When your body is dripping sweat after your regular workout, what’s the first thought that strikes your mind?
Relaxing in that hot tub with foam wrapping you up, or just standing loose under the shower, eyes closed, while warm water trickles down your skin, feels heavenly. Those strained and sore muscles find some bit of relaxation, helping you ooze out stress.
Yes, it seems kind of perfect, I know. When you can avail the luxury of a steam bath, you wouldn’t want to probably even consider otherwise. However, sometimes going otherwise is good. In fact, in this case, remarkably healthy!
The very mention of the word ‘cold’ might shock your nerves, but then, a cold shower bears tons of gifts you couldn’t possibly imagine. What more, its works even better for you, if you decide to go for one post workout.
Improves Blood Circulation
To begin with, lets explore the science behind a hot bath. When you take a warm shower, your skin absorbs the heat protecting it from overheating your body organs which is why your muscles relax as your blood runs through the skin.
However, when you splash cold water in your skin, your body immediately circulates blood to your internal organs in an attempt to warm them up from the cold shock. When exposed to cold water, our arteries and veins tighten,and the process is called vasoconstriction.
When this happens, your blood pressure increases forcing it to circulate through the entire body, thus improving overall circulation.
Acts as Natural Immune Booster
Regular cold showers make you more immune to common cold and infections. Researchers conducted a study among young athletic men who were immersed in cold water(14 degrees) three times for a period of six weeks.
They witnessed significant increase in white blood cells, particularly lymphocytes and monocytes, both integral part of our immune system.
These blood cells protect us from harmful foreign toxins as well as remove dead, dying cells from our blood, making us less prone to common illness.
The same study also observes that, cold water induces gentle stress which speeds up our metabolic rate due to the body’s attempt to warm itself up. It, thus, activates our immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.
Promotes Muscle Recovery
Many athletes have taken recourse to cold water therapy to help their muscles recover faster post performance or a practice.
I came across two unique studies which confirmed this effect.
The first study I came across was performed among a group of soccer players after a match by dividing into a team of two. The first team of players immersed in water of thermoneutral temperature(35 degrees),while the second team were immersed in cold water (10 degrees). As a result, the later reported faster muscle damage and discomfort contributing to speedy recovery.
Another group of researchers conducted experiments to investigate the alternative hot- cold water treatment for muscle and injury recovery among athletes, and they affirmed that immersion in cold and ice water led to delayed onset of muscle soreness and faster recovery.
So, the bottom line is that, jump into a cold shower as soon as you’re done with your workout and make it a habit so as to heal your body faster.
Lifts Your Mood And Wakes You Up
Feeling tired, lazy, or just not in the right mood? Why not take a cold bath?
Researchers say, when your body receives a cold shock, it stimulates your nervous system. and sends electrical impulses to the brain and activates noradrenaline, a chemical in the brain, claimed to have an anti-depressive effect.
A cold shower rescues from your reverie making you feel more refreshed than before. With that initial shock your body gets when it is hit by the cold water splash, you are forced to breathe more deeply. This raises your heart rate and leads to increased blood flow through your body, thus making you feel more energized.
For me, its like a natural alarm clock, that tiny machine doesn’t do me any good, as my fingers automatically hit the snooze button, but then jumping into a cold shower leave me no choice to wake up!
Gives You Healthy Skin and Hair
Hot water dries our skin and promotes hair loss.I guess you know this already. But do you know that a cold shower,has the exact opposite effect?
It also tightens our hair cuticles making them stronger and prevents dirt from accumulating in the scalp thus, promoting healthy hair growth.
In case, you are one of those who find natural comfort in a hot steamy bath, and do not really like the idea of the cold water splash, take one step at a time.
Before jumping into a cold bath, shower with room temperature water, and then switch to relatively cold. In no time, your body will get used to it because that’s how it works. Its just those initial few seconds that dazzles you, the rest of your experience is totally worth it.
So, its time that you get rid of your fears and get out of your comfort zone to feel the wonders of the cold. It might even triple your fun the next time you plan a trip to the mountains.
Reference Wilcock, I., Cronin, J., & Hing, W. (2006). Physiological Response to Water Immersion Sports Medicine, 36 (9), 747-765 DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200636090-00003. ^Back to Top^ Janský, L., Pospíšilová, D., Honzová, S., Uličný, B., Šrámek, P., Zeman, V., & Kamínková, J. (1996). Immune system of cold-exposed and cold-adapted humans European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 72-72 (5-6), 445-450 DOI: 10.1007/BF00242274. ^Back to Top^ Ascensão, A., Leite, M., Rebelo, A., Magalhäes, S., & Magalhäes, J. (2011). Effects of cold water immersion on the recovery of physical performance and muscle damage following a one-off soccer match Journal of Sports Sciences, 29 (3), 217-225 DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2010.526132. ^Back to Top^ Vaile J, Halson S, Gill N, & Dawson B (2008). Effect of hydrotherapy on the signs and symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. European journal of applied physiology, 102 (4), 447-55 PMID: 17978833. ^Back to Top^