Imagine waking up early, rubbing your eyes, and actually smiling while getting ready for work. On top of that, you feel energetic despite going through meetings all day long. Sounds unrealistic, right? Well, there is a solution for it after all-a simple cold shower.
In recent times, a lot of attention is being given to lifestyle and fitness. From eating right to taking care of one’s mental health, everything is brought under the microscope. Another important routine to add to this list is bathing. Previously only thought of as a means to maintain hygiene, the fitness community is regarding it with great detail because of the many effects it has on one’s psychological and physiological well-being.
In prospect, a certain divide has been built over which type of water is more beneficial to take a bath with- cold water or hot water? Hot water baths are noted for their stress-relieving and serotonin-inducing properties. However, cold water baths have many benefits accoladed to them too, even more than hot water baths.
THE COLD-WATER BATH TREND
Cold water has been part of the daily routine of mundane life for a long time. Now in trend as ice water baths, brisk showers, and immersion therapy in cold water, cold-water baths have started to gain attention. However, it has been in trend since ancient times.
The Greeks had discovered thermalism while studying the physiological effects that cold water has on the body. Thermalism is a crucial concept for physiotherapists who often use water therapy to assuage muscle strain. Roman physicians and medics discovered hydrology (a branch of science concerned with the properties of earth’s water) and soon thermal treatments became a trend.
It was in the Renaissance period when physicians John Floyer and James Currie for the first time ever used cold water baths for psychological maladies. They also used it to treat physical illnesses like fever. Floyer researched the positive effects that cold water had on the development of infants and children. The Renaissance physicists prescribed exercising with mud packs and baths in nature using cold water for a healthy bath.
WHY COLD WATER?
Cold water is a boon that solves many health issues. Though it suggests a painful and chilly disposition, it makes for a happy and productive life. Hot water should strictly be avoided as it is always advised to bathe with water that is about 5 to 7 degrees centigrade below room temperature. Even in extreme weather, one should bathe with lukewarm water rather than boiling, hot water.
Cold water is recharged with plenty of beneficial properties:
- Youthfulness: Yoga practitioners always have a glowing sheen on their bodies. This is because along with meditating to increase their energy levels, they also follow a routine of bathing with cold water. When one pours cold water on their skin, the protective epithelial cells present on the surface of the skin contract. This creates space between the cells in the form of pores. The cells have pores on their surface too. In case one pours hot water on the skin these pores get clogged and wrinkles are thus formed. Cold water prevents such clogging and keeps the skin tight and youthful for a long time.
- Immunity booster: Cold water works wonders on the immune system. It has properties that increase the white blood cell count in the body. This strengthens one’s immunity to fight off infections and heal from trauma too.
- Mood booster: Cold water effectively diminishes fatigue and keeps one fresh throughout the day. This in itself makes one feel healthy and positive. The additional benefit of cold water is that it increases the levels of the hormone norepinephrine which has an anti-inflammatory property that soothes the pain receptors and thus boosts a person’s mood and energy.
- Faster metabolism: A cold shower ensures a healthy digestive system too. The blood extracts nutrients and energy from the food that we consume. If the blood flow isn’t reaching all internal organs properly, it can hamper the metabolism or digestion process. Cold water constricts the cells of the body which ensures that the blood flow is directed to all organs.
THE EVIDENCE OF ITS EFFICIENCY
Research regarding the various beneficial facets of cold water is still going on. There have been some breakthrough findings in this area. Two prominent experiments that emerge when examining how cold water influences the immune system, metabolism, and productivity of an individual are the Netherlands experiment and the Rat experiment.
- The Netherlands experiment: In a research conducted in the Netherlands, more than 3,000 participants were divided into four groups and instructed to take a warm shower daily for a month. Three groups were directed to finish it with 30 seconds of cold water, 60 seconds of cold water, and 90 seconds of cold water. The fourth group was the control group which was restricted to a warm shower. The researchers found that after the observation period, the groups that took cold showers had a 29% reduction of self-reported sick leave from work. Thus, the correlation between cold water and immunity was proved.
- The rat experiment: In this study, rats were submerged in cold water for 10 minutes at a time, increasing the duration to four hours over the course of two years on weekdays. Despite consuming nearly 1.5 times as much food as the control rats, the rats’ body mass was still lower. In comparison to control rats, they lived an average of two months longer and there was a significant decrease in cancerous tumors. Thus, it demonstrates that taking cold showers can lengthen life and even speed up metabolism.
COLD WATER IN THERAPY
Ice baths, outdoor swimming, and immersion therapy have become popular recently. These are the various types of methods used in cold water therapy. Also known as cold hydrotherapy, it utilizes water at the temperature of a chilling 59 degrees Fahrenheit. It has shown outstanding outcomes in terms of boosting energy levels, enhancing blood circulation, enhancing sleep, and lowering inflammatory conditions in the body. It has also been lauded for displaying an impeding effect on tumors.
Cold hydrotherapy is a trend among athletes and people suffering from muscle pulls or tearing of ligaments. Its appeal lies in its effect on the body of a person:
- Relieves sore muscles: By compressing blood vessels, cold water relieves muscle soreness. This decreases the flow to the affected area, preventing it from swelling and irritation. Combining hydrotherapy and stretching is an excellent method for recovering from muscle strains.
- Faster cooldown: Immersion in cold water reduces body temperature more quickly than simply sitting in a cool setting. It may chill down overheated bodies twice as quickly. It is an excellent method of refreshment after strenuous activity.
- A cure for depression: Cold water increases the level of serotonin in the body which helps in curing depression. According to several case studies, it helps in relieving sadness and anxiety.
- Anti-inflammatory: According to research, the treatment creates anti-inflammatory molecules. This guarantees that less pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins that influence the development and function of immune system cells) are produced in the event of an infection.
THE ICE ‘BUCKET’ FEVER
Remember the ice bucket challenge? Millions of people-maybe even you-did the challenge for fun. This trend was more than a silly challenge- it aimed to create awareness about the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In doing so it also raised questions about the effectiveness of ice baths. Among the various hydrotherapies, the ice bath is the most popular choice.
Tears in muscle fibers and the buildup of lactic acid can induce inflammation in the body. After a strenuous workout, a 10 to 15-minute bath in water that is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit minimizes muscular stiffness and speeds up muscle recovery. Therefore, ice baths are often used to cure heat stroke and prepare athletes for tournaments.
Ice baths aren’t recommended for everyone. In case you have had any recent open wounds, surgeries or are a patient of Raynaud’s disease, you should avoid taking ice baths.
A cold bath is a sure way towards a healthy lifestyle. If you know how much intensity of cold water your body can handle according to your age and you take measures such as avoiding heavy meals before bath, a cold water bath can do wonders for your body. So, choose cold over hot baths, and health over comfort.