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Why we should all be taking cold showers

Why we should all be taking cold showers

Cold water swimming has been rising in popularity with claims that it can transform your body and mind. So scientists have been investigating the physiology of cold-water immersion and it appears it may have a surprising array of benefits. It’s an exciting field of research with potential to offer new treatments for a variety of conditions – from high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, to depression and chronic inflammation. 

Cold water stresses the body 

Throughout evolution, your body has developed a stress response which automatically kicks in when under threat to keep your body alive. It’s a really neat and efficient design – it means everything gets kick-started at the same time, with effects all around your body from your brain to your toes. And your body sees cold water as a big threat – it effectively activates your body’s primal stress response causing you to hyperventilate and your heart rate to shoot up; and the blood vessels around your body start doing all sorts of shape-shifting tricks, from rapidly and drastically decreasing in size in a matter of seconds in some parts of your body, to doubling in size in others. It’s a whole orchestra of responses that put your body into gear for survival – all the while, giving you quite the thrill! 

But we’ve all been taught that stress is a bad thing, so why would you want your body to go into this survival state, when it could be enjoying the nice relaxing effects of a cup of tea and a quiet morning? Well, chronic stress certainly isn’t good for you, but a growing body of research is suggesting that a short burst, at the right dose, can actually be beneficial! 

A little bit of stress is good 

In recent years, a huge body of research has shown that a short period of stress can actually be a good thing. This holds true for a whole range of situations that scientists have looked at, from doing public speaking, to trying out mental arithmetic under pressure – and it can lead to a variety of benefits. As cold water is one of the most effective ways to create short-term stress across your whole body, it’s this response that they think triggers the benefits. 

Right now scientists are looking at how cold water can affect everything from immune response to stress hormones, to fatty deposits that clog up your arteries. It’s a relatively new area of research, but so far the results have been promising. 

One study found that having 30-second cold showers every morning for 60 days could decrease the number of sick days by 30%. So a cold shower might be all you need!