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Is it Time to Brave the Cold (Showers)?

Is it Time to Brave the Cold (Showers)?

If you’ve been on social media recently, it’s likely you’ve seen a celebrity dunking themselves into a bath of ice. While you may have dismissed this as another unappealing wellness craze (think celery juice and apple cider vinegar shots) that’s definitely not for you – we’re here to try and persuade you otherwise.
Where has the cold water craze come from?

Despite seeming like a recent trend, cold-water therapy has actually been around for centuries, with Thomas Jefferson even reportedly using a cold foot bath every morning to maintain his good health[i].

While some people have been enjoying the natural high of cold water for years, it’s only recently that it’s been brought into the mainstream, with the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna sharing videos of themselves submerged in icy water.

What are the benefits of cold water therapy?

Unlike many celebrity wellness fads, cold water therapy has multiple benefits which are actually backed by science. From reducing muscle soreness to boosting immunity, there’s bound to be a benefit for you.

Reduced muscle soreness

Submerging the muscles in cold water after exercise is advocated by athletes and their coaches alike to help speed up their recovery. Often referred to as hydrotherapy, immersing the muscles in cold water after exercise has been shown to reduce soreness[ii]. So why not try hopping into a cold shower after your next workout to both cool you down and help your recovery – double win!

 

Improved mood

Anecdotally, people talk of the ‘natural high’ that they get after braving the cold water, and many people insist on starting their day with a cold shower in order to boost their mood. While the thought of getting in a cold shower first thing on a Monday morning might feel counterintuitive, there’s research to support these mood-boosting benefits, with one study finding that taking short, cold showers decreased depressive symptoms in participants[iii].

Energy enhancement

Early mornings and hectic schedules leave a lot of us relying on countless cups of coffee to wake us up and keep us going throughout the busy days. But could cold showers help us to cut back on caffeine? Some research found that the most common beneficial effect of cold showers reported by participants was increased energy levels – with some even comparing it to the energy enhancing effects of coffee[iv]. So next time you’re feeling brave, try swapping your morning coffee for a cold shower (or just have both!).

Immunity boosting

Immunity is somewhat of a hot topic these days, and some research suggests that cold water therapy could help to stimulate your body’s immune system and improve its ability to fight off illness[v]. This study found that participants who used cold water immersion - alongside other techniques such as meditation and deep breathing - experienced less symptoms when exposed to a bacterial infection.

What’s the best way to start?

If we’ve convinced you that the benefits of cold water therapy are worth giving it a go (we hope we have), then you might be wondering what’s the best way to start?

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be extreme - there are easy ways to make cold water therapy fit your lifestyle, without getting a plunge pool installed in the garden! Our Nutritionist, Sarah-Jane, is a recent convert to cold showers and shares her 3 simple steps to easing your way in on episode 3 of her Wonderful Wellness Series. Click the link here to view the full video on our Instagram!

 

References -
[i] Tipton, M.J., Collier, N., Massey, H., Corbett, J. and Harper, M. (2017) Cold water immersion: kill or cure? Experimental Physiology.
[ii] Yeung, S.S., Ting, K.H., Hon, M., Fung, N.Y., Choi, M.M., Cheng, J.C. and Yeung, E.W. (2016) Effects of cold water immersion on muscle oxygenation during repeated bouts of fatiguing exercise. Medicine, 95(1).
[iii] Shevchuk, N.A. (2008) Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses, 70(5) pp. 995-1001.
[iv] Buijze, G.A., Sierevelt, I.N., van der Heijden, B.C.J.M., Dijkgraaf, M.G. and Frings-Dresen, M.H.W. (2016) The effect of cold showering on health and work: a randomized controlled trial. Plos One, 11(9).
[v] Kox, M., van Eijk, L.T., Zwaag, J., van den Wildenberg, J., Sweep, F.C.G.J., van der Hoeven, J.G. and Pickkers, P. (2014) Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(2) pp. 7379-7384.
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