Cold Showers – Brrrr
So here’s the first in my series of biohacks or as you may refer to them, “You Do What?“.
I’ve been taking cold showers everyday since the summer of 2018. I really wish I recorded when I started, but it has been at least since July. My cold shower consists of only using the cold side of the temperature controller… it’s that simple.
So why do I do this, you ask?
There are number of suspected benefits to taking regular cold showers. Here’s what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced in the last 6+ months.
Weight Loss – Maybe
Research is beginning to show that cold can aid in the activation of brown adipose tissue (brown fat, aka “good fat”) which has the ability to burn calories stored in white fat. I’m not fully convinced that a couple minutes in a cold shower can actually make this change. However, I’m open to the idea that physiologically, cold exposure can have an effect on how the body metabolizes food and fat.
Improved Immune System – Possibly
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and vessel connected to the circulatory system, that help remove toxins and waste from the body. Lymph carries white blood cells to help fight infection. The common belief is that the cold stimulates the creation of white blood cells as well as facilitates increased circulation of lymphatic system through muscle and lymph vessel contraction. So whether this is true or not is still not clear.
Some interesting research out of the Netherlands has shown that cold showers can have an influence of how we react to illness, even if they don’t minimize our likelihood of getting sick. This study found showed a 29% reduction in sickness absence form work among the cold shower participants. “The primary outcome was illness days and related sickness absence from work. Secondary outcomes were quality of life, work productivity, anxiety, thermal sensation and adverse reactions.” Perhaps people who can withstand taking cold showers for 30 days or longer are just tougher and can tough out being sick. My experience is that my do colds seem to be shorter. Only time will tell if this trend rings true.
Improved Mood – Perhaps
Research out of Virginia Commonwealth University is looking into whether cold therapy can influence a reduction of depression. “The following evidence appears to support the hypothesis: 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 as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.”
For me, the jury is still out this one.
Better Skin – Big Yes
This is an area that I have definitely observed the greatest benefit. It is commonly held that hot water strips the skin and hair of moisture and protective oils, leading to increased dryness, especially in winter. My skin has most certainly seen improvement since beginning the cold shower experiment. Combined with a sensitive skin soap (yes I use Dove), my face is much better
Save Money – Without a doubt
Not much needs to be said about this one. If you only use the cold tap, you don’t need your hot water system to heat water. Plain and simple, cost saving hack. Even better, when you leave the shower valve set to cold and one of your seven year olds decides she’s going to take a cold shower too… bingo bango, double cost savings!
Motivation – Oh Yeah!
If anything the greatest benefit to taking cold showers has been the drive that it gives you to overcome adversity. The self-awareness that it takes to commit to this simple activity every day is tremendous. Perhaps it is the feeling that out of the discomfort (I still get the sudden shock of the water, but it’s not something I fear) is a feeling of invigoration that is difficult to explain. I actually look forward to this part of my daily morning routine.
Perhaps this is why I’m looking into furthering my exploration of the topic and have been looking into the Wim Hoff Method, combining cold therapy, breathing, and commitment.
If you have any interest in learning, check out this video:
I will write more about this as I learn and explore more.