Heat and cold treatment: Which is best?

Share on PinterestHot and cold packs can help relieve pain. The choice can depend on the type and cause of the pain.

Cold treatment reduces blood flow to an injured area. This slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage.

It also numbs sore tissues, acting as a local anesthetic, and slows down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain.

Ice can help treat a swollen and inflamed joint or muscle. It is most effective within 48 hours of an injury.

Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) are part of the standard treatment for sports injuries.

Note that ice should not normally be applied directly to the skin.

Types of cold therapy

Some ways of using cold therapy include:

  • a cold compress or a chemical cold pack applied to the inflamed area for 20 minutes, every 4 to 6 hours, for 3 days. Cold compresses are available for purchase online.
  • immersion or soaking in cold, but not freezing, water
  • massaging the area with an ice cube or an ice pack in a circular motion from two to five times a day, for a maximum of 5 minutes, to avoid an ice burn

In the case of an ice massage, ice can be applied directly to the skin, because it does not stay in one place.

Ice should not be applied directly to the bony portions of the spinal column.

A cold compress can be made by filling a plastic bag with frozen vegetables or ice and wrapping it in a dry cloth.

What is ice useful for?

Share on PinterestA cold compress applied within 48 hours of an injury can help reduce inflammation.

Cold treatment can help in cases of:

  • osteoarthritis
  • a recent injury
  • gout
  • strains
  • tendinitis, or irritation in the tendons following activity

A cold mask or wrap around the forehead may help reduce the pain of a migraine.

For osteoarthritis, patients are advised to use an ice massage or apply a cold pad 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.

When not to use ice

Cold is not suitable if:

  • there is a risk of cramping, as cold can make this worse
  • the person is already cold or the area is already numb
  • there is an open wound or blistered skin
  • the person has some kind of vascular disease or injury, or sympathetic dysfunction, in which a nerve disorder affects blood flow
  • the person is hypersensitive to cold

Ice should not be used immediately before activity.

It should not be applied directly to the skin, as this can freeze and damage body tissues, possibly leading to frostbite.

Professional athletes may use ice massage, cold water immersion, and whole-body cryotherapy chambers to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) that can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS commonly emerges 24 to 48 hours after exercise.

A study published in The Cochrane Library in 2012 suggested that a cold bath after exercise may help prevent DOMS, compared with resting or doing nothing.

The participants spent between 5 and 24 minutes in water between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.

However, the researchers were not certain whether there may be negative side effects, or if another strategy might be more helpful.

Cryotherapy is primarily a pain-reliever. It will not repair tissues.

Ice and back pain

Ice is best used on recent injuries, especially where heat is being generated.

It may be less helpful for back pain, possibly because the injury is not new, or because the problem tissue, if it is inflamed, lies deep beneath other tissues and far from the cold press.

Back pain is often due to increased muscle tension, which can be aggravated by cold treatments.

For back pain, heat treatment might be a better option.

The epitome of the hard-core, no-pain-no-gain approach to training is the postworkout ice bath. After pushing your muscles to their limits, you soak them in teeth-chatteringly cold water to speed their recovery before the next gruelling workout.

But there may be a gentler, more soothing path to greatness.

A new study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports suggests that swapping the ice tub for a relaxing soak in a hot bath can trigger performance-boosting adaptations that mimic how the body adjusts to hot weather. That is particularly valuable for those training through cold conditions – a Canadian winter, say – for a springtime race where the weather can be unexpectedly hot.

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Better yet, hot baths actually feel good, points out Neil Walsh, director of the Extremes Research Group at the Bangor University in Wales and the senior author of the new study.

“A hot soak is comfortable for aching limbs,” he says, “and there are other supposed health benefits – think Roman spas.”

Walsh’s interest in the topic dates back to his days as a competitive road cyclist. “I’d always taken a hot bath after a long training ride, and it didn’t make sense to me as a physiologist why a cold bath would be helpful.”

The idea that hot baths, beyond being pleasant, might actually boost performance stems from recent research into heat adaptation. After one to two weeks of exercising in hot conditions, your core temperature will drop, your sweat rate will increase and you will produce a greater volume of blood plasma, all of which will enhance your ability to perform in the heat.

