Cold showers and ice bathing are said to be beneficial for health, despite requiring a lot of effort to overcome. Here you will learn about the advantages that cold therapy can offer and how it works.
Taking a cold shower in the morning or jumping into an ice-cold water pool is a huge and nearly insurmountable challenge for most people. However, cold water is believed to have many positive effects on the body. Our grandparents already knew how to use the cold stimulus to strengthen their immune system and protect themselves from colds. Cold is also said to boost metabolism and aid in weight loss. It’s no wonder that ice bathing can become addictive once you get used to cold showers.
1. Cold is just as important as warmth
Admittedly, warmth is a solid (and pleasant) part of our lives. It relaxes muscles, makes pain disappear, and enhances well-being (especially when combined with sunshine). That’s why we cuddle up in a warm blanket when it’s cold outside and use a hot water bottle when we’re in pain.
Even though warmth is most enjoyable for us, cold is equally significant. Fortunately, we have learned how to protect ourselves from the cold nowadays, such as by dressing warmly when going outside or turning up the heating when the outside temperatures drop. Even our cars are heated when we commute to work, so we don’t have to freeze when it’s freezing outside. Who voluntarily exposes themselves to the cold?
Hardly anyone knows that all the luxuries we surround ourselves with today can also have disadvantages. Compared to the present time, people a thousand years ago had no choice. They were confronted with the whims of nature and had to adapt to the circumstances. Freezing was a part of their daily lives in winter before they learned to make fire and protect themselves from the cold with fur. While people living back then could adapt better to the cold, we seem to be spoiled today.
This is evident, for example, in the fact that we get sick faster as the temperatures outside drop. However, our bodies are sophisticated organisms that can usually thrive under extreme conditions. They function not only in cold but also in intense heat to protect us from freezing or heatstroke.
Even though we can protect ourselves from winter cold thanks to heating and clothing, we should also be able to cope with the cold in order to adapt our bodies to extreme situations. Don’t worry: You don’t have to spend the night in an igloo, but it can be advisable to expose yourself to the cold more often. This can be done, for example, through cold therapy by taking regular ice baths or cold showers.
By subjecting your body to this „extreme“ situation, it inevitably adapts to it. This adaptation, in turn, has positive effects that you will certainly not want to miss. Now let us reveal the benefits that cold thermogenesis can have on your body.
2. These are the 9 benefits of cold showers and cold therapy
# 1 Cold showers boost fat burning
Regular exposure to cold can enhance fat burning. When your body is exposed to cold, it automatically generates more heat by activating a protein called UCP (Uncoupling Protein) that is associated with fatty acids and heat production. The colder and longer the exposure to cold, the more fatty acids are utilized for heat production.
# 2 Cold thermogenesis stimulates the formation of brown adipose tissue
Cold therapy can have many benefits, including the promotion of brown adipose tissue formation, which can protect you from the cold. When it comes to fat, most people think of unwanted fat deposits that tend to accumulate around the hips, legs, and abdomen. This primarily refers to white fat, which serves as an energy store to protect us from starvation during challenging times.
In the case of brown adipose tissue, the opposite is true: It burns energy and releases it as heat directly to the body. It is filled with mitochondria, the smallest powerhouses of the human body, which are typically found in muscles to provide quick energy supply.
However, in brown adipose tissue, mitochondria provide heat by burning fat instead of producing energy. Did you know that babies have a high amount of brown adipose tissue? Scientists have discovered that not only babies but also adults have brown fat, although the proportion is much lower. It is mostly concentrated around the neck, organs, and along the spine. However, people who regularly expose themselves to cold stimuli have a different situation.
Those who frequently take cold showers have a higher proportion of mitochondria that can convert energy into heat. With a higher number of mitochondria, they can burn more fat, which can aid in weight loss.
Now that you know that brown adipose tissue burns calories to produce heat, you can imagine the benefits that cold thermogenesis can have for fat burning.
# 3 Cold showers can improve blood circulation
Regular cold exposure can stimulate circulation and significantly increase blood flow. When exposed to cold, blood vessels constrict, allowing them to pump more blood through your body. The subsequent relaxation of the blood vessels after the cold exposure trains the cardiovascular system and may contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Additionally, cold stimuli are believed to accelerate regeneration by enhancing the body’s ability to remove waste products, such as lactate. It’s no wonder that athletes jump into ice baths after intense training sessions or competitions.
# 4 Cold thermogenesis may have anti-inflammatory effects
Cold showers may help with inflammation, which can be beneficial for individuals with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. Exposure to cold triggers an increased release of adrenaline in the body. Adrenaline, a stress hormone, not only causes vasoconstriction but also promotes the secretion of specific proteins that can counteract inflammation.
