I know what you're thinking: "I don't like cold" or "It's painful to touch cold water." All of the complaints about cold water are true - it's a horrible feeling! Well, at first it is. Adding a simple 5-10 minute ICE COLD SHOWER to the start of your day has so many benefits, you may never use hot water again. Here are 8 reasons to start your cold showers today:
Jump Starts Your Day Better Than a Cup of Coffee
When you jump into a cold shower, your body will jump into what feels like a state of shock at first, but then you will realize that your breathing is slower and deeper than it was before your shower. This deeper breathing improves the oxygen saturation in your blood, which will lead to a boost of energy. Additionally, the focus required to not shiver as your soap up will benefit you all day long. We forget how to train our ability to focus as adults.
We have two types of fat tissue, white fat and brown fat. Up until recently, doctors believed that all of our brown fat, referred to as brown adipose tissue (or "BAT") was used up during our infant years and adults only had white fat. This white fat builds up around our bellies and hips when we eat poorly. It's also difficult to get rid of. Constant exposure to cold will actually promote BAT activation, which in turn will allow for more weight loss.
In What Doesn't Kill US, by Scott Carney (p40), there is an interview with Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist, who points out that every human lives in an "eternal summer: we're overlit, overfed, and overstimulated, and in terms of how long we've been on Earth, that's all new. We're missing a metabolic winter." This is would represent the winter month's during which our bodies would have adjusted to discomfort and scarcity of food. "The only two animals in the world that suffer chronic obesity are humans and the pets we keep at home... there's a connection." Cronise began to expose himself to cold temperatures, go on 1-hour long walks and perform moderate exercise. He lost 20kg in 6 months.
When your body is cold, your veins will constrict similar to a muscle during exercise. This "vascular constriction" will push more blood through the body at a fast rate, ultimately resulting in improved artery efficiency. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, a natural health expert from an article with Medical Daily, "This can also lower blood pressure, clear blocked arteries, and improve our immune system."
Replaces a Day at the Beauty Spa
Health.com states that "the real benefits (for skin and hair) may come from avoiding super-hot showers in the first place. Hot water might feel good, but it does a number on your skin and hair, explains New York City-based dermatologist Lance Brown, MD. "Hot water will strip away some of the natural, protective oils that your skin makes," he says, which can leave skin feeling dry and itchy and possibly exacerbate skin conditions like eczema. This is especially problematic during the winter months, when cold air outside and dry heat inside naturally make skin more parched."
Improves Will-Power (Really Might Save Your Life)
"Our ancestors crossed deserts, mountains, and oceans without even a whisper of what anyone today might consider modern technology. Those feats of endurance seem impossible in an age where we take comfort for granted. But what if we could regain some of our lost evolutionary strength by simulating the environmental conditions of our forebears?" This is the question posed in What Doesn't Kill US, by Scott Carney.
We all live in a world of relatively constant temperature. Even if the the temperatures swing up and down throughout the year outside, our homes can adjust with a flick of the switch. This isn't a new thing either. Humans have been in an endless pursuit to make life easier: fire, tools, clothing, housing, and now air conditioning. Carney goes on further to explain that all of these luxuries have a dark side: "while we can imagine what a difficult environment might feel like, very few of us routinely experience the stresses of our forebears. With no challenge to overcome, frontier to press, or threat to flee from, the humans of this millennium are overstuffed, overheated, and under-stimulated."
If you've ever played sports in school or University, ice baths are nothing new. Everyone from elite sprinters to tennis players to football players regularly partake. Firstly, there's a numbing effect that helps reduce overall soreness (imagine icing your eye when you were a kid after having a ball hit you in the face). The vascular constriction will help to reduce swelling and tissue break-down, as well as flush waste products.
This one is particularly true for men. It's fact that sperm count increases in cooler temperatures. However, it takes approximately 2 months of repetitive exposure to cold before the benefits can be seen (this means the myth of using an ice pack down there is not practical).
Reduces Stress and Boosts Your Mood
Jumping straight into a cold shower can help promote hardening, increasing tolerance to stress, and even disease. A 1994 study showed that cold exposure resulted in a "drastic decrease in uric acid levels during and following exposure to a cold stimulus. There was also an increase in gluthathione, an antioxidant that keeps all other antioxidants performing at their optimal levels."
Cold water has also been shown to have an intense impact on the cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. These electrical impulses produce an anti-depressive effect, boosting mood. A 2008 study found that cold water therapy has an "analgesic (i.e. painkilling) effect, and does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence," unlike many of the drugs on the market. This can be incorporated to your treatment plan and, along with the guidance of your doctor, may help to make you smile more often :)
How to Get Started
Getting started with cold showers may sound scary. An easy way to start is to finish your current shower routine with 30 seconds of only cold water. Do this for a week and then try 1 minute, then 2, etc. I was introduced to cold showers when learning the Wim Hof Method, a program designed to provide all of the benefits above, as well as improve breathing (see our article on breathing here) and healing. Here's a little program I followed when starting:
Week 1: Regular shower, finish 30 seconds cold. I started off with half-way cold, but by the end of the week it was as cold as it would go.
Week 2: Regular shower, finish 1 minute cold (as cold as it will go).
Week 3: Start cold for 30 seconds, turn to normal, finish 1 minute cold.
Week 4: Start cold for 1 minute, turn to normal, finish 1 minute cold.
Week 5: Only cold. If it's too cold towards the end, you can finish with about 30 seconds of regular temperature.
Turn that water cold and change your world forever.