After a big exercise session, or a long day at uni or work, there’s nothing better than a nice hot shower – especially if we can manage to sneak a cold beer in with us. And first thing in the morning, when we’re wiping the sleep from our eyes and mustering our energy to face the day, there’s something intensely comforting about spending an extra minute under the warm water before heading out.
But here’s the thing about warm showers: make the water too hot and you can seriously dry out your skin and hair. You’re also guaranteed a higher energy bill, more mould growth in your bathroom, and a seriously increased risk of missing that morning bus.
Cold showers, on the other hand? That’s a different story altogether...
Cold Showers Wake You Up
The best time of day to have a cold shower is in the morning, when you’ve just got out of bed. Warm water maintains that cosy just-out-of-bed feeling, while cold water shocks you awake, makes you alert and prepares you to face the day. The reason for this is the change in temperature – as has been shown in a study of chronic fatigue syndrome, short bursts of exposure to cold temperatures can significantly reduce feelings of tiredness.
Cold water is also a lot better for your skin and hair, as it doesn’t dry them out – something that can give you a little more swagger in your walk to work. But best of all, cold showers are time-friendly. Trust us, you won't be staying under that water for longer than a few minutes.
Cold Showers Help You Recover Quicker
If you’ve ever watched a sports movie, you’ll know two things: high school footballers are fantastic at speeches, and professional athletes take ice baths. A lot.
Very cold water is thought to be helpful after intense exercise because it restricts blood flow, helping to reduce inflammation and promote muscle recovery; the effects are similar to a gentle cool-down, if a little more dramatic. While you might not fancy taking an ice bath (where would you even get enough cubes?) a cold shower can help in the same way.
If you’ve just been working up a sweat, cold water will also feel pretty good on your skin.
Boosting your Immune System
Perhaps the most famous proponent of cold exposure is Wim Hof, the Dutch daredevil who is famous for swimming under polar ice and running marathons in the snow. He believes cold exposure can help boost your immune system, prepping you to fight off diseases more easily.
Though you may be sceptical, one study found that Hof’s meditation and breathing techniques were actually effective in fighting off toxins. The jury’s still out on exactly how effective Hof’s method is, but if you want to give it a try, start with a short blast of cold water at the end of your regular shower, and increase your exposure over time, in combination with his breathing techniques.
Oh, and if you don't fancy the cold shower thing, you can always take up winter sea swimming...
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