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The James Bond Shower - The Health Benefits of Cold Showers

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For anyone who has read a James bond book, they will instantly recall his shower routine. The legendary 007 starts off with a nice hot shower than a burst of cold water at the end where he mulls over his love life before going on his innately awesome way. Bond fans have unanimously agreed that this was a clever throw back to Bond's Scottish heritage as a hot-to-cold shower is referred to as a 'Scottish shower'. However, is there something more to a cold shower than just showing off one's manliness? In fact, there is. Studies have shown the multitude of health benefits that are provided by the occasional cold shower.

Even before the fictional super spy was dousing himself in cold water, many civilizations partook in the ritual of cold bathes. It is true that many civilizations did this out of necessity, as heating water was a luxury that many did not have time for. So many of the common folk took cold bathes, if they took them at all.

The Spartans, for example, thought that warm water was for the weak. Though Spartans rarely took bathes, when they did, it was in cold water.[1]

Japanese Shinto monks also practiced Misogi, in which they would stand or meditate under a waterfall to cleanse the spirit. However, the longest practices of cold water bathing would be Scandinavians. Scandinavian peoples, as well as Russians, have been practicing cold water bathing since the first century for health benefits. It is actually still popular in the region today, but done in a slightly different way. The practice is now referred to as a Nordic Spa where guests will get all heated up in a sauna, then take a bracing jump into a local ice cold lake.

Clearly there must be some health benefits to cold bathing or else why would anyone do it? So what are they exactly?

benefits of cold showers

Increase of Testosterone and Fertility in Men

A 'cold shower' has long been thought of as a way to quell that gnawing sexual urge that men have. Whether it is to resist the urge to touch one's self or to stop pestering that significant other that is not in the mood, many a man has turned to a cold shower to keep himself in check. While the shock to the body may curve the psychological need, it actually helps the reproductive side of men physically. For those who are hoping to become a prospective Dad, cold showers are the way to go for increased fertility. As the temperature of a man's testes increases, the sperm count decreases. So naturally, keeping things cool down there is best.

A cold shower will also increase testosterone, which for those who are looking to increase muscle mass is essential.  Some speculate that the increase in testosterone maybe more psychological that physiological as standing under ice cold water, teeth clenched and muscles tightened, can make one feel as manly as winning a fight or race, which does indeed result in higher testosterone production as well.

Cold showers will increase testosterone production in women as well, though fear not, it is not enough to grow a big bushy beard or anything. In fact, the extra testosterone may help increase a woman's sex drive and improve bone mass, as well as build muscle.

cold water and shiny hair

Provides Skin and Healthy Hair

While many women may not want the extra testosterone that cold showers bring on, there are some perks for women who get a solid dousing in cold water--it makes hair and skin look wonderful! Every woman who cares for her skin knows that warm water opens the pores and cold water shrinks them. There is also the popular old wives tale that says that giving hair a solid dose of cold water after washing provides shinier hair. As it turns out, the wives tale is true.

For women who want healthy looking skin, it is best to wash with an exfoliate in warm water, then rinse with a nice icy blast. This way, the pores get opened and cleaned well then are sealed shut. Small pores are always a good thing.

Hair essentially follows the same logic as skin. Cold water will seal the cuticle and all the nutrients from shampoos and conditioners inside it.  This will give hair a great shiny appearance. As a side note, giving hair a cool blast from a hair dryer after blow drying will give hair a nice smooth appearance.

For those that struggle with dry skin or hair, try instead skipping the warm water and just doing all cold or cool showers. Warm water opens up the pores and cuticles allowing for harsher cleansers to strip the natural and essential oils from the skin and hair.

Stronger Immune System

According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, subjects who took daily cold showers showed higher numbers of white cells like monocytes and lymphocytes as well as an increased plasma concentration.  Lymphocytes battle viruses and bacteria, while monocytes consume pathogens and foreign material. It is easy to see why an increase in either would be a good thing.

As cruel as it may seem, in certain areas Scandinavia, babies are often either dunked briefly in cold water or forced to nap briefly outdoors. As unpleasant as it is, it has been shown to create some tough little babies who have higher resistance to disease and sleep more soundly.

Improved Circulation

Warm water increases circulation, but cold water does too. Logically, that doesn't seem possible that both improve circulation. However, warm water brings blood closer to the skin, making it reach many different places in the body. Cold water, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. When the body gets cold, it draws blood away from the skin and after awhile the extremities to help keep the internal organs warm. This constricts the blood vessels and makes the pressure rise. A mix of warm and cold showering will improve the overall health of the circulatory system by preventing things like high blood pressure and the hardening of arteries by essentially 'flexing' them. It is a bit like weight lifting for blood vessels.

However, it should be said that those who already have high blood pressure or heart problems should not employ this method unless specified by a doctor.

Burns Fat

No, taking a cold shower isn't that hot new way to lose 30 pounds in a week. However, it may aid in losing an extra pound in a week. Being cold causes the body to shiver in an effort to warm itself up; this act requires energy from the body. So thus, shivering burns calories which can result in weight loss. Not a lot of weight loss, but those who are trying to shed some pounds can implement a cold shower into a regime of proper diet and exercise.

Plus a cold shower feels amazing after a good sweat.



Feb 2, 2014 1:03am
I have started taking cold showers. It's not easy! Especially since it's winter time here in NY.

I haven't done it long enough to see any results yet, but I will report back! I will say this: after a cold shower, I have WAY more energy.

Thanks for the great article.
Feb 2, 2014 12:56pm
I've been going from warm to cool (gradually) in the shower since it helps to wake me up - I do believe there is some "flexing" (as you put it) of the circulatory system. I'm not brave enough to do the "Polar Bear Dips" that have become a tradition on New Year's Day in Canada (and elsewhere). There have been heart attacks reported at these events - so I'd still caution against doing the "extreme cold exposure" rituals, like these. I believe there's some merit in the luke-cool shower being somewhat invigorating and healthy, for sure. Thank you for an informative page.
Feb 5, 2014 12:10pm
My dad made all of us take cold showers when we were kids. To keep us from getting sick, and it worked! He was so adamant about it, he shut off the hot water going into the showers, and believe me , we showered every day!
Feb 13, 2014 2:34pm
I find that running the water super cold at the end of my showers for 10 seconds really wakes me up. I leave the shower feeling VERY awake rather than tired. Its a great way to start the day without caffeine!
Athletes also sit in cold water as a way to burn fat-shivering does consume calories...
Good stuff
Feb 27, 2014 4:38am
I have incorporated an alternating warm/cold shower into my morning routine. While I have not seen any weight loss results yet (it's only been a few weeks) I do have more energy to start the day. That in itself is well worth it. Hopefully, I will see the weight-loss benefit next month.
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  1. David Brewster "Bathing." The Edinburgh encyclopædia. 2012.

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