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What’s the upside to a broken water heater?

Don’t expect the answer to be a witty punchline. Because it’s not: the upside is cold showers.

Next time the old tank blows, instead of grabbing the toolbox or phoning the appliance guy, just jump right in for a cold blast. But if the water heater is working just fine, instead try turning down the knob for a cold shower every once in a while.

Sound crazy or even uncomfortable? Don’t be shocked—there are some amazing and surprising health benefits to taking a brisk, chilly shower, even if it’s a short one that comes straight after a workout (or not even).

Don’t believe us? Let’s take a look at the facts and get a cold dose of reality.

JUMP-START METABOLISM AND WEIGHT LOSS

There are many studies over the years pointing to the possibility that cold temperatures jump-start better metabolism, even some fat-burning activity in the body. Some of them are quite old, and clearly some new research is needed.

However, a recent review and study respectively—one in 2009, one in 2010—found that cold water immersion (particularly right after exercise) does help boost metabolism. This, in turn, catalyzes weight loss, if only temporarily.

In combo with workout routines, this could be very helpful. An even better and more recent 2014 trial showed that cold exposure could change fat composition in the body, so much so that the body could secrete fat that burns energy in response to cold, rather than harmful fat that causes weight gain and increased health risk.

Just finished a workout? Instead of turning the knob all the way up, try running the shower cold. Doctors say even a 10-second cold blast at the end of a hot shower could be beneficial.

If that’s too much, try a warm-cold to lukewarm shower for 10 minutes after a workout.

HELPS WITH DEPRESSION AND WELL-BEING

Feeling blue? Taking a cold shower could help improve mood and even fight depression, studies show.

Of note, this is more likely the case for those dealing with mild depression rather than clinical depression, or other more major depressive disorders.

Still, a study in 2008 was on to something. 2-3 minute cold showers, once or twice daily over several weeks, appeared to improve mood and depression among average test subjects. Apparently, the cold temperature triggered unique nerve impulses to the brain that enacted an anti-depressant effect.

If depression is another on a long list of wellness woes, cold showers may just do the trick. If more major depressive problems are part of the picture, however, don’t try to rely on cold showers as a form of therapy or cure.

BALANCE TESTOSTERONE

In lieu of the previous cold shower benefit, did you know that a chilly rinse-off can also help testosterone levels?  

Studies show that it doesn’t increase them by a whole lot. But for some, anything helps, especially when using as many natural methods to boost testosterone together as possible.

There are some studies that refute that this works, however. And yet, a fresh study in 2017 did demonstrate that cold showers could play a part in keeping male hormones and cortisol in good balance. Though here’s the rub: cold showers only appear to be beneficial for male hormones in men following exercise.

Studies that looked at cold water immersion alone turned up empty for hormone levels. So, if looking for the testosterone benefits of cold showers, be sure to only take advantage them after a rigorous workout.

STRENGTHEN HAIR AND CLEAR UP SKIN

Apparently, that steamy hot shower—as relaxing as it may be—may have an opposite negative effect on the health of hair and skin.

How’s that? Hot water has a way of stripping off the skin’s natural oils, leaving one’s countenance parched and wanting. Not so with a shower of cooler temperatures.

Cold water is better for hair in its own ways, too. It smooths and flattens follicles, leading to an appearance of better hair strength and shine, and less frizz.

Do skin and hair some favors. For the sake of appearance, give cold showers a try, even if it’s simply for a small dose of vanity. (Hey—we all need it from time to time!)

INCREASE MALE FERTILITY

This cold shower benefit really falls down to cold science, no pun intended.

It’s a well-known fact that for there to be ample sperm production, the testes must maintain a certain temperature. This is one of the reasons why they hang low on the body: outside and far away from warm skin too, for that matter.

Studies have shown that heat exposure can be a threat to male fertility, as it slows down sperm production. Though it may have only a small effect in their favor, cold showers may just be another trick to keep fertility high.

Concerned about fertility levels, and more particularly sperm count? Definitely, give more cold showers a shot. Especially take care to choose them over hot showers & baths on the regular.

IMPROVE CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

Turns out cold showers can be great for the heart. Yes—it’s true.

Cold exposure to skin apparently triggers vasodilation, a fancy term that basically means that blood vessels expand. And when blood vessels expand, this means that blood can flow around the body much easier.

