Taking a cold bath in the morning is the worst way to start the day.
However, many people are tempted to fall into this habit as immersion in cold water is said to provide many health benefits both physically and mentally.
Cold baths were first used for health reasons in the early 19th century, when physicians began adopting them in welfare and prisons to “cool hot, swollen brains and induce fear to control wild stimuli.”
By the middle of the 19th century, the Victorians realized that there were other uses for rain, especially washing people – and that it would be better if the water was hot.
So the shower turned from a device used to cause discomfort for an hour and a half to very pleasant and lasted for five minutes.
However, the practice of taking a cold bath for the sake of health has never really disappeared and seems to be really experiencing a renaissance. Especially in Silicon Valley. (Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has already revealed in an interview that he has an ice bath habit).
But what does the evidence show?
A large study in the Netherlands found that people who took a cold shower were less likely to miss work than those who took a hot shower.
Cold water offers many benefits for physical and mental health – Photo: Getty via BBC
The group of more than 3,000 was divided into four and instructed to take a hot bath daily.
However, one in the group asked the researchers to finish the bath with 30 seconds of cold water, the other with 60 seconds of cold water, and the third with 90 seconds of cold water.
The control panel can simply enjoy a hot bath.
Participants were invited to follow this protocol for one month. (64% followed the cold water program because they liked it so much.)
After a three-month follow-up, they found that 29% of cold-taking groups were reduced from work on sick leave.
Interestingly, the duration of the cold water did not affect the sick leave.
It is not clear why a jet of cold water prevents people from getting sick, but some research suggests that it may do something to strengthen the immune system.
In a study in the Czech Republic, if “athletic youth” were immersed in cold water three times a week for six weeks, it gave little boost to their immunity.
However, additional (and larger) studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Cold water also activates the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the nervous system responsible for fighting or flight responses.
When it is activated, the level of a hormone called norepinephrine, for example, increases during cold showers.
This can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure when people drown in cold water – and is associated with recommended health improvements.
Immersion in cold water has also been shown to improve circulation.
When we are exposed to cold water, the blood flow to the skin decreases.
When cold water is stopped, the body needs to be warmed so that blood flow to the surface of the skin increases.
Some scientists believe it can improve circulation.
Cold water is believed to be linked to strengthen the immune system – Photo: GETTY IMAGES via BBC
One study, which looked at immersion in cold water after exercise, found that four weeks later, blood flow to and from the muscles improved.
There is also some evidence that cold showers can help you lose weight.
One study shows that immersion in 14 cold water increases metabolism by 350%.
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy, so more metabolism equals more energy being burned.
In addition to the physical benefits, a cold bath can also provide mental benefits.
There is a stream of thought that believes that immersion in cold water creates greater mental awareness due to the stimulus of a particular fight or flight response before.
In the elderly, applying cold water to the face and neck has been shown to improve brain function.
Cold showers can also help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
One proposed method is that due to the high density of cold receptors on the skin, the cold bath transmits a large amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, causing an antidepressant effect.
There is a fair amount of evidence that soaking in cold water or taking a cold bath is good for your health – even if the reasons are not clear.
But before you start running the cold water tap at the end of the bath, you should be aware that there are some risks associated with cold showers.
It is dangerous for people with heart disease because a sudden jet of cold water hits the body – it can accelerate a heart attack or irregular heart rhythm.
* Lindsay Bottoms is Professor of Fitness and Health Physiology at the University of Hertfordshire, England.
This article was originally published on the educational news site The Conversation and republished here under a Creative Commons license. According to Here Original version (in English).
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