A controversial 2010 study from researchers at the University of Oregon suggested that the same process of heat adaptation could also enhance endurance in cool conditions. This idea remains hotly contested (it was the topic of a debate in the Journal of Physiology last month), but the study spurred interest in more convenient ways of triggering heat adaptation.

For example, an Australian study last year found that four days of 30-minute postrun saunas at 87 C produced a large increase in plasma volume.

Still, not everyone has easy access to a heat-controlled treadmill or a sauna, so Walsh and his colleagues wondered whether a simple hot bath could provide some of the same benefits. They recruited 17 volunteers to run for 40 minutes on a treadmill for six consecutive days, followed each time by a 40-minute bath submerged to the neck. Ten of the volunteers were assigned to hot baths at 40 C, while the other seven took “thermoneutral” baths at 34 C.

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By the end of the study, the hot-bath group had a lower resting rectal temperature by an average of 0.27 C, their temperature stayed lower during exercise and they began sweating sooner. Their performance in a five-kilometre treadmill trial improved by 5 per cent in hot conditions (33 C), though it didn’t change in cool conditions (18 C).

These are compelling results – but it’s worth nothing that the baths were pretty intense. On the first day, Walsh says, only four of the 10 hot-bath volunteers were able to complete 40 minutes, though nine of the 10 were able to complete it by the fifth day of adaptation. He and his colleagues hope to test less-onerous protocols in future studies: “As little as 20 minutes in the hot bath may be necessary to provide heat acclimation,” he says, but “this needs confirmation.”

So, will hot baths replace cold baths as the default postworkout soak? That depends on who you are, physiologist Trent Stellingwerff points out. Olympic endurance athletes such as those he works with at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific in Victoria already have extremely high blood-plasma volumes, so hot baths may not provide enough of a stimulus to make any difference. Non-elite athletes, in contrast, might see a bigger benefit.

For now, there are few firm conclusions to be drawn. But if you are training through the winter for an event with potentially warm weather, a few hot baths seem like a low-risk insurance policy.

“I definitely felt the heat when I ran the Ottawa Marathon in 2009,” Guelph-based marathoner Reid Coolsaet recalls. “It wasn’t even that hot, but I wasn’t used to it at all.”

Coolsaet plans to use a steam sauna to help him prepare for the expected heat of the Olympics in Brazil this year, though the late-summer timing of the Games means that he will not need much help getting used to muggy conditions. “Luckily,” he says drily, “the weather in Guelph in July and August is comparable to that in Rio.”

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If you do decide to try hot baths this winter, bear in mind that heat puts additional stress on the body. For starters, stick to 10 minutes at no more than 40 C (a standard upper limit for hot tubs), and get out immediately if you feel dizzy or nauseous.

Three Easy Exercises You Can Do in the Shower

Posted by Jerry on Mar 15, 2015 in Exercise | 5 comments

As we get older our bodies seem to slow down and, as a result, we don’t get the amount of exercise we really need to stay healthy. I found that one way to get a bit more exercise, without strain or pain, is to add a regimen to my shower time. There are some benefits to this, particularly if you shower in the morning.

  • First, you are expending a few calories before you eat. Having fasted all night, you should have already used the quick fuels your body creates from food. By morning, your exercise should be fueled by your fat stores. I find that if I exercise, briefly, in the shower in the morning, then do some yard work and put off breakfast until sometime after ten AM I tend to lose weight. Perhaps you will too.
  • Second, the warm shower water tends to loosen stiff joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments allowing for a bit more freedom of movement without pain. While it may be true that if there is no pain, there is no gain, we don’t want any of our pain to be associated with damaged body parts.

These are easy exercises, so if you are already fit and regularly spend time working out, they won’t do much for you. On the other hand, if you are just getting started with exercise and want to try some easy movements, these are for you.

Since these exercises are done in the shower, be sure your shower is properly equipped with a non-slip floor. I don’t want anyone slipping or falling!

Wall Pushups

Many of us have trouble doing even one real push-up, however almost anyone can do a wall pushup. It’s just a matter of standing facing the shower wall (typically with your back to the flowing water) and doing push-ups against the wall.

Put both hands on the wall at about shoulder level then step backwards a bit. The farther backward you have your feet, the more difficult and more effective this exercise will be as more pressure will be put on your hands. This will require more effort to complete a push up. Please don’t go for the glory – start fairly close to the wall and try a few push-ups. If you feel no effort is involved, move your feet back a little more and try again.

