Are Cold Showers Good For You? Benefits and What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Angelica Balingit, MD
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There are various health benefits to taking cold showers. Some people may benefit from daily or regular cold showers. However, cold showers can also have adverse effects, particularly for people with heart rhythm disorders. Taking cold showers dates as far back as 400 B.C.

Supposedly, Hippocrates claimed cold water therapy relieved fatigue. Thomas Jefferson reportedly used a cold foot bath each morning to improve his health. 

More recently, cold water immersion or ice baths have become popular recovery methods for professional athletes after exercising or playing sports.

This article discusses the benefits of cold showers and how often you may want to consider cold water therapy. It also explains the disadvantages of cold showers and whether a cold or hot shower may benefit your health needs. 

What are the benefits of a cold shower?

Closeup of a hand checking the temperature of a shower.
Natalia Mishina/Stocksy United

There are numerous possible benefits of taking cold showers, including benefits to physical and mental health.

Improved circulation

Cold water may improve your heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 

Cold water is colder than your internal body temperature. As such, your body needs to work harder to maintain its core temperature. This can help make your circulatory system more efficient.

Cold water helps decrease inflammation and speed up the delivery of warm, oxygenated blood to injured areas. People with poor circulation and high blood pressure may benefit from taking regular cold showers. 

Learn about circulation problems.

Stronger immune system

One 2016 study examines the effects of cold showers on health and work. 

Researchers found that people who exercised regularly took 35% fewer sick days. People who combined regular physical activity with routine hot-to-cold showers took 54% fewer sick days. 

Previously mentioned research indicates that regular, brief exposure to cold water helps prepare the immune system to fight infection. Cold water exposure increases leukocytes, which are white blood cells necessary for fighting sickness.

Learn about the immune system.

Improved energy

In the 2016 study mentioned above, the most commonly reported benefit was improved energy. 

Participants described a boost of energy after taking a cold shower that compared to drinking caffeine

Learn what can cause a lack of energy.

Improved mood

Increasing certain hormones, such as endorphins, can help people feel happier. 

Participants in a 2008 study showered in 68°F (20ºC) water for 2–3 minutes. Researchers found that cold water exposure increased the level of endorphins and noradrenaline in participants’ bodies. 

In addition, the study’s findings suggest that cold showers send large numbers of electrical impulses to the brain. In turn, this may result in suppressing some symptoms of depression. 

A more recent case study observes the effects of weekly cold-water swimming on symptoms of depression. The only participant was a 24-year-old female who had severe depression and anxiety since age 17. After months of this routine, her symptoms gradually went away. Around 4 months later, she was medication-free. 

It’s important to seek guidance from a doctor before starting a new treatment or therapy. It’s never safe to stop taking medication without first speaking with a healthcare professional. 

Find out when to see a doctor for changes in mood.

Is it good to take a cold shower every day?

Taking a cold shower every day may help improve your general health. You may notice improvements in your mood or less frequent illness. 

How long should you take a cold shower?

There’s no specific time frame that you need to remain in a cold shower.

A 2016 study notes that the greatest effects happen in the first 30 seconds of exposure to cold water. The length of the shower after the initial 30 seconds did not influence the outcome of the study.  

What are the disadvantages of cold showers?

Cold showers are not a safe option for everyone. Cold showers may trigger an arrhythmia in people with heart rhythm disorders. 

Cold showers can also cause longer-lasting coldness. Several participants in a 2016 study experienced a persistent cold sensation in the body, hands, and feet after taking a cold shower.

Showers carry high risk of falls. Take care to ensure the shock from the cold water does not cause you to fall. 

If you have known medical conditions or symptoms of any, discuss cold showers with your doctor before taking one.

Is a cold shower or a hot shower better for you?

Hot showers and cold showers both have benefits. Sometimes, you may benefit more from one or the other. 

A cold shower may help you feel invigorated. Taking a cold shower in the morning may relieve sore muscles and give you a great energy burst.

Hot and cold showers may help to relieve stiff joints. Taking a hot shower in the evening can help you alleviate joint pain and prepare for sleep.

As more research into the benefits of cold showers is needed, you may wish to contact your doctor for advice. They will be able to assess your symptoms and advise on whether they recommend hot or cold showers for you.

When should I see a doctor?

If you have depression or anxiety that interferes with your ability to perform your daily activities, contact your doctor for advice. A cold shower may help improve your mood in the short term. However, long-term support and treatment may be necessary.

If you have symptoms of poor circulation, such as cold hands and feet or dizziness, your doctor can recommend treatments. They may recommend cold showers.

Summary

Cold water is a type of therapy many people have used throughout history. Exposure to cold water may help improve mental health, circulation, and immunity. Many people also report better energy after a cold shower. 

However, cold showers are not for everyone. People with heart conditions or a higher risk of falling may not benefit from cold showers. 

Knowing the benefits of cold showers can help you determine whether they may be beneficial. Contact your doctor for advice if you have concerns about whether cold showers are suitable for you.

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Medical Reviewer: Angelica Balingit, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 29
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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