April 10, 2012
Why A Cold Shower Is More Beneficial For Your Health Than a Warm One
Most people cringe at the thought of a cold shower. Just a glance at the many polar bear clubs dipping themselves into freezing water can make even those resistant to cold turn their heads away. However, the sporadic research that has been done suggests that regular exposure to cold water (via showers, baths or swims) may have some incredible health benefits.
Most people are unware that cool ambient and water temperature can have a positive impact on your health, primarily by boosting antioxidant levels and promoting better sleep.
Increasing Glutathione Production
Cold showers may increase glutathione -- one of the body’s most powerful endegenous antioxidants. In fact, many of the antioxidants we ingest orally work by helping the body produce glutathione. While the body can make its own glutathione from other nutrients, if we try to take a glutathione pill, our bodies just can’t seem to utilize it. Encouragingly, a study of winter swimmers hints that cold water therapy can stimulate increases in glutathione levels.
Boosting the Immune System
A study from England found that taking daily cold showers increased the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells (compared to people who took hot showers). The investigators at Britain's Thrombosis Research Institute suggested that as the body tries to warm itself during and after a cold shower, metabolic rate speeds up and activates the immune system, which leads to the release of more white blood cells. And, according to a German study, an occasional winter swim in cold water causes oxidative stress, but, done regularly, such swimming leads to an adaptive antioxidant response; in other words, the body is better able to combat oxidative stress in general once it's accustomed to cold-water swims.
Lots of great men from history suffered bouts of depression. Henry David Thoreau is one such man. But perhaps Thoreau’s baths in chilly Walden Pond helped keep his black dog at bay. Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicates that short cold showers may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”- the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline -- a chemical that could help mitigate depression.
Soaking in a cold bath (also known as an "ice bath" or "cold therapy") is said to help reduce swelling and tissue breakdown in runners after distance runs. Endurance and high-explosive athletes are known to use ice baths to reduce recuperation time and allow high-intensity training at increased intervals.
During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of “self-pollution,” i.e. maturbation. Cold water was thought to extinguish a man’s flaming carnal desires. However, the opposite was true. A study by the Thrombosis Research Institute showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. If you’re looking to increase your testosterone, instead of using anabolics or testosterone medication, hop into a cold shower.
Enhancing Male Fertility
Higher scrotal temperatures depress sperm production, so much so that long-standing belief holds that hot baths might be an effective method of male contraception. According to a study published in 1992, the "wet heat" method of contraception has been known since the 4th century B.C. and involves placing the testes in hot water (116 degrees Fahrenheit) for 45 minutes every night for three weeks. This is supposed to provide protection for six months, but it isn't a very practical method. More recently, the University of California at San Francisco did a study with men who were exposed to 30 minutes of hot baths for a week. When the men cut this exposure out, their sperm count went up by 491%, and their sperm’s motility improved as well. While switching from a hot to cold shower may not have as dramatic an effect, if you’re trying to create some progeny, it surely won’t hurt.