They’re An Anti-Depressant
In 2017 British people were ranked among the most depressed people in the Western world – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compiled new data and placed the UK in joint seventh place for adults reporting they have depression out of 25 countries from across Europe and Scandinavia.
So being open to different types of treatment – even if it involves dunking your body in an icy shower – could help. A group of researchers in Virginia found that hydrotherapy might be useful to treat depression – particularly if it uses cold water. “Since the density of cold receptors in the skin is thought to be three to ten times higher than that of warm receptors, the simultaneous firing of all skin-cased cold receptors from jumping into the cold may result in a positive therapeutic effect,” says Dr Peter Bongiorno, naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and author of How Come They’re Happy and I’m Not?: The Complete Natural Program for Healing Depression for Good. “It has also been shown that lowering the temperature of the brain is known to have neuroprotective and therapeutic effects and can relieve inflammation, a known mechanism in depressive illness.
“In addition, exposure to cold has been shown to activate the sympathetic nervous system, will increase the blood level as well as brain release of norepinephrine – an adrenal hormone that can help depressed people feel more ‘up’ naturally.”
Furthermore, a 2014 study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses stated that two to three minutes of exposure to water at 20°C over several months would “send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.”
They Get Rid Of Muscle Soreness
All athletes and long-distance runners will know the pure pain of delayed onset muscle soreness – or DOMS for short. For those who go hard at the gym on Wednesday, you’re likely to have an extremely achy body on your hands come Friday. Unless that is, you plunge yourself in some icy water after your gym sesh. A recent study published in The Cochrane Library revealed that, after exercise, the most effective way to prevent and soothe sore muscles in cold water. The science behind it reveals that the cold makes your arteries constrict, reducing the amount of waste tissue and swelling that would usually build up around an injured muscle.
You’ll Have Better Concentration
Getting up in the morning is hard enough as it is, but if you’re prone to a nice, warm shower first thing, then you could be doing more harm than good. According to Business Insider, warm showers is what doctors prescribe people who have trouble sleeping to help them get to sleep. So if you want to wake yourself up, then a nice burst of cold, cold water should do the trick. This is because cold water boosts blood flow to the heart, increasing heart rate, boosting oxygen transportation around the body.
You’ll Be Less Prone To Sickness
Turns out, the key to fewer sick days in the office isn’t switching off the air con, but a quick blast from the cold tap in the shower. A study in the Harvard Business Review asked 3,000 volunteers in the Netherlands to either finish their morning showers with a 30-, 60-, or 90-second blast of cold water or to shower as they normally did, for 30 consecutive days. Researchers then looked over their work attendance over the 30-day period and found that, on average, those who had a cold blast were absent 29% fewer days than those who showered as normal. So if you’re on the verge of using up all your sick days, then give this technique a go – hopefully it’ll carry you through to the next calendar year.
You’ll Lose Weight
The gym is tiring and salads are no fun – so try a cold shower to help you drop the pounds. Cold temperatures have been repeatedly shown to increase the activation of ‘brown fat’ cells in our body. This is different to white fat, which stores energy and produces hormones – brown fat is what keeps us warm and boosts metabolism, and historically we carried far more of it than we do today.
In a Harvard study, people who spent 10 days straight in rooms chilled to 16°C significantly increased the activity levels of their brown fat. People who have higher amounts of brown fat tend to have a lower body mass index too, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
They’ll Improve Your Sex Life
The idea of cold water might be the one thing that gets you feeling far less fruity, but it turns out it’s also the thing that can boost your sex life. A 1993 study by the Thrombosis Research Institute UK found cold water exposure increases testosterone levels, which in turn boosts libido in men. It doesn’t quite work exactly the same way in women, but the shock of cold water will boost energy levels and release endorphins, so everyone’s left feeling pretty good after a cold shower.