Winter is here and #Flurona season is taking over. Many of us find ourselves craving a hot shower or bath. But have we really considered how this affects our body? Hydrotherapy studies have shown that incorporating cold showers into our daily routine can be highly beneficial for our health, boosting up our immunity to battle dangerous particles – even in the depths of winter – despite being less popular additions to our daily bathing routines.
Research studies have looked at both the benefits and drawbacks of hot and cold showers, and it is important to know what we put our bodies through in our daily wash rituals.
It is no secret that cold water therapy has become increasingly popular over the last few years, with various athletes and celebrities promoting its health benefits. Aside from a cold shower helping people to wake up in the morning, some of the less well-known benefits include:
The initial shock of getting into a cold shower can be off-putting for many of us. However, this sudden change in body temperature helps to increase your heart rate and oxygen intake, which has been proven to help increase your metabolism over time.
Reduced muscle soreness
It is well-known that various athletes have ice baths after competitions, but this isn’t just for show. This helps to speed up recovery after physical exercise by reducing swelling, soreness and fatigue.
Reduced stress levels
Although you might think that hot showers are more for relaxation, it has been shown that cold exposure lowers the cortisol levels in the body, which is the hormone we release when reacting to stress. This means that having a cold shower will reduce stress and anxiety over time.
Improved immune system
Various studies have also shown how people who regularly expose themselves to cold showers had fewer sick days from work and faster rates of immunity response. The Radboud University studied this theory, exposing two groups to a disease. The group who had regular cold showers had fewer symptoms and an increased immune response to the pathogen, proving that cold showers do affect our immunity.
However, it’s important to note that if you’re already cold, or if you are recovering from an illness, a cold shower will only make your body colder and make it harder for you to get well and retain heat.
If you decide to incorporate cold showers into your routine, you should ease yourself into it, starting with 10-20 seconds and building up your body to breathe and relax under the conditions.
A firm favourite in the winter, hot showers has the great benefit of keeping our body temperatures up and helping us unwind and relax. The good news is that hot showers do have various health benefits aside from relaxation, including:
Ever been told to hold your head over steaming water when you’ve got a cold? Hot showers work in the same way by opening up your airways and loosening the phlegm that congests them. This allows us to breathe better and deeper, which is particularly beneficial when suffering from an illness.
The hot water also opens up the pores in our skin, getting rid of the dirt under the skin. This does however mean that our skin often becomes dry and so it is recommended that we should moisturise after enduring a lengthy hot shower.
Improved brain health
Immersion studies have shown that hot showers and baths are beneficial to our memory and our ability to learn. By testing two groups immersed in different temperature waters for 20 minutes, they found that the group in higher temperatures retained better memories and picked up new information faster.
Improved blood circulation
The heat from the shower can widen the blood vessels in the body, increasing our circulation and therefore helping our immunity, metabolism and keeping our heart healthy.
However, having only hot showers can also have some drawbacks. In contrast to the refreshing effects of cold water, having hot showers dries out our skin and flares up skin conditions such as eczema. People who suffer from dry skin should avoid piping hot showers to retain the natural moisture and natural oils in their skin.
Hot showers are also known to increase blood pressure due to the widening of blood vessels under heat. This is certainly something to watch out for if you suffer from cardiovascular disease.
So which one is better?
It’s clear that there are both benefits and drawbacks to hot and cold showers, so there is no real answer as to which is necessarily better.
Although we may be craving hot showers and baths more in the winter months, it is important that we incorporate cooler temperatures into our bathing routines, to ensure that our skin doesn’t dry out and to improve our immune system in the season of colds.
One solution is to have a contrast shower, where you switch between hot temperatures and cold ones. This allows us to both enjoy the hot temperatures whilst gaining clear benefits from cold-water exposure.
Whether you prefer showers or baths, morning or night, hot or cold, it is clear how our washing routines do more than keep us smelling fresh.
Article by Rachael Hughes
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