You may start with your feet fairly close to the wall, but over time you will build some strength and be able to move your feet backward more. Don’t ever move your feet backward so far that you feel like they might slip out from beneath you. They might and you could be seriously injured. Taller people will be limited in that their feet may reach the opposite wall. If you can do a lot of push-ups in that position, you are probably ready to take this exercise out of the shower and start doing real pushups on the floor.

There is not specific number of repetitions you need to do, just pay attention to your body. When it gets hard to do any more push-ups, quit and try again tomorrow. If you get to the point where it seems easy to go through 25 reps, move your feet back a little more and see how it goes. To be effective, you should feel a little burn in your arms or shoulders before you quit.

This exercise helps build strength in your arms and shoulders. In addition, if you can do these with your heels on the floor, you will be stretching your achilles tendon a little, perhaps just enough to stave off plantar fasciitis.

Knee Lifts

This exercise can help with your flexibility and with lower back pain as well as stretching various muscle groups and building thigh strength. Simply stand in the shower, again with the water flowing on your back, put one hand on the wall that’s beside you and keep it there. It doesn’t matter which hand. We are not going to be switching hands. Just keep it on the wall to provide stability while you are performing this exercise.

Next, lift one knee up as high as you can get it then pull it up as far as you can with your free hand. You may hear some creaking and clicking, so be careful. If there is any pain, you may have a knee or hip issue that you should discuss with your doctor and you should not do this exercise. If all goes smoothly and you can pull your knee close to your chest, you will be stretching your lower back muscles as well as loosening up your hip and knee joints.

This is a stretching exercise so a lot of reps isn’t important. I usually do ten, five with each leg. Over time you will be able to get your knee right up to your chest.


This last exercise, shallow knee bends or squats, will also help build strength in your thighs. Stand in the shower with the water on your back and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as if you are going to sit down while keeping your torso upright. You may need to lean your torso a bit forward or position your hands to retain your balance. You can also use the wall to stabilize yourself.

Do not do a deep knee bend. If your thighs are parallel to the ground, you are going way too far and putting excessive stress on your knees. Many experts warn against doing deep knee bends even if you are in good physical condition. Knee damage can put a quick stop to your outdoor activities, so be careful.

For some of us, getting too low with this exercise will leave us unable to stand back up. Start by squatting just a little and standing up. Do enough repetitions to get a little burn in your thighs, then quit. As you repeat this regimen over time, you will be able to do more reps and squat more deeply. This isn’t a race and no one is watching, so take your time, start lowly and keep safe. I find 25 reps to be sufficient, but you may need to work up to that. For more on the proper form for this exercise see Squats and Knee Bend Exercises.

Wasting Water

Once you figure out how to do these exercises in the shower, you can combine your shower activities. You can let your shampoo or hair rinse stay in your hair while you do your push-ups. The other exercises can be done while soaping up and rinsing off. If you are prone to falling, don’t try to do too many things at once. Remember that the warm water flow is providing a useful purpose by simply helping to relax and loosen your body while you exercise.

Don’t like the idea of exercising in the shower? No problem, you can do these exercises anywhere.

Do you exercise in the shower? What exercises have you tried that worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Is it safe to exercise while in the shower? [closed]

No, it’s not safe to exercise while in the shower. More importantly, the cost-benefit ratio is too high for this to be effective.

Let’s consider the “supposed” benefits:

1. Burning calories: How much calories can you realistically burn? Your calorie burn is determined by your intensity and the duration. Your intensity will be low because you’re careful not to hurt yourself. The duration will be low too because it’s quite unlikely for you to spend more than 10 minutes squatting in the shower.

As a result, the actual calories burned will be low.

2. Multi-tasking ( in order to burn calories while performing other tasks): Multi-tasking is awesome in the right environment and context. Squatting while showering isn’t a good combination for multi-tasking since both actions require some form of concentration to function properly; otherwise, there’ll be no benefit for either action (you won’t be effectively clean and your exercise form will suffer). You’re better off performing your exercises and then showering.

