One thing surprised me. Cold shower is something very popular among people who try to outperform themselves and have a great health. When it comes to chronic fatigue, on the contrary, this habit is much less popular…
Some of you could already come up with a thousand objections:
- I do not need to outperform myself, I just want to heal!
- I already surpass myself enough when I try to get out of my bed!
- The shower is already a difficult moment for me, no need to add that!
- A hot shower is one of the only pleasures of my day!
- Cold shower will not change my condition!
Calm down. I know you lack some courage, but first listen to what I have to say.
Cold showers improve the respiratory system
Under the effect of cold water, one usually has a feeling of a difficult breath and a racing heart. With training, the body learns to manage this aggression and the breathing management improves overtime. Likewise, the heart learns not to panic.
A German study of about 20 patients with a mean age of 64 years old and with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) showed that repeated stimulation with cold water can lower the frequency of respiratory infections. In addition, these patients were able to observe a (subjective) improvement in their well-being1.
Cold showers fortify the body against stress
Biological stress is a reaction state of the organism subject to a sudden aggression. It can be caused by a high or low temperature, but it can also be caused by an infection or a disease.
Cold showers are repeated aggression. The body can learn and adapts by increasing its resistance to that stress. This resistance is also effective against some other types of stress, like infections and diseases.
A 1994 German study of people used to swim in very cold water in winter was able to demonstrate this resistance to stress (uric acid decrease and other measurements). This study also shows an increase in the anti-oxidant glutathione2.
Better resistance to cold
It’s proven, repeated exposure to cold increases the amount of brown fat. Brown fat is a special fat, which, instead of producing ATP energy (for tissues and organs), is directly converted into heat3.
The cold resistance mechanism
Here is the body mechanism triggered by cold.
- Vasoconstriction: the peripheral vessels will shrink so that the blood no longer passes close to the skin. Indeed, this is where the loss of heat takes place. The blood preserves its temperature and thus nourishes the vital organs in priority.
- Chills: muscles contract unintentionally, producing heat.
- The brown fat activates and releases heat.
Although this is not yet scientifically proven, many people report an improvement in the mood and well-being associated with cold showers.
It is guessed that the high density of cold receptors on the skin plays an important role. A cold shower would cause a large flow of nervous electrical signals to the brains. This repeated stimulation would train the latter against stress and thus provide a soothing, even anti-depressive effect. (But it hasn’t been verified)
Similarly, a decrease in tensions and fatigue, as well as memory improvements have been reported4 (subjectively).
Exposure to cold causes an increase in the amount of noradrenaline and dopamine, which would explain the well-being felt just after the shower.5
Cold showers against depression?
Again, no scientific measurement here. However, many testimonies converge to say that cold showers play an anti-depressive role. This effect is so popular that some doctors are considering cold showers as a treatment for depression6. This remains to be checked, but it’s good to know!
Rheumatism, Fibromyalgia, Asthma?
A Finnish study7 on people swimming in ice cold water in winter seems to put forward a greatpain relief:
All swimmers suffering from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma reported that swim in icy water had relieved their pain.
That’s proven! Exposure to cold stimulates the immune system891011. In particular, it increases the amount of white blood cells. Measured in the blood, they are a “police” that helps to fight against diseases and infections.
More hypothetically, some researchers think that swimming in cold water for mice subjects would have helped them fight cancer12.
Myths around cold showers
Many think or testify that cold showers improve the quality of sleep. It remains subjective, nothing has been proved. In particular, I often read that hot showers were recommended shortly before bed… I’ll therefore let you try and see what works for you.
While hot water dries the skin, cold water firmens it and tightens the pores.
Cold showers are economical and ecological: in addition to not heating water, they are often shorter!
A psychological weapon?
Here is my favorite paragraph. We’ve seen until now all the benefits that can bring a daily cold shower. But I would like to add a personal touch.
When you are sick and tired, it makes sense to protect yourself from the cold. Sometimes you spend your day indoors or even in bed. Everything is painful enough, so we minimize all the attacks. I think that without knowing, we weaken the body by over-protecting it. The cold showers would, reversely, shock the body, and to tell it to get back into hard work (a good kick in the ass!).
Beyond this physical aggression, I think it is also a psychological weapon. Every morning, the cold shower reminds us that we are fighting. Every morning it transforms our resignation into a healing rage. Every morning it is there to test our weakness and our motivation. Do you really want to get better? Go cold shower! (wow, cool slogan!)
How to start?
The goal is to not touch the hot water tap and stay at least 3 minutes under cold water. Do not do it directly, it’s too violent for the body and it would not be profitable.
Like with sports, your body needs to be trained. To begin with, take your shower normally and finish by lowering the temperature. Every day, you can expose yourself to colder, for longer. You can also alternate hot and cold. See what works for you.
Even if you have to go gradually, you have to get into a little bit of violence. It is necessary to distinguish between desire (which is generally not at the rendez-vous) and your limits (which are too often underestimated). You can do it! Everyone can do it!
One of the most effective techniques is to accept cold. Instead of going backwards, gesticulating in all directions and shouting names of birds, relax as much as possible. Concentrate on your breath and make this moment meditative. Accept the cold and breathe deeply: your body knows what to do, it takes care of the rest!
Just go for it!
I’ve been taking cold showers for several months now and I’m enjoying it now. Plus, it takes no extra time at all!
And you, what is your story with cold showers? Starting today? Leave me a note in the comments.
- Repeated cold water stimulations (hydrotherapy according to Kneipp) in patients with COPD
- Uric acid and glutathione levels during short-term whole body cold exposure
- Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans
- Winter swimming improves general well-being
- Human physiological responses to immersion into water of different temperatures.
- Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression.
- Winter swimming improves general well-being
- Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans.
- Immune changes in humans during cold exposure: effects of prior heating and exercise.
- Adaptation related to cytokines in man: effects of regular swimming in ice-cold water.
- Gender-specific cold responses induce a similar body-cooling rate but different neuroendocrine and immune responses
- Possible stimulation of anti-tumor immunity using repeated cold stress: a hypothesis.
- Cold swim stress leads to enhanced splenocyte responsiveness to concanavalin A, decreased serum testosterone, and increased serum corticosterone, glucose, and protein.
- Changes in masculine sexual behavior, corticosterone and testosterone in response to acute and chronic stress in male rats.