5 Key Benefits of Cold Showers for Health and Wellbeing

5 Key Benefits of Cold Showers for Health and Wellbeing

Brilliantly healthy or just “brr…”? Find out all you need to know about cold showers for anxiety, weight loss, and more.


This page was last updated on March 9, 2021

 

You turn on the shower and step in, but ahh! Cold water!

The first five seconds aren’t too fun. Neither are the next ten. But then…

Your body starts to relax. 

Your skin adapts, with millions of thermoreceptors turning on. 

The cold becomes… okay. Even pleasant. 

You feel alive in this moment. Present. Calm. 

But how can this be, when your body has been taught for so long to resist and run from the cold?

Read today’s guide to discover the key benefits of cold showers, as well as a science-backed process for getting started — the Wim Hof Method.

Here’s what we’ll cover in the blog, just in case if you want to scroll to the section that is most relevant to you:

Are Cold Showers Good for You?

Yes indeed! Cold showers are an essential part of the Wim Hof Method

Aside from the mental resilience that a regular cold immersion practice can bring you, other core benefits of cold showers include:

 

  • Helps with metabolism
  • Improves circulation
  • Releases endorphins
  • Soothes muscles
  • Supports the immune system

 

And the benefits don’t end there! If you go through the research, you’ll find that cold showers can aid your wellbeing in a number of ways.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, these showers can be both soothing and energizing for your mind, body, and spirit.

For the maximum benefits, it’s best to incorporate cold showers into your daily routine. As this takes strength and dedication, Wim advises to gradually build up the duration and intensity. 

If you have no prior experience with cold showers, start with a regular shower and finish the last 30 seconds cold. 

You’ll quickly notice that you’re able to tolerate the cold more and more, and eventually, cold showers and even ice baths become things you look forward to (trust us).

 

Wim enjoying one of his famous cold showers!

Cold Showers vs Hot Showers

Let’s be honest, the idea of a nice, hot shower is a lot easier than embracing the cold. But are hot showers better for you?

Well, hot showers aren’t bad, per se

They can clear the nasal passages and give respiratory relief. And if you live in a cool climate, they can make the transition from getting out of bed to facing the day that bit less intimidating!

Here’s the problem with hot showers, though:

The heated water turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known to make you more tired and sleepy. Zzz.

Plus, hot showers can make the skin dry and itchy, as well as causing blood pressure to rise…

Not ideal for those dealing with blood pressure that’s already high!

On the flip side, cold showers don’t take away the lubricative sebum layer of the skin, so your skin will feel smoother and softer. 

Cold stimulation provides cardiovascular benefits, too. It’s known to boost oxygen intake and lower heart rate, which can assist with reducing stress.

So, if you asked us to cast a vote on the cold showers vs. hot showers debate, which option do you think we’d go for?

Cold is the winner, every time!

Now, let’s take a look at some of the latest research on how cold showers can boost your health and wellbeing. We’ll discuss the implications for promoting immunity, reducing depression, and more.

Health Benefits of Cold Showers

Thousands of people from all over the world already commit to cold showers as part of their daily routines! 

The main benefits reported by people who take cold showers regularly are listed below:

Cold Showers for Anxiety, Depression & Stress

Regularly taking cold showers imposes a small amount of stress on your body, which leads to a process called hardening. This means that your nervous system gradually gets used to handling moderate levels of anxiety or stress. 

The hardening process enhances your ability to keep a cool head, which may be helpful the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation.

Medical research has shown that cold showers (for 2-3 minutes at 20°C) once or twice daily can relieve depressive symptoms. The study concludes:

Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain.

Cold Showers for Alertness, Focus & Willpower

Cold showers wake your body up, inducing a higher state of alertness

The cold also stimulates you to take deeper breaths, which decreases the level of CO2 throughout the body and can help you concentrate. 

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So if you want to have more focus throughout the day, cold showers are a solid choice! 

Increased willpower is another accumulative benefit of cold showers. 

It takes a strong mind to endure the cold for several minutes at a time. 

By having a cold shower practice within your daily routine, you’re strengthening your willpower and resilience, which may improve your ability to adapt to challenging moments.

Cold Showers for Weight Loss

​Research has shown that cold water immersion increases metabolism

If you’re considering cold showers for weight loss, you’ll be pleased to know that cold showers can stimulate the generation of brown fat — a healthy type of fat that gives you energy by burning calories. 

Unlike white fat (which is linked with obesity and heart disease), brown fat is present from birth and can be found in places such as the chest or spine.

Though people who are seeking to lose some pounds should also pay attention to their diet and exercise regime, cold showers may be an effective “bonus” tool to encourage weight loss.

