Peter Safford January 24, 2019 Lifestyle
The curtains seem to magically part as sunlight creeps ever so slightly through the window. The room then brightens as your body gets in the last few minutes of a good night’s sleep. Your eyes are heavy as the light gently touches your face and the sound of your alarm shocks your body into a panic and you jolt awake. Still recovering from the day before you just lay there, reaching for the snooze button but to no avail, the alarm keeps ringing… we’ve all been there. After a few minutes, you finally hit the button, pull yourself together, and start your morning routine. One foot leads the other down the hallway as you creek open the bathroom door to the sight of the most amazing shower. You hang up your towel, step into the best part of your morning and begin to turn the handle to the left, eager for the heat to wake you up from the morning blues. Now you have a choice… you could continue to turn it left and enjoy the next few minutes immensely, or you can let discipline lead your hand and turn it to the right, opening a new world of health benefits. As it would turn out, hot showers are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Why not hot showers?
At this point, it should be common knowledge that hot showers have their time and place, but it’s definitely not first thing in the morning. While they mentally prepare you for the day ahead and feel amazing, hot showers have been known to dry out the skin and leave you with a weird irritation all over after stepping out. On top of drying out the skin and face hot showers are notorious for weakening the hair’s roots, leading to split ends and a lot of curling. While the steam adds volume, hot showers reduce the hair’s natural shine and give it a much harder texture overall. Too much hot water has been known to lead to an increase in breakouts. Our bodies have a natural layer of oil that protects and nourishes the skin and hot water breaks down this barrier, making the skin more vulnerable to acne.
When to give hot showers a chance?
So when should you take a warm shower? Experts say that turning up the heat is the best after a tough workout. According to studies, cold water decreases inflammation in the body, and while this may sound great on the surface, less inflammation may lead to a decrease in muscle gained from your workout, making warm showers the way to go to maximize muscle gain.
Why take cold showers?
1. They Help Your Skin
Unlike the constant burn on your skin during a hot shower, turning down the temperature helps preserve and even strengthen the fine oil layer created by your skin. A boost to your body’s natural barrier means that your skin will feel better protected from everyday irritants and more hydrated overall. Like hot showers, cold temperatures promote more effective blood flow throughout the body, stopping the skin from early aging. An increased blood flow causes oxygen and essential nutrients to circulate through the body, assuring that your skin glows like never before.
2. They Boost the Immune System
This one is already common knowledge but is amazing enough to deserve a mention anyway. Cold showers are the perfect shot of immune boosting goodness before your busy day. A 2016 study tested workers who take hot showers every morning against those who took cold showers. The study determined that the cold shower group received a 26% drop in sick-leave days overall while the hot shower group mostly remained the same. Cold showers have been proven to lead to an increase in the body’s white blood cells, making the immune system more efficient with each shower taken. The constant shock of the cold has also been proven to increase the body’s metabolism, meaning your virus defense mechanisms act faster. While it may just be placebo, cold showers have been part of my routine for a while and I can say with confidence that the everyday cold is almost nonexistent to me. And while the cold showers themselves have been a massive help in strengthening my immune system, it also requires a proper diet and a solid fitness routine.
3. It Psyches You up for the Day
Nothing really jolts you out of your groggy morning state like a cold shower. While hot showers may give you a bit of an energy boost, your body’s natural reaction to cold IS to wake up. A study by Alaska Med found that when exposed to a HEALTHY amount of cold, receptors on the skin are stimulated. The receptors then stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn causes blood flow to increase rapidly and the body’s internal heat to rise. In other words, a cold shower can act as a healthy alternative (or addition) to your morning cup of coffee.
4. It Helps with Muscle Recovery
While turning up the heat is great for building mass, cold showers have their own benefits after a workout. Both hot and cold water is great for increasing the blood flow and circulation throughout the body and both can help your fitness goals. Where the temperatures differ is with muscle recovery. The reason so many athletes take cold water baths after an intense workout is to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). By immersing their muscles in the cold, they are reducing inflammation, preventing post-workout-soreness and leading to a faster and more efficient recovery at the cost of some added mass.
5. Showering at Night?
No problem at all! While the initial shock of a cold shower will definitely wake you up, the stimulation of the nervous system can actually lead to a more relaxed, deeper sleep once the body calms down. Other than that, most benefits are the same between cold showers in the morning and at night.
6. It Burns Fat
Studies have shown that cold showers are likely to help with weight loss. See, the human body has two main types of fat, white and brown. While fat is our body’s way of storing excess energy and is often associated with overeating. Brown fat is in our body from a young age and is meant to generate heat. The theory is that a cold shower will force this fat to work overtime to keep the body stable in the cold, burning itself off as a result. And while studies have found that cold showering sill burns a lot of calories, it’s not the 500 that the rumors say. Still, even burning some calories is much better than burning none.
7. It Helps Relieve Depression
That rush of cold water can do much more than wake you up and help you look amazing. A 2009 study found that cold showers are able to act as their own antidepressant. The study says that cold-receptors on the skin react to the chilled water by sending a mass amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain. The idea is that the electrical overcharge leads to an antidepressant effect that is theorized to improve mood. Testing done in the same study concluded that moods did improve after routine cold showers, but that none of the test subjects were diagnosed with depression to begin with. While further testing is necessary, results do show some promise.
And perhaps the most important part of all…
8. It helps build character and discipline
There’s a reason ancient ritual involved meditating under a waterfall. It’s the same reason why so many martial artists swear by it and explain why the idea has become a media trope in itself. Discipline is a muscle, we’re not born with it and like any other the more you work it the more it grows. I get it, at first it will be awful; just like when you first start hitting the gym or built up the courage to tell that girl how you feel. It sucks, but if you can endure it long enough it’ll keep sucking less and less until it becomes a habit– the same is true with cold showers. What better way to get the discipline started in your day than by stepping into a freezing shower? Getting out from under the warm covers, telling your brain to quiet down and forcing yourself to take an icy plunge is amazing for building discipline in your life. Starting your days with something so difficult gets the ball rolling, and sets up the day itself to be amazing. Taking a cold shower gives you the confidence of knowing that the little problems don’t matter as much since you’ve already tackled a massive obstacle in your day.
Before you get Started
Before you take the plunge and embrace the amazing benefits of cold showers, there is one warning. Never turn your shower to the coldest setting when you’re just getting started. You should start lukewarm and lower the temperature as your body gets used to the water. This will ensure maximum benefits and the lowest risk to your health.
One More Thing
If you’re feeling like the suave, amazing person you know you are, there’s also something called the “James Bond” shower. It’s where you start with the water warm and turn down the temperature towards the end, also known as the “Scottish shower”. If you don’t feel quite ready to take the plunge why not start with this? Once you get used to the temperature, you can then make the entire shower cold.
It’s That Simple
Now that you know all there is to know about hot and cold showers… what’s stopping you from taking one during your next routine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
As you step into the bathroom, groggy-eyed and figuring out your day, you are met with a choice. Turn the handle left and enjoy the next few minutes, or turn it right and reap the benefits… the choice is yours.