For those who have (or are at risk) of developing high blood pressure (also called hypertension), vasodilation is incredibly helpful for preventing heart attack and heart disease. It can even lend a hand when cholesterol is peaking too high, which also endangers heart health.

Want to keep heart health in tip-top shape? Opt for a cold shower instead of a hot one, and the heart may thank you.

BETTER CIRCULATION AND MUSCLE RECOVERY

One might think hot water is what really gets the blood running. Interestingly, this is not always the case. A study in 2011 of blood flow to the limbs in male test subjects revealed it was not hot water, but cold water that helped rejuvenate blood flow back to the muscles after a rigorous workout.

A word of advice to resistance trainers out there: cold showers won’t just help speed weight loss. They’re also a prime way to protect against any muscle damage, which is one of the reasons why post-workout cold water immersion is so popular in the first place.

BOLSTER IMMUNITY

Can cold showers help keep illnesses at bay? Even the common cold? Seems unlikely to be true…but let’s see what the research shows.

A very recent 2016 study of over 3000 participants monitored their general health, wellness, and sick days at work when they regularly showered using hot water but ended with cold water. This was compared directly to a control group that didn’t experience cold showers for the most part.

Results showed that the incidence of sickness in those who cold showered dropped by almost a third from what was regular compared to those who didn’t! How could this be?

Scientists have found that cold exposure causes the body to produce more antibodies in response to these lower temps. This, in turn, protects the body from viruses, bacterial infections, and even cancerous cells or carcinogens.

BE MORE ALERT

Most of us all know this intuitively to be fact: nothing wakes you up more than a splash of cold water to the face.

By the same logic, a cold shower would also be perfect for the job. And there’s certainly some science behind it as well: cold temperatures stimulate the activity between nerve endings in contacted skin and the brain, which notably makes one more alert.

Having a hard time concentrating or keeping focused? Hop in the shower and experience some full-body, cold water rejuvenation, for both mind and the soul—and get the day on a roll.

BETTER SLEEP FOR ALL

Apparently, a pre-bedtime shower can be great for restful sleep. What more, a cold shower could be even better for getting the body into that sleeping state.

If taking a hot shower before bed, medical experts advise making sure it ends about 1.5 hours before you intend to drift off. The reason: the body will need a chance to cool off because the cooling process can trigger the body’s natural circadian rhythms and metabolism to want to snooze.

No need to do so with cold showers. Though they wake us up in the morning as our circadian rhythms encourage us to be more active, they could actually do the opposite when we edge closer to bedtime.

The cooling effect of a cold shower will be immediate and may bring on the coveted deep sleep at last.

STRENGTHEN WILLPOWER AND DETERMINATION

One of the more intangible benefits of taking cold showers? Discipline. In a nutshell, cold showers can really whip people into shape.

Starting out can be daunting. Who would rather take a cold, uncomfortable shower over a hot, relaxing one? But that’s just where the discipline starts, and it’s only just beginning.

Start making cold showers an important part of a routine, and the benefits will be sure to follow. Over time, you’ll be motivated to experience them again, and again…and again. Springboarding from that, people may feel a stronger sense of willpower and determination to tackle other goals in life.

This is especially true if these goals are weight loss, better heart health, better hormonal health, better sleep, and even energy, alertness, and happiness, with less depression.

MORE MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION

Nothing shapes and strengthens the mind more than a challenge. Would cold showers be considered a challenge? Do they seem uncomfortable, both in mind and in body, even when following a more tolerable hot shower?

Then let this be the first lesson in mindfulness and meditation, mind over matter: that which challenges will only make the individual stronger, both in brain and brawn. But only if the challenge is met.

So learn from it. Start with cold showers, and make them a vital part of the everyday. Is the cold a bother? Overcome it with the mind. Stand in it, feel it, and learn from the moment.

Once cold showers become a schedule, it may be astounding how mind-expanding they are—and not just in terms of the alertness and energy one can gain from the cold in the morning. One would have also learned to be incredibly present and mindful of the moment, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Before long, the health benefits will also follow. It may be surprising that some of them are not all physical—but even mental and spiritual.

Last but not least, mindfulness gained from cold showers provides a final, understated benefit: the focus and motivation to be ready to tackle the next big thing; whether that’s better weight, better health, improved fitness, or taking on the whole world.

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