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Published on June 23, 2021

How To Take a Cold Shower For the Best Health Benefits

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How To Take a Cold Shower For the Best Health Benefits

Cold showers were considered beneficial as early as 1600 B.C.[1] However, thanks in part to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab on Netflix, The Wim Hof Method brought the benefits of cold showers into mainstream American media.

Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, is known for his ability to tolerate extreme temperatures. He credits this ability to a series of breathing exercises, meditation, and exposure to cold temperatures.[2] One study suggests that the Wim Hof Method leads to a release of brain chemicals, which result in decreased sensitivity to cold and increased feelings of euphoria.[3]

However, the benefits of mindfulness and breathing exercises are already widely known while less is known about the benefits of cold exposure. So, is there any merit to this particular facet of the Wim Hof Method?

This article will focus on cold exposure—the history, benefits, and how to take a cold shower to maximize its benefits.

In ancient Rome, individuals walked through multiple heated rooms that culminated in a dip into a cold pool. This practice is called “frigidarium.” It is still practiced today in spas and saunas.[4]

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In Finland and Norway, it is also a common practice for individuals to intermittently expose themselves to cold temperatures while sauna bathing. Individuals may do so by stepping outside during cold weather, sitting in the snow, or taking a cold shower. In warmer weather, individuals may step into ice-water between sunbathing. For instance, during five to fifteen minutes of sunbathing, they may step into ice-water three to five times for five seconds or longer.[5]

In Russia, individuals celebrate an event called “Epiphany” by swimming in the cold. In the Orthodox Calendar, Jesus was baptized on January 19th. Therefore, to recognize this date’s significance, individuals will plunge themselves into ice-holes three times. To prepare for this, they take cold showers every day for a week leading up to the event.[6]

Moreover, winter swimming is commonly practiced in countries such as Lithuania, Finland, Poland, Denmark, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.[7] How is that for an extreme sport?

The Dark History of Cold Showers

Conversely, in the early 1700s, cold showers were reserved for individuals with mental disorders. At that time, mania was believed to be a condition that could boil the blood and the brain, and a cool shower appeared to be the natural cure.[8]

By the 1800s, mental illness was believed to be caused by inflammation, but cold showers remained a treatment of choice in mental asylums. Unfortunately, this resulted in treatments designed to shock individuals with intense water pressure and prolonged cold exposure.

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Fortunately, by the 1900s, these practices were abandoned, but the rising concern of hygiene led to the development of the showers utilized today. Nearly 150 years after they were developed for use in asylums, showers become a mainstay of modern hygiene practices.[9]

The Benefits of Cold Exposure

Here are three main benefits of cold exposure or taking cold showers to your overall health.

1. Fewer Sick Days

A study found that individuals who take cold showers take 29% fewer sick days than those who do not. This shocking statistic can be achieved in as little as 30 seconds of cold water exposure for 30 days. Nevertheless, the individuals were not sick any less, they just tolerated it better.[10]

2. Improved Appearance of Skin and Hair

Cold showers may also help to improve the appearance of your skin and hair. How does it work? Exposure to cold constricts blood flow, leading to a glow. Furthermore, cold water helps keep the skin hydrated, giving it a better appearance.[11]

3. Increased Well-Being

Exposure to cold water may also have an impact on your mental health. In a case study on cold swimming, one woman was able to decrease her use of anti-depressants and eventually replace them entirely with cold swimming. However, this is just one example. Further research is needed to support the use of cold therapy for the treatment of depression.[12]

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Regular winter swimming is associated with decreases in fatigue, tension, and negative mood states. It has also been linked with decreased pain for individuals diagnosed with rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma. In the general population, winter swimming is linked with increased well-being.[13]

How to Take a Cold Shower for the Best Health Benefits

Cold showers have been around for centuries, both as a cultural and medical practice. However, there is limited research that suggests the right way to shower to obtain the most health benefits. Therefore, this is not a prescribed approach. This is simply a suggestion as you begin to experiment with cold showers, and the effects may vary from individual to individual.

While the evidence is limited, there are many cultural practices in place for individuals curious about cold showers, bathing, and swimming. Many spas may offer hot and cold water therapies as a form of relaxation. Furthermore, many individuals around the world enjoy sitting in hot and cold springs. Yet, one does not need to travel to experience this for themselves. Try it for yourself: simply turn down the dial during your next shower and see how you react to cold exposure.

