You Should Be Taking Cold Showers—Here's Why
Taking a shower doesn't have to stop at personal hygiene. By simply turning down the temperature, you can reap some pretty stellar health benefits. Sure, it will make for a chilling experience, but once you learn about the benefits of cold showers and believe in their positive effects, you'll be hooked.
If ice baths and cold therapy pique your interest, you may have heard Huberman Lab Podcast's episode, "Using Deliberate Cold Exposure for Health and Performance," where neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., breaks down the positives of deliberately exposing yourself to the cold because you believe it will be beneficial to you. In the episode, Dr. Huberman explains, "The key point is that your mental state is shifted when you are exposed to certain forms of cold, and many people use deliberate cold exposure specifically to shift their body state as a way to train their mental state so they can better cope with stress in real life."
Whether you already believe in the powers of cold therapy or need some convincing, we spoke with Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, a member of our Medical Expert Board, who shares the cold shower benefits you won't want to miss out on.
6 benefits of taking a cold shower
When it comes to shower time, many of us have opinions. Some individuals prefer morning showers as opposed to nighttime showers, longer showers over shorter ones, and even showers that wrap up with a bath. Shower temperature is another a hot topic of debate that most voice strong views on, Dr. Bohl says.
"Some people may like a hot or lukewarm shower, while others talk about how great a cold shower can be and how it helps wake them up," Dr. Bohl explains. "Well, while your specific shower routine should be focused [on] whatever makes you happy, relaxed, and clean, it's true that there are some positive benefits to taking a cold shower."
While there is a growing body of research that suggests that voluntarily exposing oneself to cold water, such as in cold showers, may offer a range of health benefits—listed below—a 2022 review published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health emphasizes the need for additional controlled studies to further investigate these promising results.
1. It helps wake you up.
The next time you wake up and hop in the shower, make it a cold one! Spending quality time showering in cold water can unsurprisingly help "shock" your body, meaning your heart rate, alertness, and breathing rate will increase.
2. It positively impacts your circulation.
The blood vessels near your skin and in your extremities constrict when you shower in cold water, which helps bring more blood flow to your core and warm up your organs.
3. It helps you avoid dry skin.
If you didn't already know, warm showers are wreaking havoc on your skin! Opting for a cold shower instead (or washing your face with cold water) won't remove the natural oils of your skin as much as a hot shower would.
4. A cold shower can soothe or relieve pain.
According to Dr. Bohl, cold showers may help you deal with inflammation, which could help speed up your recovery time after working out. One recent 2022 study found that cold exposure supported recovery after high-intensity exercise and endurance training by producing positive outcomes for muscle power, perceived recovery, and decreased muscle soreness.
5. It can boost your immunity.
Research supports that showering in cold water can help you get sick less frequently. According to a study published in PLOS One, individuals who showered in cold water for a total of 30, 60, or 90 seconds called out of work for sick days 29% less than individuals who didn't take cold showers.
6. It can improve your mood.
Turning your frown upside down could be as simple as adjusting the water temperature of your shower. Research suggests that showering in chilly water can help relieve symptoms of depression pretty efficiently.
How often should you take a cold shower in order to reap the benefits?
Just like you'll soak up excellent benefits from showering in cold water, Dr. Bohl points out that hot showers also come with benefits, so you don't have to move completely in one direction or the other. "Instead, a balance depending on how you're feeling each day might be right for you," Dr. Bohl explains.
"Many of the effects of cold showers—like the increased alertness or impact on your blood flow—happen immediately as you're taking the shower, so you only need one shower to experience those effects. Other effects—like helping with immunity or symptoms of depression—need to be researched more in order to understand how long it takes to see these benefits."