Tamaki Makaurau – A large study from the Netherlands showed that people who took a cold shower were less likely to take time off work due to sickness.
Another study found that being immersed in cold water three times a week, for six weeks, gave a slight boost to their immune system.
Cold water also appears to activate the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that governs the fight-or-flight response.
It could also help boost brain function and fight off depression. A cold shower in the morning is a pretty unpleasant way to start the day.
Yet many have been tempted to take up the habit because being immersed in cold water has many purported health benefits, both physical and mental.
A group of over 3000 people was split into four groups and asked to have a warm shower every day, in the Dutch research project.
One group was asked to end it with 30 seconds of cold water, another with 60 seconds of cold water, another with 90 seconds of cold water, the World Economic Forum says.
The control group could merely enjoy a warm shower. The participants were asked to follow this protocol for a month. Although, 64 percent continued with the cold-water regimen because they liked it so much.
After a three-month follow-up period, they found that the groups that had cold water had a 29 percent reduction of self-reported sick leave from work. Interestingly, the duration of the cold water did not affect the sickness absence.
Cold water immersion has also been shown to improve circulation. When exposed to cold water, there is decreased blood flow to the skin. When the cold water stops, the body has to warm itself up, so there is an increase in blood flow to the surface of the skin.
Some scientists think that this could improve circulation. A study that looked at cold-water immersion after exercise found that, after four weeks, blood flow to and from muscles had improved.
There is a school of thought that cold water immersion causes increased mental alertness due to the stimulation of the previously mentioned fight-or-flight response. In older adults, cold water applied to the face and neck has been shown to improve brain function.
A cold shower may also help relieve symptoms of depression. A proposed mechanism is that, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower sends an overwhelming number of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which may have an anti-depressive effect.
There is a fair amount of evidence that cold water immersion or having a cold shower is good for your health – even if the reasons why are still a little unclear.