If you are like most, a piping hot shower is the cure for a long day.
A common way to relax and unwind, hot showers, and similar hydrotherapy such as saunas and steam rooms, are popular for many reasons including the pleasant experience itself.
However, could the temperature of your shower be impacting your overall health?
Some research has supported various potential benefits of taking cold showers.
In fact, it’s a practice that has been around since ancient times.
The popularity of hydrotherapy, also known as the cold water cure, only seems to be growing.
But should you be a believer?
Cold Water Shower Methods
A form of naturopathy, this cold water cure became more widely studied and practiced starting the end of the 19th century to the 20th century and continues into today.
Some have even come up with special names for it such as the Scottish shower, which includes a piping hot shower that ends with 1 minute of icy temperatures.
Or the Wim Hof method that incorporates cold exposure and quick breathing techniques as a way to train that is based on 3 powerful pillars: breathing, cold therapy, and commitment.
It is said to make you feel like a new man.
There are even specialized tubs such as the Morozko Forge ice bath which is the only one that can sustain freezing temperatures for the purpose of cold exposure or immersion therapy.
It’s even worked its way into religious ceremonies such as misogi, the ancient Japanese ritual of bathing in an icy waterfall as a way of spiritual cleansing.
The ancient Greeks used cold and hot water therapies for muscle and joint pain as well as to relax and socialize.
But what do cold showers do for guys exactly?
Cold shower benefits range from a boost in metabolism because of a lower-body temperature, improved testosterone levels, immunity, decrease inflammation, and even to help treat depression symptoms.
as a matter of fact, a lot of these benefits of deliberate cold exposure extend to both sexes.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the science behind cold showers and their potential benefits.
Can Cold Showers Boost Metabolism and Help With Weight Loss?
Aside from cooling you down on a hot summer day, a cold shower first thing in the morning might be helpful in boosting your metabolism to the next level.
A study conducted in 2009 linked exposure to cold temperatures to help activate brown fats (1).
These fats, also called brown adipose tissue, are responsible for regulating body temperature.
Most of our body fat is made of white fat, which stores energy and can lead to obesity if we build up too much.
When our body temp decreases, our brown fat breaks down sugar and fat molecules to heat us up, along with other metabolic changes in our body (2).
This process is said to increase your metabolic rate and energy levels while burning additional calories.
Physical exercise is also believed to activate our brown adipose tissue.
This all sounds promising, but is it worth the hype?
Let’s look at some other proposed benefits of cold showers, cold therapy, and other forms of cold water exposure.
Benefits of Cold Showers
1. They can help fend off infections
Some scientific studies have linked a quick cold shower as opposed to a nice hot shower to increased immunity.
In fact, a randomized controlled trial done in the Netherlands showed 29% fewer sick days in 3018 healthy adults who took cold showers over a 3 month period (3).
It’s believed adding cold showers into your daily life can help your lymphatic system and overall circulatory system function better.
Our lymphatic system plays a large role in regulating our immune response and immune function to protect us from illness.
Therefore, a better functioning lymphatic system means a better functioning immune system.
Cold showers are also believed to help decrease inflammation.
Lowering our body temperature results in constricted blood vessels which can help to decrease swelling, muscle soreness, and other forms of inflammation.
Not to mention this also helps to ease the pain of an inflamed area and increase recovery time.
2. They help with stress
If you’ve ever taken a cold shower, you might notice a boost of energy, likely from the shock of the low temperature.
Submerging yourself in frigid water might send your stress levels into overdrive but, did you know cold exposure is actually believed to help cut down on your stress levels?
Cold water stimulation, or cold hydrotherapy, is believed to release endorphins, like those of a marathon runner.
Also known as the “feel good” chemicals in our brain, these endorphins can help ease stress and anxiety symptoms during stressful situations (5).
It’s also believed to help to decrease cortisol levels, our stress hormone.
3. They boost testosterone
The benefits of cold showers for men and testosterone levels may be a game-changer.
Lower testosterone levels can result in low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depressed mood, chronic fatigue, and even decreased muscle mass.
Switching out a hot shower for a cold one is believed to increase serum testosterone levels and boost sperm count without the use of medication.
It’s also believed to be an easy way to increase fertility in both men and women.
However, a study completed in 1991 showed to the contrary.
Those who completed cold water stimulation immediately following physical exercise had a drop in testosterone levels.
However, physical activity did provide an increase in total testosterone (6).
As far as sperm count goes, the testes are supposed to help maintain an optimal temperature for the sperm to thrive.
Sperm are sensitive to high testicular temperature.
This means you should avoid letting your testicles soak in hot water such as a hot shower, hot bath, sauna, or hot tub for an extended period.
Remember next time you take a hot bath to avoid spending too long in water that may be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit if you hope to have children soon.
However, cold temperatures do not have a significant impact on sperm count.
Cold temperatures such as an ice bath or a cold shower, helps to avoid any damage however, they won’t provide significant benefits in the long run.
Luteinizing hormone, the hormone responsible for synthesizing androgen in men, has also been studied with exposure to cold water such as with winter swimming (7).
Unfortunately, similar results were found.
Cold water exposure doesn’t help provide a sperm count increase or increase testosterone or luteinizing hormone in these cases.
4. They help prevent erectile dysfunction
There has been debate about the potential benefits of cold water therapy on erectile dysfunction.
This may be linked to the belief that it can improve testosterone levels.
In fact, It’s common knowledge that a cold shower will likely exacerbate the issue.
So, is cold therapy really the best thing for treading E.D.?
Due to the increased blood circulation, this type of therapy may help improve the rush of blood to the area.
Of course, further research is warranted in this area as well.
