscles and through the bloodstream to be disposed of. After you get out and start to warm up, the blood vessels dilate and bring nice, fresh blood through to start the growth and repair work needed to get stronger. Neat, huh?
- My hair isn’t as greasy as it used to be. Which means longer between proper washes instead of just rinsing the sweat out, which means less money on shampoo (or bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar, in my case.) Cold water helps close up pores and cuticles on the skin, so hair stays healthier overall. Plus I don’t get flaky skin so much any more.
- They provide an excellent source of positive stress. Our bodies have pretty excellent adaptive capabilities – you just need to put them in situations where adaptation can occur. Cold showers are one such possibility. The small stress caused by the cold forces beneficial physiological changes as your body adapts to the stressor. The process is called hormesis.
- They can help you shed excess fat. Cold baths – I’m talking “two bags of ice” cold – are actually better for this, but cold showers are quicker, easier, and can be done just about anywhere. (Not every house has a bath tub, after all.) The miracle of thermogenesis will kick in and help your body become a more efficient fat burner.
- I’m not killing off the beneficial bacteria on my skin. This means I smell less, because the bacteria that eat sweat (no, really, it’s a thing) aren’t being decimated every time I jump in the shower.
- You just feel kind of badass for surviving a cold shower. This effect is doubled in the middle of winter, when the water out of the pipes is at Arctic temperatures. I’m sure the “I did a crazy thing” thrill will wear off eventually, but it hasn’t so far. I still start thinking “aw nuts, this is COLD” and finish up feeling on top of the world.
Ever tried cold showers? Or do you take them now? If not, it’s definitely worth having a go. You don’t know what you’re missing!
Health Benefits of Cold Showers at The Art of Manliness