The cold, hard truth about chilly showers

They’re not pleasant, but cold showers do have some upsides.
cold showers
Two minutes of a cold shower may make you feel more alert, thanks to the endorphins. Photo: Getty Images

A long, hot shower might feel great, but fans of cold showers say that’s the temperature to go for — not because of the sensation, but because of its benefits. But is there really an upside to forcing yourself into an icy tub or shower?

 

There’s some evidence to back it up: A 2016 study on 3,000 Dutch volunteers published in the journal PLoS One showed that a group who took cold showers for 90 days reported 29 percent fewer sick days than other groups who didn’t have to take regular cold showers. However, they didn’t feel sick less often — they were just more likely to go to work while sick.

 

Are there other benefits to taking cold showers? Yes, according to both science and fervent cold followers. Cold showers might make you feel more alert Are you committed to your three-cups-a-day coffee habit? Try two minutes of a cold shower and you’ll feel more alert, thanks to the endorphins.

 

“I would hop out of the shower, towel off, and take a look at myself in the mirror. My eyes were bulging. My chest and cheeks were flushed like I'd just run a mile,” Drew Housman wrote in a post for Business Insider. “And you know that foggy feeling in your head you sometimes have for the first 10 to 20 minutes after waking up? That was gone… I felt alert and energized.”

 

Cold showers might help improve productivity

Taking cold showers for an extended period of time takes a lot of discipline — and that discipline can translate to the rest of your life. “After what I estimated to have been 2 minutes passed, I turned off the shower and prepared to start my day,” Nick Greene wrote for Prevention. “ And when I say prepared,’ I mean it. I sat down and wrote a to-do list over breakfast. I felt great. I felt productive.

Cold showers might help depression

The National Institute of Mental Health says that 6.9 percent of all Americans suffer from depression every year. Medication and therapy are often the first-line treatments for it, but a 2008 study found that people who went through a cold shower protocol for several weeks to months experienced relief from mild depressive symptoms. The researchers believe that the cold water sends “an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses” from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, producing an anti-depressive effect. So, should you give up the comfort of a warm shower for a painful blast of cold? It can’t hurt — and you might even save the planet with all the water you’re saving.