Published on December 06, 2022

woman reacting to cold shower

Potential Benefits of Cold Showers (Comfort Isn’t One)

Whether you bathe in the morning or evening, a long, hot shower is satisfying on every level. However, the trend of cold showers is growing because of its potential benefits both physically and mentally.

“We often think of athletes taking the cold dunk in an ice bath,” said Eric Noyes, CNP, Avera internal medicine provider, “but we are seeing more healthy adults exploring the possible benefits of a short, chilly bathing experience.”

Physical Benefits of Cold Showers

Cold showers and baths can have a modest effect on your physical health. Consistently incorporating cold water a few times a week could eventually:

  • Decrease pain, swelling and muscle soreness
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Improve metabolic health
  • Boost immune system
  • Reduce occurrences of colds and flu

Mental Health Benefits of Cold Showers

A chilly zap from cold water signals to your brain to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone. This may create:

  • A decrease in depression symptoms and anxiety
  • Improvement in stress levels
  • An increase in mental toughness
  • Mental clarity

“Most people don’t know that cold showers can decrease cortisol which can really help with things like anxiety, depression and even addiction,” said Noyes. Science is catching up with the natural practice that has been around since the ancient Romans.

How Cold Showers Affect the Body

When skin is exposed to frigid water temperatures, the sympathetic nervous system boosts the noradrenaline hormone in the bloodstream. As a result, your heart rate and blood pressure rises in a fight-or-flight response. It’s thought that this surge in circulation creates these potential benefits.

How to Start Taking Cold Showers

Don’t just jump in and flip the faucet to C! Incorporate cold water briefly and slowly into your shower routine.

Here are some tips:

  1. After cleansing and rinsing off, turn the faucet to a cooler temperature for 30 seconds. A couple times a week, experiment more with cooler temperatures and time intervals, not to exceed four or five minutes at one time.
  2. Keep moving your body so the cold stream doesn’t concentrate on one area of your skin.
  3. Do not start with the face; this can trigger a reflex that lowers your heart rate and could lead to fainting.

“While it’s an uncomfortable experience, NEVER put yourself in danger,” said Noyes.

Don’t exceed further than you can handle both in time and temperature.

Cold Showers Aren’t for Everyone

Cold showers aren’t safe for everyone. It’s less recommended for people with low body weight or low body fat. People who should NOT implement cold water include children, older adults, and others with compromised immune systems.

Because of the sudden shock of cold water, people with heart disease, at risk for heart attacks or have cardiovascular conditions should not take cold showers.

Everyone should consult their physician or primary care provider before starting a cold shower routine.

“Even athletes seek advice from or even take their recovery ice baths under the supervision of a trained sports expert,” said Noyes.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.