If the weather is getting cold where you are, one of your favourite activities might be to run to the shower, crank it on high, and enjoy the heat. But if you’re aiming for productivity, the better route might be to turn down the temperature. Cold showers have been shown to have amazing health benefits, and we all know that a healthier body is a more productive one.
Cold water sounds like a miserable experience to most people. Why put yourself through the cold. Isn’t it dangerous to get too cold? Yet reports from those who tried it say they aren’t damaged by the experience and achieve great physical and mental invigoration from the experience.
There is more than just anecdotal evidence and here are some studies that back this up.
I think we can all agree that reduced fatigue and depression can lead to an increase in productivity. The first study shows many other benefits of immersion in cold water, including:
- Improved circulation
- Reduced hair loss
- Stronger immune system
- Improved hormones (esp. testosterone)
- Increased energy
The reason for all these benefits is that the body must make a drastic response to the temperature change. It’s much like how high-intensity exercise can make you feel great for hours even if the exercise session is awful. This could be related to the phenomenon of hormesis. Hormesis, technically, is the body’s ability to adapt positively to low doses of something toxic or harmful in high doses.
A simple example is sunlight. Moderate exposure to the sun isn’t going to kill you. If you are out in the sun regularly in small doses, you’ll get a nice tan and you’ll get used to the heat. But if you’re an indoor dweller and you’re tossed out on a hot day with no protection, sunburn and heatstroke are sure to follow.
Cold water may have a similar effect. If you stayed for hours in cold water, you’d run the risk of hypothermia. But short exposures to cold like in a shower, or even a 20-minute bath, are enough for the body to respond in a positive way.
Many cold shower reporters say that they feel benefits even after just one cold shower, but that the effects multiply when you take them over several weeks. Your body will adapt to the cold over time, reducing the discomfort, and the span of the benefits will grow longer and longer.
However, there are a few medical conditions where cold showers are a bad thing. If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or are feverish, you should avoid icy showers. It may be possible to acclimate to them if you lower the temperature gradually over time but speak with your doctor.
How to do it
There are two schools of thought about cold bathing. One says to go cold immediately and stay there. The other says that you should alternate between hot and cold. The jury is out as to which one is better for you.
Traditional cold bathers in Scandinavia like to alternate between sauna sessions and diving into icy water. Most of us don’t have a sauna and a frozen lake nearby, so we have to improvise with our showers. Followers of alternating temperatures say that the temperature swings cause more stress to the body and invite a stronger response.
Straight-cold bathers say that jumping from normal to icy and staying there causes a cold-shock in the body that provides most of the benefits. That initial experience of rapid heart beat and gasping for air is the body adapting to the cold. Thus, you should stay in the cold until that experience passes and all parts of your body are no longer affected by the cold.
You’ll have to experiment to see which one works best for you, but one thing all cold bathers agree on is that it can be hard to rinse the soap off your body with cold water. It can be done, it just takes longer to do it. Coconut-oil soaps are easier to wash off in cold water, so try those if your showers are taking too long.
Will it be hard in the beginning? Definitely. But if you’re looking for a productivity boost, a simple change that increases energy, mental alertness, reduces fatigue and depression, and improves your testosterone is worth exploring. Try a cold shower each morning for a month and see how you feel. We think you’ll like the results.