Do you tend to wave it off whenever someone says you should be taking cold showers? Does the mere thought of one give you shivers?
You’re not alone. Warm baths, showers and hot tubs have become synonymous with relaxation and recovery, and many of us refuse to step under the spray unless the water is at least 100 degrees.
But evidence is piling up that turning down the temperature by 30 degrees or more, at least once in a while, can do your body good.
- They’re energizing — Cold showers are obviously great at snapping you to attention when you’re stumbling around in the morning, but it goes beyond the initial physical shock. The cold water causes your surface blood vessels to contract and sends blood toward your vital organs, bringing oxygen and nutrients to support their function and get you firing on all your cylinders.
- They reduce pain — Whether we’re talking delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a workout or other kinds of pain, blood vessel constriction reduces swelling and inflammation around your muscles and tissue, dialing down the signals that would otherwise be communicating your hurt to your brain. This is the main principle behind ice baths used by athletes and cryotherapy chambers.
- They help your skin glow — Your pores constrict along with your blood vessels, leading to a smoother-looking complexion and retention of the natural oils that can be stripped away during a hot shower. Holding on to these oils is particularly important for those with such conditions as eczema and psoriasis because they offer some protection and reduce the itching sensation many feel.
The good news: You don’t have to worry much about forcing yourself to take a cold shower during our winter months — the body already is compensating as needed.
Word of caution: Those with heart disease or high blood pressure should consult a medical professional before trying cold showers because the constriction of blood vessels could worsen existing problems with circulation.