I’ve always been a sucker for a steaming hot shower. I probably always will be. Which is why you might be surprised to know that come winter this year, I started having ice cold showers and will continue to do so. Am I mad? Probably a little, but I’m also an avid researcher and am now quite convinced of the health benefits of cold water therapy.
I first heard of this when I read Timothy Ferriss’s ‘The 4 Hour Body’ http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/category/the-4-hour-body/ In the book Tim experiments with cold showers and icy baths and how it has helped to stimulate metabolism and lose weight.
I thought, “losing weight is one thing, but isn’t ice cold water bad for your immune system?” And to my surprise, au contraire… it’s appears to be bloody awesome for your immune system.
Apparently, cold water therapy was first popularized by the German priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), when in 1849 Kneipp successfully battled then-incurable tuberculosis by plunging several times weekly into the frigid Danube River. His 1886 book, My Water Cure, became an international best-seller.
To get the benefits of cold water therapy you need to practice it for at least four weeks.
Cold water therapy benefits
Stabilises blood pressure
It does this by triggering the autonomic nervous system — which will then raise blood pressure, increase heart rate and constrict blood vessels. This will improve your circulation. Since having my children my blood pressure has been ridiculously low 95/55 and I am hoping this will help.
So there you go… Who knew? Cold water actually stimulates the release of cytokines and other substances that are vital to efficient immune function.
Cold also causes the body to release endorphins, our feel good and pain fighting hormones.
Because cold water activates sensory nerves that lead to the brain it can make you feel energised and exhilarated.
On my research travels I have read hundreds of statements from people saying that they will never stop taking cold showers. Apparently they can also:
Ease anxiety and depression and stop a panic attack in its tracks.
Ease muscle cramping
Soothe sore muscles after a workout
Alleviate skin breakouts
There’s even a theory that cold water has more oxygen than hot water, so by showering in it, you get the benefits of oxygen on the skin.
I did also read some old dude talking about how he wears a tight rubber thong to alleviate the cold on his privates, which did make me laugh. There’s no fetish gear in my cold showers, I’m in my birthday suit all the way.
How to: cold water therapy
OK, at first it’s going to be bad, but get over it, it’s worth it. You won’t die. You might even learn to like it. The first time I did it I ran around the house with my teeth chattering and couldn’t get warm. Every other time since then I’ve been fine. The body is awesome. It adjusts so quickly.
1) Heat the room and/or towel so you have something warm to step into.
2) Start with your usual warm shower, shave, wash your hair – whatever you need to do.
3) Step out of the water, and turn the stream to cold water.
4) Wet different parts of your body – feet first, hands, face, then step under the shower and let the cold water run all over you. I spin around so I get all of me.
At first you may only last a few seconds, but gradually build up. I have insane willpower, so now I can stay in for ages, but I have read that 40 seconds is the best length of time to stay in the water.
Afterwards, you should feel warm, invigorated and wonderfully awake.
Caution: Cold showers may not be for you if you are very thin. Avoid it if you suffer from severe back pain, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), Raynaud’s disease or have high blood pressure not controlled by medication.
I can vouch for the mood elevation; I always get slightly hysterical and giggly after a cold shower, which is then followed by a sense of peace, which is really quite lovely.
This blog is based on my personal life experiences and research, which I am sharing for informational purposes only. Please consult a nutritionist, naturopath, doctor or other healthcare provider to determine what may work for you.