A Cold Shower a Day Could Keep the Doctor Away

Cold shower benefits may boost your health.

Cold shower benefits and cold water immersion therapy.

(trambler58 / Shutterstock.com)

What’s the secret to feeling happy, healthy, and strong? It might be as simple as a cold shower. It may sound counterintuitive. While growing up, your parents probably told you to bundle up when going outside, or else you’ll catch a cold. Now, a cold-water immersion movement suggests that exposure to the cold actually does the opposite; it could boost your immune system and prevent you from getting sick.

Spearheaded by a man named Wim Hof, known by some as the Ice Man, cold water immersion is gaining popularity. You may recognize his name from the podcast circuit, or from his documentary with VICE, The Superhuman World of Wim Hof: The Iceman

Indeed, Hof’s incredible ability to withstand extreme cold temperatures has certainly captured the attention of many. The man actually submerged himself in a tank of ice for over 70 minutes and climbed to an altitude of 7,200 meters (23,600 feet) on Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes. 

The extreme athlete from the Netherlands might seem like a stuntman just looking for his chance at fame. But his mission is far from that, a story born out of tragedy that transcends to healing. 

Hof’s VICE documentary retells how, as a young father, he found himself tragically alone with four children after his wife died in 1995. So he started a soul search. And, one morning, while overlooking a cold stream in the Netherlands, he had the urge to jump in. 

Feeling the intensity of that cold, Hof cultivated the strength to push past physical and mental limitations. He continued his practice of cold immersion alongside meditation and breathing techniques as a form of therapy. Eventually, he could remain submerged under the icy water for minutes at a time while holding his breath. 

It was through this practice that he discovered the physical and mental health benefits of this combination of breathwork, meditation, and cold immersion according to Hof’s website.

Hof attributes his abilities to a combination of cold immersion, meditation, and breathwork according to his website. His breathing exercises involve a series of deep inhalations and holding of the breath, which floods the body with adrenaline and stimulates the release of a key messaging protein, Interleukin 10. This triggers an influence over the autonomic nervous system, which gives the unique ability to withstand the endotoxin injection. 

While this seems like it is extreme, more mainstream medical authorities are also promoting the health benefits of cold showers. According to a meta-analyses of cold-water research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, cold water can have physiological effects including an increased heart rate, elevated breathing rate, and higher blood pressure.

And, a study of 3,108 people, published in the journal PLoS One found that people who take cold showers are 29 percent less likely to call in sick. While they didn’t report that they were sick less than the control group, they just went to school or work. The researchers concluded that cold showers could make the illnesses less severe. This allowed people to do their regular routines.

So if you want to reap the benefits of cold-water immersions, you don’t have to start by jumping into an ice bath. Hof’s programs often begin with short breathing exercises followed by a 30 second cold shower. Taking cold-water showers or baths could help you feel stronger and healthier. They really could keep the doctor away!

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