Taking a Cold Shower for Fewer Sick Days

Here’s a very simple three-step guide to taking a cold shower.

  1. Take a shower at your usual temperature.
  2. At the end of the shower, turn the faucet to cold and remain under the cold water for at least 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat this practice daily for at least 30 days.

That is it. This method may help decrease your sick days by 29%. To further increase the odds to 54%, you could also try adding regular exercise into your routine.[14]

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Contraindications

Cold showers are not an adequate replacement for mental health or medical treatment. Furthermore, individuals with underlying medical or mental health conditions should consult their medical professionals before engaging in cold showering.

Conclusion

Ultimately, there is no prescribed empirically-based method for the benefits of cold showers. Research is still inconclusive when it comes to most of the major benefits of cold showers. Nevertheless, many individuals who practice this technique swear by the benefits.

The Wim Hof Method is just one example of cold exposure gaining momentum in the health and wellness industry. In fact, this practice has been around for centuries, and it is clearly here to stay.

While research still needs time to catch up, there is only way one to find out what works best for you. Give it a try, turn down the dial, and turn your shower into a day at the spa. You have as little as 30 seconds to lose and potentially a lot more to gain!

More Benefits of Taking a Cold Shower

Featured photo credit: kevin Baquerizo via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Olivia Schnur

Olivia is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher. She writes about healing, health and happiness.

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Published on December 15, 2021

What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

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What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

Having quality nutrition every day is key to staying healthy and fit. Many people wonder if taking supplements is needed to supply their needs. The answer to this question lies in a lot of factors. Here’s the thing: there is no black and white approach when it comes to taking supplements, but if you’ve been wondering whether you need supplements or not, I will help clarify some of your concerns.

Sometimes, having too many options of supplements on the market can be overwhelming. If you’re still asking yourself what supplements to take, then keep reading.

What Supplements Should I Take?

When you reach for that bottle of vitamins or fish oil, for example, you wonder if any of these will work and if they are safe. Well, the main thing you should be asking yourself is if you need them in the first place. And the truth is, there are tons of supplements for different needs.

Our body requires all the necessary nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fat, and fiber every day. The best source for these nutrients is real food. Nothing beats having a balanced lifestyle that includes quality whole foods. But the reality is that most people are not meeting the minimum requirements of certain nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.

Even with fiber, people struggle to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, for instance. That’s why you can see many symptoms like digestive issues and lack of energy.

Supplements come into the picture to help your body meet all the necessary nutrients. They also help avoid any deficiency. Supplements can even strengthen your body and enhance your metabolism. There are many benefits of taking supplements. The answer to whether you’ll need to take them depends on many other things.

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Should I Invest in Supplements?

Before I suggest a list of the types of supplements you should take, this is what you should bear in mind. Supplements are just an aid to a healthy eating lifestyle. In other words, you should always aim to eat healthier, vary your plate, and have enough whole foods in your diet. That is crucial to ensure that you are meeting at least the minimum nutrient requirements.

You shouldn’t invest in supplements to get your main nutrition. Always focus on quality foods before you supplement your diet. Now, supplements can reinforce what you’re lacking in your eating lifestyle. Because of that, I love to always have some sort of multivitamin complex.

In general, if you have a proper eating lifestyle, it’s not mandatory to invest in supplements. However, there are specific cases, for example, pregnant women, in which we recommend taking supplements. Always make sure that you check with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any form of supplement.

Why Do I Need Supplements? Which Ones Are Important?

Below are the most common reasons why you may need to take supplements and which ones you should try.

1. Restricting Eating Lifestyles

As a nutritionist, I rarely recommend anyone going through a restrictive diet. In fact, I discourage it altogether. The best thing is that you embrace a balanced eating lifestyle since this is the way to ensure you stay at a healthy weight and have a good metabolism. That’s the reason why I don’t like removing entire food groups from people’s diets.