# 5 Cold thermogenesis can be useful for diabetes
Researchers believe that cold therapy, such as cold showers, may be helpful for diabetes. It is suggested that the influence of cold exposure can enhance insulin activity, resulting in a reduced need for insulin in affected individuals.
# 6 Cold thermogenesis and its benefits for the thyroid
Cold stimuli are thought to stimulate hormone production in the thyroid, which, in turn, can lead to mitochondrial stimulation. Mitochondria consume energy, thus promoting fat burning.
# 7 Cold thermogenesis can strengthen the immune system
The ability of cold showers to strengthen the immune system is undoubtedly one of the greatest year-round benefits. Cold exposure stimulates the production of white blood cells that can defend against invading bacteria and viruses.
All of this sounds very promising, doesn’t it? The theory highlights the potential benefits of cold thermogenesis for your body and health. However, you must also try it out in practice to reap the positive effects. Before starting the cool challenge, we would like to give you some advice: Instead of recklessly jumping into a cold lake or an ice bath, it’s advisable to gradually introduce your body to the cold stimulus, allowing it to adapt.
# 8 Pain reduction
For many people suffering from chronic conditions, cold showers are an excellent natural alternative to minimize pain. This can reduce or even eliminate the need for medication.
The pain relief from cold showers can be attributed to their anti-inflammatory and blood circulation-enhancing effects, as well as the resetting of synapses. Cold exposure inhibits the transmission of pain signals between nerve cells.
#9 Concentration & Focus
Maintaining focus may initially seem utopian, but performers, professionals, and athletes strive for it every day. The reason is that with a sharp mind that is alert, attentive, and focused, you can achieve much more than you think.
And now for the best part: Cold showers fully focus you and catapult you into the present moment! When you confront yourself with 10°C cold water, you can’t help but concentrate on yourself. Afterwards, you feel almost unbeatable 😉
3. Cool Challenge: Toughening Yourself Step by Step
Cold showers can have many benefits if approached slowly and without unnecessary stress. That’s why we provide you with a guide on how to gradually start with cold thermogenesis without overwhelming yourself.
Step 1: Cold Face Wash
If the thought of cold water already makes your heart skip a beat, it’s better to start with a small cool challenge by washing your face with cold water. For this exercise, simply fill the sink with cold water, which you can supplement with a few ice cubes if desired. The colder the water, the better. You have passed the first exercise of the challenge when you find the cold water pleasant.
Step 2: Adapted Cold Shower
With this step, the cool challenge enters the next round. Before starting the challenge, you should first take a warm shower as usual. Then gradually reduce the water temperature until it becomes icy cold. Proceed gently so that your body can adapt to the cold stimulus. Once the water is cold, take deep breaths and endure for a few seconds.
The more you do this cool challenge, the longer you will be able to take cold showers, and you will be surprised to feel more alert and have a clear mind.
Step 3: Ice-Cold Shower
If you have successfully mastered the second step, it’s time for the third step. Instead of gradually reducing the temperature, you should stand directly under the cold shower and endure for up to three minutes. Don’t forget to breathe… because he who controls his breath controls his body!
Step 4: Cold Bath
Once you can comfortably take a few minutes of cold showers, it’s time to step it up by taking a cold bath. It may not sound very relaxing, but for this challenge, you fill your bathtub with cold water and immerse yourself in it. The cold water may take your breath away at first, but the immersion is worth it because you will feel fantastic afterward—especially when your whole body is submerged. Gradually extend the duration of the cold bath each time until you can relax for 5-10 minutes.
Step 5: Ice Bathing
Are you ready for the ultimate challenge? The ice bath is definitely not for the faint of heart, but you can also pass this challenge if you have gradually accustomed yourself to cold water step by step. Since the water doesn’t come with ice cubes directly from the tap, simply add ice cubes to the cool water. If you add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, the cold will be somewhat more bearable. The goal should be to be able to bathe for at least five minutes.
Tip: If the ice water in the bathtub is no longer enough for you, feel free to take the challenge outside when the outside temperature is below 5 degrees Celsius.
4. Conclusion: How Was Your Challenge?
Admittedly, bathing in an ice-cold water tub is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, those who have done it experience an adrenaline rush that can be addictive and increase well-being. To avoid putting too much strain on your body, it’s advisable to approach cold thermogenesis slowly, allowing your body to acclimate to the cold water and avoid experiencing a cold shock.