Cold water bathing has been a hot topic these past several years, with social media it almost seems everyone and their granny has tried cold water treatment of some kind. What we want to know is are all the benefits we hear from health gurus true or is Amazon really just selling us a very expensive adult paddling pool?
As the name suggests, cold water showering is simply turning the temperature down when showering. Typically when showering we all enjoy our hot showers especially as a way to get through the winter months. The thought of turning the temperature cold is one that does not appeal to many but has the potential to bring a lot of health benefits in the long run. It is the at home version of open water swimming or an introductory level as some would say…
Cold water immersion has been practiced for centuries as far back as 450BC by the ancient greeks as a treatment for medical and health recovery. Studies however looking at the physiological effects have been studied as far back as 1790.
There is no strict degree you need to reach, however, some would suggest “cold water is defined as water with a temperature of <15 °C” (Tipton M.J., Stubbs D.A., Elliott D.H. Human initial responses to immersion in cold water at three temperatures and after hyperventilation. J. Appl. Physiol. 1991;70:317–322.) In saying that getting to to the 15 and under mark is a gradual process and where the individual needs to determine their own level of cold water tolerance. It is important to begin slow and not force yourself into unbearable discomfort.
There is also no certain time restriction. It could be as simple as turning the temperature down to 10-15 degrees celsius the last 2 minutes of your shower, then 3 the next time. Cold showers are an excellent introduction to cold water bathing and could be enough to still positively impact your health. For those who venture further in to cold water swimming outdoors the following guide by the ‘Outdoor Swimming Society’ helps breakdown temperatures. (Based on UK climates.)
|Baltic 0-6 degrees
|Impairs breathing in the uninitiated, as breath comes in big jolting gasps and it feels like someone has clamped on an ice neck brace. Water has bite, skin smarts and burns. This is winter swimming. Limbs soon become weak – 25 metres can be an achievement – and only takes a minute or two at the lower end of temperatures before skin becomes a lurid purple-orange-red (for those with lighter skin) when you exit.
|Freezing 6 – 11 degrees
|Much like baltic, but not quite so painful, or breathtaking.
|Fresh 12-16 degrees
|At this temperature triathlons start operating. In a wetsuit you may find you can swim comfortably for a while, outside of one the water is fresh, doable for the brave, and not a problem for hardened open water lovers.
The above leads to the question, does cold showers have the same effects as outdoor cold water swimming? The main difference being temperatures, your shower will not reach the same level as it would outside. Therefore swimming in the sea, lakes and ponds will have a higher impact on your body.
One study found that having 30-second cold showers every morning for 60 days could decrease the number of sick days by 30%.
Now for the good stuff, what are the benefits we see from cold water showering? Are they worth enduring the bone shivering intensity. Well in short, yes. Evidence shows that;
“Exposure to cold increases metabolic rate and transiently activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis as evidenced by a temporary increase in the plasma levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, beta-endorphin and a modest increase in cortisol. The increased opioid tone and high metabolic rate could diminish fatigue by reducing muscle pain and accelerating recovery of fatigued muscle, respectively. (Shevchuk NA. “Possible use of repeated cold stress for reducing fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome: a hypothesis.“ Behav Brain Funct. 2007 Oct 24;3:55. Web: https://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-3-55)
One study, examined the effects of cold water on several patients and showed that:
“Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.” (Shevchuk Nikolai A. , 2008)
If you’re finding yourself feeling worse for wear this winter perhaps its time to test out a cold shower or two. As studies suggest this could be a viable solution to many ailments with a rapid boost to the immune system.
Disclaimer: This is post and all posts on this website is for informational purposes only. This does not replace medical advice by your own doctor/health practitioner. You should not soley rely on the following advice. Always consult a doctor or GP first.