And now for the costs:

1. You can (and very likely) will hurt yourself. Jumping or squatting on a slippery ground is a bad idea. Not only can you slip, but the motion can cause temporary disorientation that’ll result in you falling. Hitting your head or vital parts of your body against the bathroom’s hard surfaces is much more likely to occur.

2. A lot of bath areas are too small to accommodate effective exercises. Exercises that really burn calories (running, plyometrics) just can’t be performed in small, contained location.

3. Some exercises just aren’t feasible in the shower. Performing push ups in the shower (in pools of water) is both disgusting and unhealthy.

4. Sweating while showering makes little sense. If your goal of showering is to clean yourself, but you manage to generate enough intensity to create a sweat, what’s the purpose of the shower?

The benefit you’ll gain is minute, compared to the potential cost. You’re better off exercising before showering.

Optimal solution is this: create dedicated periods to exercise, eat right, have quality sleep, and incorporate exercising/movements in your daily life and you’ll have no need for injury-prone disasters such as exercising while showering.

28 Jun 5 Stretches You Can Do In The Shower

Posted at 05:00h in lifestyle by mollymcnamee

You just finished your workout and now you only have 30 minutes to shower and get ready for the day… I guess you have to skip your stretch, right? NO! You should never skip your stretch after a workout. But, lucky for you, I have found a way to make stretching more accessible when you are in a time crunch.

You can do the following five stretches in the shower! These stretches are slip proof and will help stretch out your whole body.

There are benefits to stretching in the shower too! Your muscles will be warm from the shower steam, which will allow you to get deeper into each stretch. This will help increase your flexibility and relieve more tension!

Flat Back Stretch

This stretch will feel amazing to your hamstrings, shoulders, chest, and entire back. Place your hands on the wall opposite of your shower head. Now slowly walk your feet back until you can completely straighten your arms and your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Hold here for up to 1-minute constantly pressing your chest towards the ground.

Wall Chest Stretch

Place your right hand and forearm against one of the shower walls. Make sure your right elbow is in line with your right shoulder. Now twist your body away from that arm until you feel a stretch all throughout the right side of your chest. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds and then switch sides!

Clasped Neck Stretch

This is the perfect two in one stretch to stretch out your chest and neck. Stand up tall looking away from your shower head. Now reach your hands behind your neck, as you would do with crunches. First push your elbows back as far as you can, feeling your chest open up and your posture straighten. Hold here for 10 seconds. Now, tuck your chin towards your chest as you pull against your neck as your elbows come together around your head (shown opposite).

Forward Fold

This one couldn’t be simpler, but it will stretch out your hamstrings a lot, so be careful if you are feeling extra tight. Bring your feet hip width apart and, with straight legs, reach towards your toes. Reach as far as you can and let your breathing help you get deeper into the stretch. Reach further with each exhale.

Standing Quad Stretch

This is the most advanced of the five stretches, and if you don’t feel comfortable doing this in the shower… skip it until you’re on dry ground. Hold onto something sturdy in your shower space with your right hand. Now, balancing on your right leg, reach your left hand back to grab your left ankle. Focus on pulling your left knee back as you push the same hip forward. Hold for as long as you need to feel your thigh needs it.

Benefits of a cold shower after exercise

You’ve certainly seen photos and videos of athletes grimacing in an ice bath after a tough training session or a race, but is it actually beneficial? And is it right for you? We take a look at whether it’s best to take a hot or cold shower after exercise.

There are many benefits of applying cold water or ice to the body after it has experienced stress and strain, such as after a workout or race. Being cold makes your blood vessels contract which prevents swelling and bruising. It also numbs your nerve endings which provides you with instant pain relief. This is why we use ice packs when we get injured.

Exercise inflames the body and inflammation is never a good thing. Cold water acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help you to recover quicker after a workout. A very cold shower or ice bath could also reduce the DOMS (aching muscles) you experience after a workout as it speeds up the recovery process and helps the muscles to repair.

Read more: How To Reduce DOMS In The Legs

Why do athletes use ice baths?

Studies have shown that immersing yourself in an ice bath reduces the inflammation and swelling experienced after exercise. When you train, your muscles develop micro tears which is what then stimulates them to repair and grow stronger. Exposure to extreme cold such as that of an ice bath can help to repair these tears and speed up the recovery process.

There are many athletes around the world who use ice baths after a match or workout. GB heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill is even known to stand in a wheelie bin full of ice to help her legs recover!

