This Free 30-Second Hack is a Game-Changer for Your Well-Being

While I’m not one to turn down a trendy supplement here and a pricey wellness treatment there, it’s a breath of fresh air when something I’m already doing on the regular is good for my health. Case in point: taking a shower. It’s second nature, a part of my daily routine, and I’ve taken countless long, steamy showers to relax and wash off the day. On the other hand, I’d think twice about standing under freezing cold water—just the thought of it has me saying, “Hard pass.” But what if I told you immersing yourself in frigid temperatures can pay off, thanks to the psychological and physical health perks it delivers? Instead of taking the (cold) plunge (think: having to buy an ice bath or step foot into a whole-body cryotherapy chamber), all you need is 30 to 90 seconds in a cold shower to reap the benefits of cold therapy. Read on for the benefits of cold showers and how to make the most of them, according to experts.

What are the benefits of cold showers?

Boost mood, alertness, and energy

Because cold water activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system (AKA the “fight-or-flight” response), you may experience an increase in endorphins, the hormones that help reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being. Dr. Wenus Ho, a family physician, also pointed out that the response to cold water can increase heart rate, oxygen intake, and mental alertness. And studies have found that regularly taking cold showers may aid in increasing energy levels, likening their effect to drinking caffeine.

Whether or not you’ve actually experienced a cold shower, you’re in for a shock to your system, but in the best possible way. A study discovered that due to the many cold receptors in the skin, cold hydrotherapy sends signals to the brain that can help relieve depressive symptoms. In other words, a quick jolt of cold water while you’re rinsing off just may fill your cup.

Support immunity

“[Cold showers] are known to stimulate the body’s cardiovascular system, leading to increased circulation and subsequently a strengthened immune system,” explained Dr. Gregory Gasic, a biomedical research advisor, neuroscientist, and co-founder of VMeDx. More blood flow means more blood cells that help to fight infection are carried by the bloodstream.

A 2016 study showed that participants who took a cold shower for 30-, 60-, or 90-seconds for 30 consecutive days had a 29 percent reduction in the number of days they called in sick for work compared to those who didn’t take any cold showers at all; however, the duration of their sickness was not shortened. The researchers concluded that cold showers might make a person’s illness feel less severe, allowing them to continue with their daily activities.

Help to enhance circulation and reduce muscle soreness

When cold water switches on the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, your body perceives a threat and goes into survival mode to prepare you to stay and fight or flee from the situation, and increased blood circulation goes to the muscles and organs. “Increasing circulation redistributes blood and delivers freshly oxygenated blood to areas of the body that need to recover,” Dr. Hame shared with UCLA Health.

So the next time you shower after a strength-training session, do your soon-to-be sore muscles a favor and turn the cold dial up to help flush out inflammation—a cause of muscle soreness. “[The increased circulation] decreases the time it takes your muscles to recover after exercise,” Dr. Hame continued.

Help to improve skin and hair health

Dr. Ho stated that because cold water can help to tighten skin cuticles and pores, it may prevent them from getting clogged and turning into acne. It also promotes closing the hair cuticles, trapping in moisture and nutrients while keeping out dirt and bacteria, Dr. Harikiran Chekuri, MBBS, MS, a certified dermatologist, medical head of ClinicSpots, and founder of Redefine Clinic told Shape. Finally, cold water, unlike hot water, doesn’t dry out the sebum layer, a naturally lubricated barrier that provides protection for your skin and hair. Overall, the result is a softer, smoother, and brighter skin complexion and hair sheen (bye, pimples and frizz).

What is the best way to take a cold shower?

How long does it have to be?

Put simply, you don’t want to go cold turkey on the practice. Dr. Ho recommended starting with short durations (about 30 seconds) and gradually increasing to two to five minutes as you become more accustomed. Go about your regular hot shower, or consider starting with lukewarm water, then try slowly decreasing the temperature to end your session with cold water. Based on the aforementioned 2016 study, standing under cold water for anywhere between 30 to 90 seconds can have a positive impact.

How cold does it have to be?

The ideal temperature is generally around 10-20 degrees Celsius. Since most of us don’t have a thermometer in the shower, use your best judgment and make the temperature as cold as you can tolerate. Dr. Gasic advised that it should be really cold but still bearable. However, he warned that everyone’s tolerance is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

How often do you have to do it?

While daily cold showers are the most beneficial, Dr. Ho said even a few times a week can be advantageous. If you’re new to cold therapy, start with once a week and gently work your way up to two times a week, then three, and so on.

Is morning or night better?

Although taking a cold shower first thing in the morning can help wake you up, cold therapy scientists recommend partaking in the ritual in the afternoon or evenings for best results. “Since our core body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, we are most sensitive to the cold in the morning when the core body temperature is at its lowest,” Dr. Majdoline Jayoushe, a specialist in internal medicine, told Vogue.

What are the potential risks of cold showers?

While cold showers can lead to a host of benefits, they aren’t without potential downfalls. If the water is too cold, you’re exposed to cold water too long, or you’re not acclimated to the cold, Dr. Ho cautioned that it could lead to hypothermia and symptoms like shivering and confusion.

Those with other heart-related ailments, lung issues, and who are pregnant should also approach cold therapy with caution and consult a healthcare professional before proceeding. The point of taking cold showers is to feel better, so if you find the experience too stressful or uncomfortable, Dr. Gasic added that it could outweigh the potential health benefits. As such, it’s crucial to listen to your body and consult with a doctor if you’re unsure.

Please consult a doctor or a mental health professional before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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