So, this new years day, I decided to be mental with my other half and some friends, and ran into the freezing cold sea in Wales. Not gonna lie, it was cold and it hurt! Just in a bikini, because I’m hard of course..
Once I got past the nipple destroying cold, I felt amazing, I was buzzing, I was totally invigorated and full of beans. So much so, I did a big workout once I got home. This got me thinking.. I have often heard about the benefits of cold showers, or cold water swimming and totally understood this but never had been quite brave enough to make it part of my regular routine. Until now.
I have ended every shower since new years day with a cold shower. I wash as normal in nice hot water, and then turn it down to warm, before being brave and whacking it down to freezing. Once I’m done swearing and feeling like I want to run out of the shower, I start to feel weirdly good. My whole body tingles and feels energised. I keep my head under for as long as I can handle, and then just keep my body in it, turning around like a rotisserie chicken.
You would expect to get out of the shower feeling like an ice lolly, but so far, I feel ok. Amazingly refreshed, energised and my skin feels super soft and so does my hair. I have since looked into the key benefits of cold showers and here is what I found…
Increases energy and alertness
Partly down to you taking deep breaths in response to your body’s shock, so this increases your oxygen intake. Heart rate increases, which rushes blood through the body and give you an energy boost. The contrast from hot water, it cold and then warm air, makes your body work hard to adjust to the changes in temperature, rushing blood around and taking in more oxygen.
Refines hair and skin
So I hadn’t heard that hot water drys out your hair and skin, until looking into cold showers. But I can definitely say that my skin feels softer and my hair looks shinier and smoother since doing the cold shower bursts. The cold water flattens the hair follicles, making it trap moisture and appear shinier, stronger and healthier. When your body gets super hot, your pores open, trying to release heat and sweat, cold water does the opposite, so it traps in the moisture and seals the pores. This is down to the cold water tightening your cuticles and pores, which helps to prevent them getting clogged. It also locks in moisture. It also works well to not strip your skin of its natural oils too quickly. Don’t expect the pores on your face to suddenly sink and disappear, but it will help.
Improves immunity and circulation
Cold water can improve circulation by encouraging blood to surround our organs, which can then help combat some problems of the skin and heart. As cold water hits the body, it’s ability to get blood circulating leads the arteries to more efficiently pump blood, therefore boosting our overall heart health. There have been many studies showing that submerging the body in cold water boosts the immune system. Many people experience less colds and sickness after taking up cold showers or cold water swimming.
Stimulates weight loss
Cold showers can aid weight loss in an unexpected way. The human body contains two types of fat tissue, white fat and brown fat. White fat is accumulated when we consume more calories than our body needs to function, and we don’t burn these calories for energy. This body fat piles up at our waist, lower back, neck, and thighs, and is the one we all struggle to eliminate. Brown fat is the good fat, which generates heat to keep our bodies warm, and is activated when exposed to extreme cold. So, cold showers can promote brown fat activity, which in turn helps the body to burn the white fat. Don’t expect to suddenly loose a stone though..
Speeds up muscle recovery and relieves soreness
We have all seen athletes taking ice baths after training to reduce muscle soreness, but a quick cold shower after breaking a sweat at the gym can be just as effective, especially in relieving delayed-onset muscle soreness. This again is down to the body being further oxygenated and pumping blood around the body and to the muscles more when the heart rate increases.
Eases stress and relieves depression
Jumping into the shower without letting it heat up, or going into the ocean without slowly acclimating to it, can help promote hardening, increasing tolerance to stress, and even disease. It can also decrease uric acid levels during and following the cold water exposure. It can also increase gluthathione, an antioxidant that keeps all other antioxidants performing at their optimal levels. This helps the body deal with stress as it works to adapt to the oxidative stress of getting really cold.
Cold showers have been shown to relieve depression symptoms due to the intense impact of cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. So it produces an antidepressive effect, and boosts moods, making it a pick-me-up. I can definitely agree with this.