Benefits of a hot shower after exercise

Some more premium gyms offer steam rooms, saunas, and hot tubs for after your workout. While this may seem like it’s just to relax, there could be some benefit to it. While exposure to cold reduces your blood flow and constricts blood vessels, exposure to heat does the opposite. So spending 20 or so minutes in a sauna post workout will increase the blood flow to your muscles. This can help to disperse any built up lactic acid and release it from the muscles. Not only this, hot water and steam relax your muscles and relieve body tension which can be perfect for unwinding after a furious workout.

Should a man take a cold shower after a workout?

Maybe you work out daily. Or maybe you only exercise a few times a week, despite your good intentions. We’re not here to talk about how often you ought to be exercising — by the way, that’s 2.5 hours of moderate activity every week. We’re here to talk about the one thing you likely have in common with almost every other athlete. Whatever fitness level you currently find yourself in, one thing’s for sure: You’re probably going to want a shower after that workout.

When you’re working out, your heart increases how much oxygen-rich blood it pumps to your muscles. You do warm-up exercises to get your body ready for the physiological stress exercise can induce, and you should always make time after your workout for cooling down. Similar to how you eased your body into exercise with a warm up, just five to 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise can help reduce that light-headed feeling and help your muscles recover more rapidly. When you suddenly stop your activity, blood pools in your muscles instead of flowing back to your heart. That’s the point of cooling down.


And after your cool-down? Most of us jump in the shower to relieve muscle and joint aches, and no one will argue that a nice, steamy-hot shower feels great on tired muscles. That post-workout shower also helps to wash sweat and bacteria off your skin. A cold shower, however, is a different story, with a different outcome.

Let’s look at what the cold can do.

Post-Workout Shower: Is it Safe?

Is Taking a Shower After Working Out a Good or Bad Habit?

Exercising is tough, and the feel of the water caressing our tired muscles after an intense workout is extremely satisfying. As you return home after a la vigorous workout, is it a smart idea to take a shower? Most of all is it safe?

Generally, experts recommend that you need to do warm up exercises in order to prepare your body for the potential physical stress. Following that, the workout also has to have cooling down exercises to mark the end of a workout.

A hot shower right after work out triggers smooth flow of blood in the entire body, helping the skin glows and alleviates muscle soreness. On the other hand, cold shower will instantly cool down your temperature as well as your heart rate. Apparently, studies show that cold shower right after workout likewise increases blood flow.

Is Post-Workout Shower Safe?
Photo Credit: www.coreperformance.com

Cold shower inhibits lactic muscle build up so you will not experience some burn following workout. It also reduces your risk of muscle pain and inflammation due to a vigorous workout.

So, is taking a shower after a workout safe? Not really! There’s one essential thing to do before you take a cold or hot shower – you have to cool down. Cooling down is a basic yet most vital routine in any fitness regimen. Not doing any cooling down routine will mean disaster to your overall health.

Cooling down exercises can help your heart rate normalize, and also your body temperature. Experts recommend a cool down workout for at least 20 minutes for each session of any kinds of workouts. In addition, you do not have to shower right into an icy cold nor a very hot water. Either way might dilate your blood vessels that make you at risk of heart attack and sudden stroke.

However, according to khaleejtimes.com, shower is a must after any kind of physical work or workout as it cleans the body and also it has several benefits. Read more…

Know the benefits of post-workout shower

Shower can help aid recovery after a hard session. Aching muscles the day after a hard exercising session, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), can be prevented by having an ice-cold shower and holding the showerhead directly over the muscles you’ve been working.

Elite athletes will use an ice-bath, but putting your shower on the coldest setting is a quicker and easier alternative. If you exercise daily or more than once a day this is especially important as you can start your next session without being impeded by DOMS, allowing you to maintain the intensity of the previous session.

Exercising is a great way to be fit and get in shape. It is understood that you need to tidy up after a vigorous workout. However, you have to look at the risk linked to having a shower in a post-workout situation. You have to take a rest for a while before taking a shower to avoid any health risks.

Learn more health and fitness tips at Dangerously Fit bootcamp and avail of our $1 Two-Week Trial. Sign up now.

The Post-Workout Shower: Hot or Cold?

