The idea of regularly exposing yourself to icy cold temperatures has long been promoted by Wim Hof, nicknamed the “Iceman.”
Most of us don’t have access to icy cold water or a home ice bath, but cold showers can help achieve the same.
There are several benefits to be gained from having regular cold showers, including boosting your immune system, providing mental clarity and increasing your metabolism but perhaps one of the more surprising benefits is stress management and building stronger willpower.
It takes guts and courage to plunge into icy cold water or having it pour all over your body, but by overcoming the fear of being uncomfortable and facing acute stress (in the form of the freezing cold water), you can learn to better handle the physiological symptoms that your body experiences when you are under stress or scared, such as increased heart rate, shaking and racing thoughts. Overcoming the urge to shy away from the uncomfortable can cultivate willpower and mental strength.
Cold water exposure can benefit people suffering from anxiety and depression as the freezing cold water causes the body to release endorphins and increase electrical impulses, which have been seen to have some antidepressant effects. People have also reported an increase in perceived mental clarity and focus when having regular cold showers.
Several studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the number of white blood cells in your body. The white blood cells protect your body against infections. This is possibly due to an increased metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response.
How to initiate the exposure to cold showers
Start out slowly; begin with just 30 seconds per day and as you get used to the exposure of the cold water, increase it to 2-3 minutes or more over a period of time.
If 30 seconds is your maximum, do that. Remember it is better to do a little exposure than none at all. As you expose yourself to something uncomfortable you’ll teach your body and mind to be resilient. Alternatively, do short bursts of 30 seconds 4-5 times when showering, this can be less daunting than continuous exposure lasting minutes.
How cold should the water be? Aim for around 10-15 degrees Celsius. I simply turn on the cold water and whatever comes out that day, that is the temperature we are doing, keep it simple.
When you shouldn’t take a cold shower
- Any pre-existing heart or respiratory issues
- Avoid cold showers if you have the flu or a cold
- Being underweight
- If unsure please see your doctor about taking cold showers
Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body.
Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression.
Brown adipose tissue oxidative metabolism contributes to energy expenditure during acute cold exposure in humans.