Cold Showers for the Immune System

Scientific studies have found that cold shower benefits can include increasing the number of white blood cells in the body. These blood cells protect your body against infections and diseases. 

Researchers believe that this process is related to an improved metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response.

Participants with severe health comorbidities who took cold showers for 30 days reported a 29% decrease in sickness absence

Furthermore, the UK’s Thrombosis Research Institute found that people who took cold showers daily increased their number of white blood cells, compared with those who took hot showers.

Cold Showers for Acne

Cold showers are known to aid circulation, but what about the surface of the skin? Are there any positive effects possible here?

Well, it’s good news! 

Licenced cosmetologist, Sophia Knapp, says that — in terms of acne — hot water “may trigger your skin into producing even more.”

And for conditions such as rosacea, which reddens the skin, hot showers can cause further skin irritation.

Cold water, on the other hand, may be beneficial to help with regulating skin serum levels and reducing skin dryness.

When Should You Take Cold Showers?

Okay so cold showers are good for you, but when is the best time to be taking them?

Cold Showers in the Morning

As a general rule of thumb, Wim recommends taking your cold shower in the morning. Why so?

Seeing as the benefits of cold showers include improved alertness and energy, it makes sense to capitalize on these relatively soon after waking.

You should come out of the shower feeling refreshed yet calm, which is a healthy emotional state to carry with you through the day.

What’s more, having a cold shower in the morning rather than in the evening may make it simpler to build the habit.

Although you’ll experience less inner resistance to the cold over time, many people find that it does demand willpower at the start.

And as you’ll know with habit-building, the longer you put something off to later in the day, the harder it is to do!

Therefore, completing your breathing practice and cold shower in the morning hours is often the best way forward.

 

Cold Showers After Workouts

Can’t face the idea of cold showers first thing in the morning? Or at least, no just yet? 

One alternative is to include them as part of your post-workout routine.

Cold immersion and ice baths have been a go-to recovery method for elite athletes over the past few decades. 

The ice baths are thought to lower swelling and tissue breakdown, constrict blood vessels, and flush out inflammatory waste products. Worthwhile benefits to take advantage of!

Cold Showers Before Bed

Though the benefits of cold showers are typically best felt in the morning, that’s not to say you can’t take them at night.

If you’re prone to overthinking and struggle to sleep as a result, cold showers before bed may be worth trying to soothe or free the mind from worries.

How to Practice the Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method is an easy-to-practice yet powerful method that stimulates your body and mind. 

You can start practicing the Wim Hof Method today by subscribing to our Fundamentals video course

During the course, Wim Hof himself will teach you everything there is to know about his method through a series of interactive videos. 

You can watch these videos online whenever and wherever you want. After you have completed the video course, you’ll have a firm understanding of the Wim Hof Method and the science behind it.

Scientific Proof

The Wim Hof Method has a strong scientific underpinning at this point. 

Scientists have conducted many studies to uncover the benefits of the cold showers and breathing exercises behind the method.

   

   

For example, Wim was exposed to the cold in a controlled laboratory setting. 

His body temperature remained stable throughout and the experiment showed the positive effect of cold exposure on his levels of brown fat tissue. 

Furthermore, practitioners of the Wim Hof Method were injected with endotoxins to measure their immune response, and compared with a control group that did not practice the WHM. 

Those who practiced the method reported significantly fewer symptoms associated with the endotoxins. 

You can read more about the science behind the Wim Hof Method on our science page.

The Three Pillars of the Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method is built on three important pillars: 

 

  • Breathing techniques
  • Controlled exposure to cold, and 
  • Commitment

 

Together, they form a life-changing method that provides you with the means to cope with numerous stressors and challenges. 

Many people from all over the world, including celebrities and professional sports athletes, are already benefiting from the Wim Hof Method. You can see and hear some of their stories on our testimonials page.

Thank you for reading!

Have you got any further questions about the benefits of cold showers or how to get started with your new practice?

Join the community in the Wim Hof Method Facebook group, or stay up-to-date on the latest news by signing up for the email newsletter

You can also connect with us on social media.

 

                                 

 

Happy cold showering!

 

The Wim Hof Team

 

 

Written by Declan Davey (Health Copywriter)

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**Disclaimer: The content on the Wim Hof Method blog is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please do not ignore professional medical advice because of any information on https://www.wimhofmethod.com/. If you have any concerns about your health, consult your doctor.

 

Attributable image sources:

Illustration by Freepik Storyset

Illustration by Freepik Storyset

Wim Hof Method References

Wim Hof Method is assesed on average with an 9.7 out of 10 based on 2147 experiences written by participants