One of the hottest topics (no pun intended) surrounding proper workout formulation and recovery, is what temperature your post-workout bath or shower should be.

Advocates of hot soaks typically talk about relaxing and loosening up the muscles post-workout, while fans of ice baths often bring up the apparent lactic-acid-flushing benefits of getting cold.

So, what does the science have to say on the subject? Let’s take a look.

Cold water

A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology tested ice baths as a treatment for runners who had pushed themselves to the point of muscle damage.

The study concluded that the cold water treatment didn’t appear to have any effect on ratings of post-workout soreness, strength, or muscle size.

A 2007 study also failed to find evidence that cold water treatment helped relieve DOMS, while a 2012 study found cold water immersion seemed to have some effect in fighting DOMS, compared to more passive interventions.

Finally, a 2015 study found that cold, applied immediately after exercise, was more effective than heat at reducing DOMS.

Interestingly, there’s some evidence that cold water immersion may improve immune function.

Hot water

A 2017 study, published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that, although cold might be better for reducing swelling, heat, applied over a long time (eight hours) was very effective at reducing soreness, and had the added benefits of also increasing tissue flexibility and blood flow.

Although no one is going to sit in a hot bath for eight hours after a workout, it may be possible to draw some reasonable conclusions from these findings.

A 2011 study found that, for treating DOMS in people with diabetes, moist heat was an effective treatment (more effective than other heat treatments tested).

Some studies have shown evidence that heat treatment may increase growth hormone production, while reducing stress in test subjects.

Contrast temperature

A 2007 study found that contrast temperature exposure — alternating hot and cold — had a significant effect in reducing lactic acid after intense anaerobic exercise.

The same research also found that the temperature contrast treatment reduced heart rate more than “active recovery”, but that sprint performance wasn’t significantly improved after the treatment.

A 2017 study found that contrast water therapy was more effective than passive recovery at restoring strength and power following exercise, but that it didn’t appear effective at reducing pain.


The data isn’t very clear on the effects of cold or hot showers following exercise, with some studies finding significant DOMS relieving effects for each, and others finding no significant effects at all.

It appears likely, however, that cold water exposure may have broad health benefits — such as strengthening immunity in the long run — while hot water may reduce stress hormone concentrations and improve recovery through an increase in certain anabolic hormones.

As both hot and cold water seem to have some potential benefits, taking contrast showers might be an ideal compromise. Indeed, some research points to contrast showers, in particular, helping with recovery in various ways.

Let me just put it out there: I love taking showers. I usually take them at night so I can stand under the warm stream of water and unwind from my day. I know it sounds cliché, but I really do do my best thinking in there.

I first heard of the benefits of taking cold showers in high school aquatics class when our teacher told us girls that the cold water would prevent chlorine from damaging our hair. I never really gave it much thought though, and continued taking warm showers in the locker room to rinse off. (Side note: I remember getting my hair cut during that semester, and my hairdresser telling me that she was surprised I swam three days a week because my hair wasn’t damaged at all. Just saying.)

But more recently, I found out that taking cold showers promised a host of other perks. Among them: reducing muscle soreness and inflammation—therefore speeding up recovery—and giving you an energy and mood boost.

I was intrigued. It sounded like big benefits for a small sacrifice. But would these things actually happen? Or is it just another one of those woo-woo wellness fads? I decided that it was worth sacrificing my warm, calming, thought-provoking showers to find out. Here’s what went down.

It takes some time to work up to it.

I really did think I’d be able to turn my shower knob to its coldest setting and be—for all intents and purposes—fine. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience, but I felt like I could hop in, do what I had to do, and hop out relatively unscathed. I quickly learned this was not the case. When I got into the first freezing cold shower, I couldn’t resist reaching for the knob to make it warmer. That’s okay, I thought to myself, I’ll work up to it.

After spending about five minutes in the shower with hot water, I eased into the transition with lukewarm water. A minute later, I turned the knob again so that the water temperature was somewhere between “I’d rather not be doing this” and “this really, really sucks.” That’ll do for now, I thought. I got out and dried off, put on a sweatshirt, and made some tea to in an effort to warm myself up.

I did the same thing the next time I showered and worked up to a temperature that was cool but not necessarily cold. I resolved to stop being a total baby on my third attempt and just turned the knob all the way cold to begin with—and I did. I’m really not lying when I say that it honestly wasn’t that bad—I built it up way worse in my mind. From then on, I took fully cold showers every day.

