Cold water is usually the part of showering you avoid. Hesitantly testing the temperature with your hand, it would be psychotic to jump in before the heat kicks in, right?

It may take a certain F-it mindset, but taking a cold shower could be the smartest thing you do today.  

Before traditional medicines became the norm, people would visit hydrotherapy facilities and sanatoriums where cold water therapy was used as a health treatment. More recently over the past decade, the chilly practice has made a resurgence, with research supporting cold water's ability to improve circulation, respiration, depression, willpower, immunity, brown fat production, and regulate the body's stress response system.  

Those three freezing minutes under the showerhead seem well worth the torture. What's more phenomenal is that over time people who take cold showers consider the practice a form of meditation.  

But before jumping in, here's how science says a cold shower may transform your day (and overall health & happiness).  

----- First, what happens to the body in a cold shower? 

In a word, vasoconstriction. When we step into cold water- whether a pool or shower- the blood vessels in our skin constrict, reducing blood flow. This response is purely survivalist, as the body naturally makes use of the skin as an insulating layer to keep the organs safe and warm. Retaining core heat means reducing blood flow to the limbs and skin.  

*ahem, we mean freezing.  

----- Second, how cold does the water have to be? 

Before picturing glacial, hypothermia-level ice water, chill out knowing that studies suggest a targeted cold temperate of 68°F is perfect to reap the benefits of cold showers.  

Speaking of benefits... 

Cold Showers Impact:

  • Circulation 

Since cold water exposure influences the dilation of blood vessels, cold showers have the power to promote better circulation. After constricting during cold exposure, blood flow increases once the shower is over and triggers the circulatory system to get moving. That means reduced inflammation, better lymphatic draining, and easier elimination of waste. Circulation carries oxygen, blood, and nutrients through the entire body, and this system as a whole gets a major boost.

Also, when the body must warm itself up, the immune system activates and releases white blood cells. One study found that participants who took cold showers had fewer sick days at work.  

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  • Skin 

Once the goosebumps go away, your skin after a cold shower may progressively appear younger, as cold water closes pores. It's superficial, but we're here for it.  

  • Respiration 

Aka, your breath. Now this is cool: immediately upon entering a cold shower, your heart rate goes up. This forces you to take deep, slow breaths, thereby decreasing the level of CO2 running through the body and concentrating the mind. Slow, focused breathing... hmm, sounds familiar. People practicing meditation know this is the most common principle of the exercise. In fact, those who take cold showers say they promote mindfulness and act as a type of meditation.  

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  • Adrenaline 

Cold water is a shock to the body, and that's actually a good thing. By releasing adrenalin, the body can build its tolerance and adapt to stress stimulus. Regularly taking cold showers trains the body to cope better and faster when faced with a stressful condition. This could mean unexpected stressors throughout the day don't phase you as much or flood the body with hormones.  

The bump of adrenaline from cold water also creates a focused sense of alertness that some say is comparable to a cup of coffee. Plus, once you step out of the shower your brain fills with endorphins while blood flow increases to promote sensations of warmth and contentment.  

  • Depression 

Researchers suggest taking cold showers may be somewhat prehistoric, but experiencing this evolutionary stress can help ease symptoms of depression. One study presented that a factor of depression is caused by "A lifestyle that lacks certain physiological stressors that have been experienced by primates through millions of years of evolution, such as brief changes in body temperature (e.g. cold swim)... and this lack of "thermal exercise" may cause inadequate functioning of the brain." 

Participants were subjected to cold showers and the researchers found it effective to relieve depressive symptoms with no side effects or risk of dependency. How? Exposure to cold water activated the sympathetic nervous system and increased blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline. Due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, lending to an anti-depressive effect. 

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  • Testosterone & Fertility 

Both are debated, but some sources and experts suggest cold showers increase both testosterone and fertility among men. We suggest doing your own research on these topics since cold showers alone should not be relied upon to boost either. But you know what they say about hot water and swimmers... 

  • Brown Fat 

Brown fat is often dubbed the 'good' fat we want more of because it's a type of fat tissue that generates energy by burning calories. And we all want to burn more calories. The famed cold water therapy method, Wim Hof Method, has done research that indicates exposure to the cold in general increases the metabolism and generates brown fat.  

ice wtf GIF by Cheezburger

  • Muscle Soreness 

We've seen or heard about athletes sitting in ice baths to promote recovery, we'll give it a (modified) go with a cold shower. Getting your body into cold water following a workout decreases perceived muscle soreness and immediately lowers heart rate and skin temp.

So, are you willing to freeze a little to gain a lot?