Cold Water Immersion and why you should be doing it every day!
4 incredible benefits of a COLD SHOWER that will improve your health and wellbeing
For most people the idea of having a cold shower first thing in the morning is probably the last thing on their mind. However there is growing scientific proof that it has some amazing health benefits. Cold water immersion has been shown to activate the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve the symptoms of many medical conditions whilst promoting a general state of wellbeing. Similar to making other positive changes to your health, cold water immersion needs to become habitual in order for your body to become accustomed to it, whilst reaping the benefits. Don’t worry though you don’t need to jump straight into an ICE tub on the first day! I will go through a simple, gradual introduction in order to adapt your body to the cold. Firstly though, here are 4 of the benefits to improve your health…
1) Building stress resilience
When stepping into a cold shower, your brain initially identifies this as a major stress on the body and its natural instinct is to move you away from the cold to get you back in your comfort zone. However it’s important to understand that when our body is constantly in a state of “non stress” (never leaving our comfort zone), our body’s ability to adapt to “stressors” will deteriorate. Let’s take the example of public speaking. Most people get anxious just from the idea of having to stand up in-front of a group of people to talk. However, if you were to do this numerous times then you would gradually learn how to overcome the nerves and deal with the pressure. Cold water immersion acts in a similar way and is a highly effective, minimal time demanding way of increasing your bodies ability to deal with stress. Taking small gradual steps introducing your body to the cold will help to ‘harden’ the body and nervous system in essence making it stronger and more robust. Over time this will make your more resilient when having to deal with the different types of stress life throws at you.
2) Improving lymphatic system boosting immunity
Unlike blood flow where the heart pumps it around the body, lymphatic fluid is pumped around the body via soft tissue (muscle) contraction. Your lymphatic system is essentially responsible for cleansing the body by cleaning out waste, bacteria and microbes from its cells. So if you are not moving and exercising, your lymphatic system will become slow and inefficient increasing the risk of developing pains and/or diseases. Studies show that immersing the body in cold water will cause the lymph vessels to contract which in turn forces lymphatic fluid around the body. This also promotes the release of white blood cells which are the main fighters against infectious diseases and foreign invaders. There is also strong evidence that exposing the body to cold water temperatures increases testosterone in males. This is due to the body going into ‘survival mode’ when exposed to cold conditions and in-turn releases a cocktail of proteins including testosterone which helps to prevent tissue damage and aids muscle growth. So after a hard session of exercise think about getting into cold water to promote muscle growth!
3) Aiding weight loss
Firstly, just the process of stepping into a cold shower will help burn calories just by the body trying to keep you warm. However it has been shown that cold water immersion helps to stimulate the production of healthy ‘brown fat’ cells. The role of brown fat is to burn and release energy (calories) in order to keep us warm. This type of fat differs to the more commonly known white fat, which deposits around the body including the waist, lower back, thighs, neck and around our internal organs to keep us warm. Too much off this white fat can lead to serious heath conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. So to put it simply, the colder we get the more brown fat is produced helping to burn more calories and aid weight loss. Remember though you can’t out-cold shower a bad diet!
4) Increasing Happiness and whilst giving you more focus
The natural response from the body when exposed to cold water is to panic and take fast short breaths. It is vital that you are able to control your breathing and take nice deep breaths. Taking deep breaths and clearing your lungs will help to reduce levels of CO2 which will enable you to have better concentration and alertness throughout the the day reducing risks of fatigue and drowsiness. Research has shown that regular exposure to cold water stimulates the release of the dopamine which is known as the ‘feel good’ hormone. Dopamine is released when we really enjoy something such as our favourite food or going clothes shopping etc. Some common symptoms of low dopamine production include depression and anxiety. So if you find yourself feeling particularly down try reducing the temperature at the end of your shower to give you an instant sensation of feeling alive.
How to introduce cold water therapy into your daily routine
If you are brave you can get straight under the cold water, however to make it a little more comfortable try starting with a normal warm shower and decrease the temperature at the end for the times listed below…
· Week 1- 30 seconds of a cold water
· Week 2- 60 seconds of cold water
· Week 3- 90 seconds of cold water
· Week 4- 120 seconds of cold water
By the end of the process you may even feel brave enough to get straight into a cold shower without the warm water. Remember it is vital to control your breathing throughout the whole process. It will get easier, I promise you……
If you want to learn more about cold water immersion therapy, check out this interview with Wim How (aka The Iceman) on YouTube: Click here