It gave me an energy boost to start the day.

While I’m typically a night showerer, hearing that cold showers could give you more energy, I decided to give morning showers a shot. (Here’s to going completely out of my comfort zone!) If this claim did turn out to be true, I didn’t want to shower right before bed and then lose out on precious sleep from feeling wired.

The jolt that ice cold water gives you first thing in the morning is no joke. It’s enough to wake up even the groggiest of people (a.k.a. me). And there’s a reason for that: As Aaron Drogoszewski, co-owner of ReCOVER studio in New York City and a NASM-certified personal trainer, previously explained to Runner’s World, “The adrenaline rush you get from immersing yourself in cold water creates a rush of norepinephrine, which helps increase energy, focus, and performance outcomes.”

I genuinely didn’t even feel the need for coffee—which, if you know me, is an extremely rare occurrence. Research backs this part up, too. According to a 2016 study in the journal PLOS One, “the most commonly reported beneficial effect was an increase in perceived energy levels (including many reported comparisons to the effect of caffeine).”

My concentration and productivity levels felt higher than they had in awhile throughout my first few hours at work, since usually I’d be sipping coffee during that time, and the caffeine’s effects wouldn’t kick in until closer to lunchtime.

Was I able to wake up early enough to shower every morning? I’d be lying if I said yes. But on the days I did, I definitely noticed a difference.

It relieved some of my muscle soreness.

According to Henry Halse, C.S.C.S., owner of Halse Strength and Fitness in Philadelphia, taking cold showers on a regular basis helps your muscles recover from a workout.

“When you apply cold to a surface—for example, your skin—it causes more blood to flow to the area,” he said. “Increased blood flow to an area is what promotes recovery.”

Additionally, a 2009 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that immersing yourself in cold water after lifting, running, or cycling improved muscle recovery and soreness. Of course, a shower isn’t quite the same as immersing yourself in an ice bath, but Halse said, “if you did a sprint workout one day and wanted to do another one the next day, taking a cold shower could help improve your next day’s sprint workout.”

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The water should be pretty cold to achieve this—around 40 degrees, he said. Direct your shower head to the specific area of the muscles you worked and spray the water there until the blood rises to the surface, and your skin gets red.

For me, I think it helped my muscles feel better after tough workouts such as speed workouts, CrossFit, and long runs, but I’m also pretty good about foam rolling and taking rest days, so there were many variables that may have contributed to my recovery, but the cold showers probably didn’t hurt.

It strengthened my mental game.

Taking cold showers isn’t easy—and neither is running. But because I was able to grin and bear them (okay, I definitely wasn’t grinning, but you get the point), this mindset translated to my workouts, too.

“Building mental toughness is one of the benefits ,” Halse said. “Running is pretty unique in that there’s no distraction in the discomfort. In a team sport, there are other things going on—you have a built-in distraction. When you’re running, there’s not much to distract you—you’re in the moment just paying attention to your body.”

Once I built the confidence to know I was tough enough to endure the cold shower, my attitude towards my workouts changed, too. A particularly tough long run? Sure. A summer speed workout in almost 100 percent humidity? Bring it on.

And guess what? After those tough efforts, I actually started to look forward to the cold shower that followed.

Danielle Zickl Associate Health & Fitness Editor Danielle specializes in interpreting and reporting the latest health research and also writes and edits in-depth service pieces about fitness, training, and nutrition.

Cold Showers vs. Hot Showers: Which One Is Better?

If a hot shower is what your body craves in the morning, you’re not alone. The majority of people crank the handle all the way up in order to feel the warm water all over their body. But did you know that cold showers should also have a place in your daily routine?

That’s right — cold showers. The ones you dread to take when you’re the last person to get up in the morning. But, if you give them a fair chance, you might find that you actually like how you feel after taking one.

Regardless of how you feel about either type of shower, research shows that both hot and cold showers have health benefits you should be aware of.

What’s so great about cold showers?

Benefits of taking a cold shower include:

  • calming itchy skin
  • waking you up
  • increasing circulation
  • reducing muscle soreness post-workout
  • potentially boosting weight loss
  • glowing hair and skin

Cold showers calm itchy skin

Adam Friedman, MD, says if you have itchy skin or skin conditions that cause you to itch, cold showers can help you overcome the sensation to scratch.

