(AscendHealthy.com) – There are plenty of jokes about taking a cold shower, but it turns out that it really can be beneficial for all sorts of reasons. Runners often use the technique to cool off in hot weather, and showering in colder water might help your brain, too. But how cold is too cold and what do you need to know to get the biggest benefits?
Read Up On All the Ways a Cold Shower Might Help Your Health.
1. A Pre-Workout Cold Shower May Keep Your Body Temperature Lower
When you start working out with a lower-body temperature, you can help reduce your risk of heat-related illness. For people who frequently run or work out in hot weather, taking a cold shower before beginning their workout can make a big difference in how far their body temperature rises at the peak of their physical exertion. Exercise or running performance can also be improved, but the biggest aspects of taking a pre-workout cold shower are the safety and health benefits involved.
2. A Post-Workout Cold Shower Can Reduce Inflammation and Soreness
Putting ice on a sore muscle can help reduce discomfort, and taking a cold shower offers similar benefits. It’s not as significant as the benefits of ice baths, but it can still play an important role in how fast a person recovers from a workout or a run. By reducing body temperature quickly, recovery and healing can begin throughout the body. Muscles will repair themselves faster, and that can also mean less discomfort and soreness — especially for those who aren’t used to working out or who are ramping up their exercise intensity.
3. Vasoconstriction From a Cold Shower Improves Long-Term Circulation
Vasoconstriction means the narrowing of blood vessels. The heart and blood vessels then have to work harder during the constriction, and that helps to make them stronger. Over time, this can improve circulation and make the heart and vascular system stronger and healthier. It can also improve that system’s ability to adapt to changing temperatures and levels of exercise, so working out will be even more beneficial than before and the heart muscle will be strengthened and improved. If you have a history of heart problems or are starting a new workout routine, it’s wise to see your healthcare professional to make sure this is a safe option for you.
4. A Cold Shower Can Mean Better Mental Health
During exposure to a stressor such as cold water, neurotransmitters and hormones shift into high gear. There’s an old adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the theory is to expose yourself to things that would be harmful in large doses but that aren’t so harmful in small doses because of the positive effect this produces in the body. For instance, taking a cold shower as opposed to jumping into a freezing lake. The hormetic response is stimulated by controlled, low-dose stressors like cold water, and can help your brain focus and become more resilient.
5. Taking Cold Showers May Have Positive Effects on Depression
Studies have shown that someone who has depression and who takes a cold shower two or three times per week may see an improvement in their symptoms. These showers can last for up to five minutes each time, and the exposure to cold water will help lower levels of cortisol in the body. Serotonin is also increased from these showers, so you get more “feel good” hormones and lower levels of stress hormones at the same time. There’s an additional benefit, too, in that cold water produces an adrenaline rush that means more norepinephrine in your system — so you get more focus and an energy boost, as well.
How Cold Should the Water Be?
There’s no right or wrong answer as to how cold the water should be. That’s going to differ based on individual people and specific situations. But overall, the colder, the better, and the longer you stand there, the better. Starting slow and building up to colder, longer showers is usually the way to go for most people, as they develop their tolerance to it. If you start to shiver, the water’s probably too cold and you should warm it up a little.
Cold showers offer a number of physical and mental health benefits. Experiment with times and temperatures to find the cold shower combo that works for you.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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