When considering that human ancestors bathed in rivers and oceans, it’s only logical to assume that your body would naturally benefit more from the cold shower tradition, rather than our modern day hot water systems. Most modern homes have access to hot water such that our ancestors would regard them as palaces. Our relative removal from the necessity of cold water has prompted us to forget its many benefits.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
However, most people view cold showers as a method of torture and are quick to point out the various advantages of a warmer, more comfortable solution. But which one is truly the best? Read the following debates to find out.
1. Muscle Tension Reduction
When it comes to the relaxation of stressed out muscles, a hot shower is more widely accepted as the preferred approach. Heat expands the elasticity of your ligaments whilst triggering growth hormones, which in turn, nurture damaged cells and heal troubled wounds, relieving your burdened tendons after a strenuous workout.
Although, there are some athletes who prefer a quick ice bath after training, reporting that the constriction of blood vessels diminishes the chance of swelling, and as a result, could still be worth your time investigating.
2. Blood Circulation
Once again, there is no clear-cut answer as to which practice wins the blood circulation trophy in the hot/cold contest. Heat reduces blood pressure, which makes the heart’s job a much easier task to perform, whilst cold water forces the blood to circulate much harder, which can strengthen the system overall. Choose your own adventure.
3. Immune System Support
Our immune systems are complex and often stimulated by a number of outside factors. One such factor is cold immersion therapy (which includes cold showers!) Research suggests that regular cold immersion therpy is effective at raising levels of many powerful compounds associated with strong immune reactions (R). In a sense, cold water therapy seems to be able to mimik the type of immune response one might see when fighting off a cold—just without the whole getting sick part!
4. Fighting Cold and Flu Symptoms
Related to immunity, a cold shower also has its benefits after you’ve already been invaded by germs. When the frosty bite hits, you automatically take much deeper breaths, increasing your oxygen intake and opening up your lungs substantially.
That said, most medical professionals would suggest a hot shower instead. The warmth can dry out your mucus whilst the steam softens the gunk in your nasal passages, functioning as a natural decongestant. Furthermore, with the drop in blood pressure, narrowed blood vessels become less of a hassle, which is perfect for easing migraines .
5. Addresses Stress and Depression
A hot shower has been linked to increased oxytocin levels (a hormone which plays a role in empathy, generosity, and sexual health) and will help you relax during the frantic pressures of your schedule. However, it is surprisingly a cold shower that comes out on top in regards to stress and depression.
The icy slap decreases uric acid levels whilst increasing glutathione (an antioxidant which supports other antioxidants), as well pumping beta-endorphins and noradrenaline around the blood. Not to mention, the nerve endings in your brain fire away like crazy in these challenging conditions, which distracts your mind away from darkened thoughts .
The clear winner here: the steam from a hot shower not only opens up your pores but also causes you to sweat, dispelling those nasty substances and killing bacteria, performing like a disinfectant. Hot temperatures have been well-regarded as being able to stimulate the body’s natural detoxification systems and greatly expedite the removal of toxins. Research suggests that therapies such as infrared saunas use can help remove nasty toxins like lead, mercury, and even cadmium 
7. Cosmetic Benefits
Once again, both temperature arguments have advantages in further beautifying your outward appearance. As with detoxifying, heat widens up the pores, and by utilizing a back scrubber for the shower, you can get rid of deep dirt from the entire surface of your body.
However, studies have warned that hot showers may dry out your skin and eradicate your natural oils too rapidly. Instead, a cold shower hydrates your exterior whilst flattening your hair follicles, which improves their grip on your scalp and looks much healthier. Low temperatures also seal your pores, and that can prevent them from clogging up in the first place.
Some have suggested starting with a hot shower to exterminate the muck from the now accessible pores, followed by a blast of cold to close them up. But be very careful with this method! As these extreme changes can be damaging to the body and are probably not worth the risk just to appease your vanity.
8. Mental Alertness
As you already know firsthand, a cold shower shocks your body into a much higher state of awareness almost immediately. As a survival measure, your breathing will deepen and your heart rate will increase, shaking you awake faster than almost anything known to man. This process also takes a level of strong discipline to perform, which is the very definition of mental strength anyway.
9. Supports Healthy Sleep Patterns
On the other end of your day’s proceedings, is the hot shower and its famous relaxing effects, a much better option for a good night’s sleep. This type of action can help to reinforce daily routines and help support natural circadian rhythms. Also, the relaxing effects afforded by the warmth of showers can help create a mental space in which one can leave the stress of the day behind and transition into the space of sleep.
When considering all of this, it is easy to see why both proposals have their place in the health world, which leads many studies to conclude that a cold shower in the morning and a warm one at night is your best bet at reaping all the benefits in one clean daily routine.
- Janský, L, et al. “Immune System of Cold-Exposed and Cold-Adapted Humans.” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8925815.
- Hagen, K, et al. “Blood Pressure and Risk of Headache: a Prospective Study of 22 685 Adults in Norway.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, BMJ Group, Apr. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1737809/.
- Srámek, P, et al. “Human Physiological Responses to Immersion into Water of Different Temperatures.” European Journal of Applied Physiology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2000, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10751106.
- Sears, Margaret E., et al. “Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275/.