Cold showers help you wake up in the morning

When that cold spray hits your body, there’s a bit of shock. This shock increases:

  • oxygen intake
  • heart rate
  • alertness

Cold showers increase your circulation

Increased circulation is one of the top reasons experts recommend cold showers. As cold water hits your body and external limbs, it causes your blood to circulate at faster rates to maintain ideal body temperature.

In that sense, a cold shower has the opposite effect of a hot shower for someone with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, since exposure to cold temperatures triggers the circulatory system to reduce inflammation and can help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Cold showers help reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts

Since cold water has regenerative properties, your muscles will relax and repair after a tough workout.

Cold showers may help boost weight loss

Some fat cells, such as brown fat, can generate heat by burning fat. They do this when your body is exposed to cold conditions like in a shower.

Gerrit Keferstein, MD, says these cells are mostly situated around the neck and shoulder area. So, perfect for showers!

Cold showers give your skin and hair a healthy glow

Wellness expert, Dr. Jacqueline Schaffer, MD, says that cold water tightens and constricts the blood flow which gives your skin and hair a healthier glow.

If you’re convinced a cold shower is totally out of the question, you might want to rethink your philosophy. Because unlike the long list of benefits that come with taking a cold shower, the list of cons is surprisingly quite short.

The cons of cold showers:

  • Cold showers might not be a good idea if you’re already cold, since the cooler temperature isn’t going to help warm you up by any means. It could actually make you even colder and increase the amount of time it will take for your body to warm back up.
  • They may not be a good idea if you’re sick, either. Initially, the cold temperature might be too hard on your immune system, so it’s best to ease into the cooler temperatures.

Why do we like hot showers?

If you have trouble relaxing or falling asleep at night, you might be tempted to take a hot shower to ease the stress of the day. This is a common practice for muscle relaxation before going to sleep because hot showers activate the parasympathetic nervous system which makes us tired, says Keferstein.

Other benefits of hot showers include:

  • providing relief from respiratory symptoms
  • helping with blemishes
  • muscle relaxation

Hot showers provide relief from cold or respiratory symptoms

Standing in a hot shower with the steam surrounding you has long been used as a natural remedy to reduce cold and cough symptoms. The heat from the water and the steam can help to:

  • open airways
  • loosen up phlegm
  • clear out your nasal passages

Hot showers help with blemishes

Hot showers can help to open up the pores of the skin, which allows you to clean out the trapped dirt and oil.

Hot showers are good for muscle relaxation

Being in hot water effectively relieves body tension and can soothe muscle fatigue.

But yes, your beloved hot shower does have some downsides. But the good news is, you don’t have to give them up completely. You just need to turn down the temperature a bit and take care of your skin afterward.

The cons of hot showers include:

  • Hot showers can dry out and irritate your skin. Schaffer says the hot water causes damage to the keratin cells which are located on our most outer layer of the skin — the epidermis. By disrupting these cells, it creates dry skin and prevents the cells from locking in moisture.
  • They can make also certain skin conditions worse. Higher temperatures make it easier for the skin to dry out and worsen conditions like eczema.
  • Hot showers can cause you to itch. Friedman says the heat can cause mast cells (which contain histamine) to release their contents in the skin and cause itching.
  • They can increase your blood pressure, too. If you have problems with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, taking a shower that’s too hot can make these conditions worse.

So, which type is better?

There are obvious benefits to both hot and cold showers, so what should you do? Well, in an ideal world, Friedman says you should take a lukewarm shower — so it’s tolerable — and apply a moisturizer to damp skin after bathing.

Another approach to try is what Keferstein describes as a contrast shower, which is an age-old technique developed by Dr. Sebastian Kneipp.

Basically, you get the water as cold as possible and stand in it for one minute. When the minute is up, you then change the water to as hot as you can handle for an additional minute. Alternate between one minute each of cold and hot for three to five cycles.

He said the health benefits come from the cold water constricting the blood vessels. This means all the blood will go to the middle of the body. The hot water will open the blood vessels and all the blood comes rushing out again. This can pump the blood completely through the muscles and organs and is great for regeneration and detoxification.

Cold shower after workout

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