Are Cold Showers Good for You? Experts Weigh In
by Erica Garza
Many of us shudder at the thought of a cold shower, even though people have been reaping its health benefits for centuries. Ancient Spartans believed the practice prepared their minds and bodies for battle, while Victorians were prescribed cold showers for ailments ranging from bruises to hysteria. Despite this history, scientists hadn’t studied the health benefits of cold showers extensively until fairly recently, and these studies only confirm what humans have suspected all along—there’s a lot of good in bathing cold. If you’ve been asking yourself if cold showers are good for you, here are some of the reasons why researchers say, yes.
When cold water hits your body, it causes your blood to circulate at faster rates to maintain an ideal body temperature. For people with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, this can result in reduced inflammation and can even help promote cardiovascular health. Alternating between hot and cold water can intensify this process. Athletes claim the practice helps them recover from exercise faster.
Stronger Immune System
Researchers in the Netherlands found a correlation between cold showers and fewer sick days, suggesting that the practice can strengthen our immunity. Participants who took cold showers for at least 30 seconds a day for one month called in sick 29 percent less than the control group, and two-thirds of participants continued to take them after the study. A similar study in England found that cold showers increased the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells.
Radiant Skin and Shiny Hair
Wellness expert Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, says that cold water tightens the pores and constricts blood flow, which gives your skin and hair a healthier glow. It can also flatten cuticles and lock in moisture to prevent hair breakage. For those who suffer from sensitive skin or eczema, cold water can help relieve itching and have a soothing effect. New York-based dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Michelle Henry, MD told Well + Good, “Hot water strips the skin of moisture, which can lead to dryness and the exacerbation of eczema.”
Cold temperatures activate the brown fat in the body, which keeps the body warm by burning calories. Not only can this increase your energy and metabolism, but it can also help control blood sugar, which may reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes. A 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that a cold shower a day could make you lose up to nine pounds a year. If you consider how much money some spend on gym memberships and weight loss supplements, cold showers may be the most budget-friendly lifestyle change you make this year.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.