While renovating our bathroom a couple of years back our hot water suddenly disappeared. It was a long weekend and what resulted was around four days of NO hot water until the cause of the problem was finally resolved. Cold showers suck (especially when you are getting ready to attend a wedding!). The first couple of days were the worst but after awhile your body gets used to it and it becomes normal. I noticed after having cold showers for several days that my skin was amazing! In a previous Positive Ageing Links, I linked to a great post on cold water therapy. I seem to be hearing more about this lately so I thought I would give it more of an in-depth look! -B xx
Cold water therapy is a form of hydrotherapy which uses water as a method for treatment and pain relief. Changing water temperatures from hot to cold can affect the body in different ways and also produce a ‘shock’ like effect that can produce many beneficial properties within the body. Using water as a therapy for health and well-being has been around forever! You are probably well versed in using heated water (showers/baths/natural pools) to cleanse your body and provide relaxation and therapy but cold water is also fantastically invigorating and refreshing to your body and your skin!
Here are some amazing benefits of using cold water therapy:
1. BUILDS MENTAL STRENGTH:
Throughout the centuries humans would have been exposed to all kinds of different climates and conditions and would have had to adapt rather quickly. We’ve all gone a bit soft! Exposing yourself to cold water on a regular basis produces a positive pain like effect that can provide benefits to our body in a similar way to say fasting or doing a HIIT workout (1). Being mentally able to cope with self-induced pain can increase our tolerance to uncomfortable situations and help us deal with stress much better. It also has well-documented benefits for our health and longevity!
2. REDUCES MUSCLE PAIN:
Cold water and bathing in ice have long been linked with helping to reduce inflammation and speed up muscle recovery. Cold water is also said to help our bodies produce endorphin’s which help to fight any niggly pains. A cold shower is a perfect way to end an high-intensity workout!
3. BETTER THAN COFFEE!
When you first jump in a cold shower you will get a ‘cold shock’ like effect, what this does is rapidly increase your heart rate and induces an increased production of internal body heat (thermogenesis) to try and warm you up from the inside out! (2) Over time you will develop an habituation to the cold which is said to have the most benefit to your health and your ‘hardening up’ with an increased ability to deal with the cold. Cold water also promotes increased blood flow to the brain. Having a cold shower first thing in the morning can also heighten your alertness, flow and creativity. In the popular documentary, ‘I Am Not Your Guru’ Tony Robbins gives a glimpse into his morning routine which involved jumping in and out of an icy outdoor bath! Nothing beats a cold shower to make you feel alive, wake you up and get you going!
4. MOOD BOOSTING
Not only does cold water therapy ramp up our endorphin production it also helps to activate sensory nerve pathways leading to the brain giving you an all-natural high! In fact, cold water therapy has also been linked with helping to fight depression and low mood states. It does this by lowering the temperature of the brain reducing inflammation in the process (inflammation has links with depression) (5). It is also said to increase our natural energetic state – giving us more energy and vibrancy!
5. INCREASES METABOLISM
Cold water therapy is making a rapid comeback among athletes after Tim Ferris devoted a whole chapter to it in his book ‘The Four Hour Body’. Apparently, the fat in our bodies is either ‘white fat’ or ‘brown fat’ (I have never heard any of this until now!). White fat is directly attributed to our current obesity epidemic and eating far more calories than we are actually burning on a daily basis (gotta get that daily exercise in!). This is also the type of fat that piles up around our midsection when we are overweight! Brown fat is the fat that we need to keep our bodies warm and having a cold shower is shown to positively affect the production of brown fat and could even help us to burn off the ‘bad’ white fat much quicker (3).
6. BOOSTS IMMUNE FUNCTION
When practised over time cold water therapy could result in long-lasting benefits to your immune function, digestive and lymphatic system. Our lymph system is sort like our central ‘detox’ system (a complex system of vessels that removes unwanted bacteria and waste). It is reliant on muscle contraction to detox and removes all waste from our body that’s why exercise is essential to help keep our lymph system healthy! Cold water therapy helps to boost our lymph function making the lymph vessels contract and flush out waste. This also results in an increase in healthy white blood cells from our immune system (4).
7. INCREASES BLOOD FLOW + CIRCULATION
When cold water hits your skin all of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) near the surface of your skin open then close causing blood to bathe all of your organs and your glands (1). Over time developing a habituation to the cold can also help to stabilize blood pressure (1). Increased circulation and blood flow can also mean that nutrients and skin significant hormones can quickly travel to the skins surface getting you that all-natural, rosy glow!
Beauty benefits to our skin and hair!
Repeated washing in hot water can be very drying and destructive to our skins natural barrier function. Washing our face in cold water can be one way to keep our acid mantle intact which helps to create really beautiful skin naturally. Cold water also helps to tighten and tone our pores, reducing the permeability and creates a much stronger barrier function to bacteria and any environmental elements.
HERE ARE SOME OTHER IDEAS:
* A winter run or walk outside – the colder the better!
* Swimming at the beach – many benefits!
* Find a natural pond or waterfall to regularly swim in.
* No time to shower? Fill up your sink, add some ice cubes and splash some icy cold water on your face (if you have very thin skin, with noticeable capillaries be careful with this one!)
* Cold showers are also really beneficial to your hair and scalp! After you wash your hair always rinse it with cold water to seal in the hair cuticles. Hair can also appear very shiny, strong and super healthy from doing this!
* Start with a warm shower and then change it to cold for 2mins at the end of each shower. Try and go a bit colder with each shower.
* Start small and then build up to more cold water over time! 5-8 minutes would be sufficient for positive effects, any more than 10 minutes would be too long and could cause extra body stress. If you have any blood pressure problems already, take it slow.
* When we wash in hot water we are also absorbing many of the nasties that are in the treated water. We absorb less into our bodies with cold water (you can also look into getting a shower or bath filter to make sure that the water you are bathing in is of the best quality!) ♥
1 – Health Benefits of Cold Water Therapy from Underground Health Reporter
2 – Cold Showers from Getting Stronger
3 – Why Taking Cool Showers is Good For Your Health from Medical Daily
4 – The Power of Cold Water from Tony Robbins
5 – Hydrotherapy for Depression from Psychology Today
(Photo: Luke Dahlgren)