However, I also understand diverse eating lifestyles. For example, there is a vast majority of people that are actively changing to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re a raw vegan or strictly plant-based, you may need to supplement certain vitamins. Because animal foods like dairy, certain meats, and poultry have essential vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and folic acid, then you may have less intake of these in plant-based foods. There is much debate in this area related to plant-based diets, but basically, experts recommend taking supplements.

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As I said about restrictive diets, eliminating entire food groups can cause you to suffer certain problems like lack of energy, constipation, less muscle, and lower brain function.[1] Before you try any type of diet out there, make sure you have a better relationship with food and check with a health professional. Overall, a good multivitamin complex should be good enough to supply all your needs. Go for the ones that provide vitamin B complex and minerals like iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

2. Reinforcing Nutrient Intake

It’s true that eating the right foods is essential for your body. Apart from that, certain processed foods, like dairy, cereals, and others are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals. Take advantage of these types of healthy foods as well.

If you feel like you could lack a certain nutrient, then taking multivitamins is a good option. Not only because it will help you meet your goals, but it will also ensure that your body has more energy and better performance. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with taking a supplement to reinforce your healthy eating lifestyle. Apart from multivitamins, you could also take fiber supplements in case you struggle with digestive issues or you feel like you’re not eating enough plant-based foods.

3. Special Conditions

There are certain cases or stages in life when you may need to take supplements. For instance, pregnant women require higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron and folic acid.[2] Elderly people should also consume some supplements since their body absorbs less nutrients compared to younger people.[3] That’s why certain protein drinks, multivitamins, and omega-3 are prescribed to this age group. Also, people who have certain chronic health problems or underwent surgery may need supplements.

Women going through menopause are also often required to take supplements.[4] If you belong to this age group, you may need to talk to your doctor about supplements to balance off your hormone levels. Remember that not all supplements are made equally, and some ingredients may have side effects. This is especially true if you’re on prescriptions. Always check first.

4. Fitness Goals

Who doesn’t want to boost their fitness results? People that train at the gym often ask if they need to have protein supplements. It all goes down to the basics: eat healthily and put that as a priority. However, you can also take supplements based on your goals.

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Whether you want to burn some fat, build muscle, or are an athlete, supplements can reinforce and speed up your results. But here’s the thing: you should always do it the right way and not rely only on supplements for fitness results. Everything goes hand in hand, and it’s a matter of balance and moderation.

Now, here are some supplements you can take to improve your muscle performance, growth, and fat burn:[5]

  • Whey protein
  • L-glutamine
  • Branch chain amino acids
  • Multi-vitamin complex and fish oil
  • MCT oil

These supplements, coupled with a good diet, help provide steady muscle development, shed fat, and keep a healthy metabolism for better results. You have to be active to see their benefits, though. This will ensure your body is using up the nutrients effectively and not stored as fat.

There are some other great supplements made to boost energy levels and increase muscle efficiency. Here are some examples:[6]

  • Guaraná
  • Gingko biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline

These are natural energy boosters. Caffeine also does a good job when it comes to improving your energy levels. These supplements should be a compliment to a healthy diet, or if you struggle with low energy performance when working out.

Speaking of energy, sometimes, simple lifestyle habits like sleeping better can make a huge difference in how you feel. So, make sure you are also working on these other areas of your life and not relying exclusively on supplements.

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5. Beauty and Self-Care

You can also find supplements for personal care. Some help to enhance your skin health, others are for hair and nails growth.

For example, collagen and multivitamins are commonly used for beauty and skincare. Because collagen is our skin’s main protein, we need to ensure our body has enough to stay glowing and healthy. Collagen also has powerful effects on skin beauty and anti-aging. You can easily add this protein to your drinks and foods to enhance your own skin’s collagen.[7]

If you didn’t know, adding collagen to your regimen after you’re 25 can help slow down the effects of aging. At that age, our skin produces less collagen, and we lose skin elasticity. Therefore, it’s a nice addition to your supplements and skincare routine.

Final Thoughts

You should always aim to have a healthy eating regimen before thinking about what supplements you need. Second, assess what are your lifestyle and health goals. Also, determine if your health and/or fitness condition requires you to add supplements.

Remember that your objective is to get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If your diet lacks any of these, look for an assessment on how to get these nutrients.

More Tips on Taking Supplements

Featured photo credit: Mika Baumeister via unsplash.com

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Reference

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