Cold Hands, Better Health: The Benefits of Ice Cold Water
Most of the time, when we’re exposed to freezing cold water, it’s because we’re in a hurry or the hot water in our home has gone out. However, what if we were to tell you that drinking and bathing in icy cold water is actually super-beneficial to your health?
Exposing the insides and outsides of our bodies to ice-cold water can have real health benefits. It can help improve the appearance of everything from our skin to our hair, as well as support the ongoing health of our brains and internal organs.
Today, we’ve brought you some practical suggestions for using cold water to improve your overall well-being. It’s so easy, you can start today!
1. It improves the overall appearance of your skin
Most skincare companies for the last 50 years have been advocating for people to wash their face at least twice a day — in the morning and at night.
While most people crank the faucet all the way toward hot water when they wash their face, it’s actually a combination of warm and cold water that has the most benefits for our skin. Hot water strips away our skin’s natural oils, and is super-drying. When we wash our faces with warm water, it helps open our pores, so the cleansing or exfoliating products that we use will be more effective. Afterward, you should always do a final rinse with cold water, to re-tighten pores.
2. It increases your metabolism
Researchers have found that drinking cold water helps speed up our metabolism, and will gradually help you shed pounds. While all humans are supposed to consume between 11 and 15 cups of water per day, making at least six of these cups icy-cold water has been shown to help raise our metabolism. The body works harder to raise the temperature of the water to match our body temperature, burning extra calories in the process. It’s estimated that a person drinking six cups of cold water per day will lose around five pounds per year just by making this little switch.
3. It improves circulation throughout the lymphatic system
Many people start their day not with a warm shower, but with a plunge into a freezing cold pool. One of the benefits of immersing yourself in freezing cold water is that it helps improve circulation in multiple areas in our bodies. It contracts our muscles, which forces the lymphatic system to work harder in its fight to rid our bodies of toxins and waste. A hard-working lymphatic system that is actively ridding our bodies of toxins has a positive effect on our immune system, which is the next step in our body’s line of defense against illness. The less our immune system has to tackle, the healthier we feel.
4. It improves circulation of blood through the cardiovascular system
Cold water also helps improve circulation throughout our cardiovascular system. When the icy water hits our skin, blood rushes toward our organs to cushion them from the sudden shock of cold. This blood has to then be pumped efficiently through the heart and on to the rest of the body, forcing the cardiovascular system to work at its max capacity. When our cardiovascular system is working steadily, we feel like we have more energy and strength on a daily basis than when our cardiovascular system is slow and sluggish.
5. It helps keep hair clean and shiny
The biggest mistake that you can make when it comes to the health of your hair is washing it in hot water. Sure, a hot shower feels warm and relaxing, but it’s not great for our hair or skin. It removes moisture and natural oil from hair, which can lead to intense frizziness and dried-out hair follicles.
The ideal way to clean your hair is to wash it in warm — not hot — water, then rinse with ice cold water. Rinsing in cold water locks in moisture, leaves hair shiny, and minimizes hair breakage. All of which are critical for people with curly, dry, or frizzy hair.
6. It helps sore muscles
Cold water immersion is very popular within the athletic community, and has been touted as a great way to reduce muscle aches and pains after an intense workout. Many people step into an ice bath immediately after a hard workout, and some stay immersed for up to 25-30 minutes.
While this does make some people feel better, the latest research has determined that ice baths are much more beneficial for your muscles if you wait a day or two to use them. That way, you’ll know which parts of your body are sore, and can work on stretching those out before and after your bath.
7. Cold water reduces pain
Another reason that cold water is helpful in treating athletic injuries is because it helps distract us from the pain. The shock of the cold water alters our brain’s perception of pain, and while our brain’s focus is elsewhere, many people find that they can push past the boundaries of the pain that they were previously experiencing. Researchers are spending more time looking into this phenomenon, which they think will be especially beneficial for people who are experiencing intense neuropathic pain.
8. Cold showers help build willpower
One of the ways that people can build willpower and resilience over time is by stepping into a cold shower every single morning. If you resolve that every single day, you’ll immerse yourself in freezing cold water, and if you discipline yourself to stick with it, self-control will come much easier to you in other aspects of your life. Proving to yourself that you have the discipline to stick with an unpleasant task will build your confidence in your own willpower — something that you can’t really believe until you’ve proved it to yourself.
Many organizations, including the armed forces, and boarding schools (like Prince Charles’ alma mater Gordonstoun School, which paired their cold shower with an early-morning run) insist that their charges take icy showers every single morning.
9. It hardens our body and minds to stress
In addition to building up our willpower, cold showers also harden our bodies and mind to stress.
As you may have noticed already, cold showers are not the most pleasant physical experience. In fact, standing in a cold shower puts a small amount of strain on our nervous system, which our bodies adapt to over time. The more frequently you ask your body to deal with small stressors, the more adept you’ll become at working through the stress and not letting it take over your life.
This tactic is called body hardening, and it has been used for years. James Bond himself took a cold shower every morning!
10. Cold water gives us more energy
As anyone who has ever been awakened with a bucket of cold water to the face will know, icy water can give you a huge energy boost. First thing in the morning, it’s super beneficial to our energy levels, and is way more effective in promoting alertness than any cup of coffee.
When we first feel cold water on our skin, temperature sensors just below our skin’s surface activate and send a rush of adrenaline to our brain. This adrenaline rush immediately boosts our energy level. Stepping into a cold shower also forces us to breathe deeply in order to control our response to the abrupt temperature change, which also helps boost our energy level.
11. It helps alleviate depression
For people who suffer from recurring depression, often attempts to alleviate the symptoms of this pervasive mental illness are met with either unbearable side effects or a complete lack of effectiveness. One way to help alleviate depression naturally is by taking a cold shower every morning.
One study tracked participants who took a one- to two-minute shower in the morning and the evening for several weeks. The researchers found that cold showers stimulated the brain’s center of noradrenaline production, which has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of depression. Post-shower, tests showed increased activity in the participants’ sympathetic nervous systems, and increased the level of beta-endorphins in their bloodstream, both of which have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.