Therefore, it’s best to let conventional medicine do its job on this one.
5. They are good for your skin
You might have heard about the negative effects of hot showers on your skin and hair.
In fact, hot showers can irritate existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and acne.
It is believed that exposure to hot water on a regular basis dries out the skin, our scalp, and cuticles of our hair, leaving it more prone to irritation
Although bathing in chilly water is not appealing to most, is it worth the discomfort?
Further research is needed on the true benefits of daily cold showers and skincare however, the results lean in the positive direction.
Cold water is said to tighten and constrict blood flow and does not dry out the natural oils from our skin like hot water does.
This is believed to help shrink pores and keep the surface of the skin healthy, hydrated, and glowing.
It’s also believed that cold showers can help keep your hair healthier and stronger by strengthening the hair cuticles.
More research is still needed on the potential beauty uses for cold water therapy but it will provide no harm if you enjoy cooler temperature showers for the time being.
6. They can help with depression
Ditching a hot bath for cold water immersion might make you feel happier.
One study done in 2007 by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine showed adaptive cold showers 1-2 times a day was an effective way to relieve depressive symptoms (5).
It may not be a cold-water cure, but the results appear promising for our mental health.
Symptoms of depression were believed to be improved with increased levels of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline.
Beta-endorphin blocks pain receptors and noradrenaline, also referred to as norepinephrine, increases heart rate and blood pressure to increase oxygen intake in the body.
Both compounds are often low in those with depression.
This study also notes that cold showers send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain due to the high density of cold receptors on the skin.
This is believed to create an anti-depressive effect (5).
7. They help boost exercise Performance
Many studies have looked into the benefits of cold showers, cold water immersion therapy, and cold hydrotherapy on exercise performance following a strenuous workout.
One study done in 2010 showed 5-minutes of cold water immersion improved recovery after repeated exercise in the heat (8).
Many articles show cold water therapy to enhance performance and muscle recovery in various sports and activities with the most effective therapy including 10-15°C water for 5-15 minutes (9).
It’s important to note that the optimal duration of this therapy depends on the water temperature and time between the therapy and strenuous exercise.
Scientific studies have also shown that cold water immersion reduces muscle blood flow at rest which could potentially reduce muscle protein synthesis (10).
This means a reduction in long-term muscle and strength gain which would render those cold water showers counterproductive.
Avoid Taking Cold Showers or Cold Bath If…
The benefits of a cold shower begin at 60° F or lower, which is about 40°F less than the average warm shower.
If you are considering adding cold showers to your routine, consider these precautions.
Cold showers and other forms of cold water therapy should be avoided in those with Diabetes due to the increase in blood glucose in response to the release of norepinephrine by the human body (5).
According to the Cleveland Clinic, those who have the cardiovascular disease should also stick with warm water showers because of the added stress it can put on your heart (4).
The Final Take On Taking Cold Showers
Although this research has sparked the interest of many online health and wellness enthusiasts, you should not incorporate cold showers as a replacement for general healthy practices in your daily routine.
Unfortunately, your strong willpower to get out of your comfort zone and plunge yourself into icy water for that first shower may be in vein.
It is sure to provide an adrenaline rush however, much research is still needed on any real health benefits provided by cold water therapies.
However, in most cases, it does not hurt.
Deliberate cold exposure to healing a disease or condition, however, is not recommended.
In fact, cold temperatures cause blood vessels to contract and constrict, putting your cardiovascular health at risk if exposed for long periods.
Your first cold shower may be a big shock, remember to take a deep breath, test the water, and take it slow.
Choose short cold showers and heat yourself back up slowly and gradually.
Too much cold exposure too quickly, such as with an ice bath, can be dangerous and can result in a rapid heart rate, arrhythmias shock, and other injuries related to low temperature.
Whether you decide to try out the method by Wim Hof, take frequent plunges into an icy river or simply add a short cold shower to your daily routine, know that the applications of cold water are still being researched in the United States.
- Cypess, Aaron M et al. “Identification and importance of brown adipose tissue in adult humans.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 360,15 (2009): 1509-17. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0810780
- “How Brown Fat Improves Metabolism.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 17 Sept. 2019, www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-brown-fat-improves-metabolism.
- Buijze, Geert A et al. “The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” PloS one vol. 11,9 e0161749. 15 Sep. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161749
- hortonj4. “Are Cold Showers Good for You? 4 Health Benefits.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 8 July 2021, health.clevelandclinic.org/are-cold-showers-good-for-you/.
- Shevchuk, Nikolai A. “Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression.” Medical hypotheses vol. 70,5 (2008): 995-1001. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2007.04.052
- Sakamoto, K et al. “Effects of physical exercise and cold stimulation on serum testosterone level in men.” Nihon eiseigaku zasshi. Japanese journal of hygiene vol. 46,2 (1991): 635-8. doi:10.1265/jjh.46.635
- Hermanussen, M et al. “Acute and chronic effects of winter swimming on LH, FSH, prolactin, growth hormone, TSH, cortisol, serum glucose and insulin.” Arctic medical research vol. 54,1 (1995): 45-51.
- Peiffer, Jeremiah J., et al. “Effect of a 5-min cold-water immersion recovery on exercise performance in the heat.” British journal of sports medicine 44.6 (2010): 461-465.
- Versey, Nathan G., Shona L. Halson, and Brian T. Dawson. “Water immersion recovery for athletes: effect on exercise performance and practical recommendations.” Sports medicine 43.11 (2013): 1101-1130.
- Roberts, Llion A et al. “Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training.” The Journal of physiology vol. 593,18 (2015): 4285-301. doi:10.1113/JP270570