The benefits of daily cold-water submersion, why you should do it and how to ease into it.
The concept of freezing yourself for 3-5 minutes a day either in a cold shower or in a cold tub seems like lunacy, but after adopting the practice and making it part of my daily routine, I feel better than ever. I had first heard of this practice years ago while listening to a podcast. As I listened in disbelief, the podcasters continued to discuss the health, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory benefits all from just jumping into a cold pool. As I heard further and started to conduct my research, it became more apparent to me that the adherence to a daily cold shower (or cold tub) routine can have many positive health benefits and help to slow down the aging process.
The combination of this with other protocols such as intermittent fasting, saunas, and photobiomodulation (red light) can having a significant impact as well. The overall response on mitochondrial (part of a cell that creates energy) density, cellular autophagy (mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components), and autonomic nervous systems response (better management of stress) can be profound. But a freezing cold shower?? After doing even more research on the topic, I found the benefits to be too great to not give Cold Thermogenesis a try.
These benefits include:
- Increase in fat loss (increase in metabolic rate) – The cold shower stimulates the generation of brown fat explicitly. Brown stores energy in a smaller space than white fat. Packed with mitochondria, when brown fat burns, it creates heat without shivering. This process, referred to as Thermogenesis, allows for brown fat to also burn more calories. “Exposing your body to cool and even cold temperatures may help recruit more brown fat cells. Some research has suggested that just two hours of exposure each day to temperatures around 66˚F (19˚C) may be enough to turn recruitable fat to brown.” – Healthline.com
- Improvement in Immunity – Studies have shown that cold showers can increase white blood cell counts in the body, helping to bolster the immune system. “A study in the journal PLoS OneTrusted Source found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school.” – MedicalNewsToday.com
- Better Circulation – Allows for increased blood flow to organs in an effort to stay warm.
- Drainage of the Lymphatic System – Cold showers have been shown in research to boost the functioning of this system, which is responsible for eliminating waste from cells, potentially reducing the risk of infection.
- It can help with emotional issues and depression – daily exposure to these cold showers can create a higher level of resiliency for both the body and the mind. “Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy could relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively.” – Link to Study Here. “Taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week, was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression in a clinical trial.”
- Stress Management and Resiliency – The exposure to cold water increases the response of both the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. The chronic exposure to the stress of the cold water will create better adaptations to stressful situations throughout the day, mitigating the potential for increased and chronic stress hormone elevation – which can lead to long term inflammation. This chronic inflammation is one the things attributed to chronic disease.
- Better Sleep Quality – According to – SleepAdvisor.org, “When immersed in cold water, the body naturally tries to warm up.” This can create a natural state of calm enhancing sleep quality.
- Better Skin and Hair – The adherence to a cold water ritual can strengthen hairs’ grip to the scalp and make it shiner. It also helps in the treatment of oily skin and in reducing pore size. “The benefits of taking a cold shower not only give better health but also make people look better. Ice cold water can help reduce the risk of losing too many natural oils on the skin and hair.” – Dermatologist Jessica Krant
- A decrease in Systemic Inflammation – Everyday in life, we are met with stress. This stress can create a negative feedback loop that will, in turn, develop hormonal responses for us to manage this stress on a mental, physical, and cellular level. The long term effects of systemic inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancers, and other chronic disease. Exposure to a cold environment daily has been shown to decrease the inflammatory effects of these stressors.
- Better Than a Cup of Coffee – Taking a cold shower can cause an increase in energy to start the day that not even the most robust cup of coffee can surpass!
Once I realized that this practice had much more intrinsic properties than just “developing mental strength,” I decided to follow through and start daily cold showers (and still going a couple of years later). Now, here is the key, and I cannot stress this enough… Ease into it!
I always start with a warm shower to clean up and then gradually shift the nozzle to colder and colder water. Once I hit a point where it temporarily takes my breath away, I start my 3-minute (you can start with 1 minute and build to 3 and so on) timer. Throughout the three minutes, I continually rotate, allowing for the water to hit my entire body. In the end, I turn the water to as cold as I can manage and let it run on the top of my head for another 30 seconds and boom! Done and feeling great!
This simple act has changed my life to the point where I look forward to jumping in a cold shower daily (never thought I’d say that). I feel better than I have in years, less inflammation, and ache (even with hard training), the skin is tighter, and I am sleeping better now than I have in a long time. With that, always remember that this should be part of a much broader picture of health, wellness, and fitness.
So if you are looking for the next step in creating a better life for yourself in only three minutes a day, jump in the shower, make it cold and shiver your way to better health!
Yours In Fitness,
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
CEO/Owner – Black Flag Athletics
Great article Tom
Thank a Tom!