Is there anything more glorious than lying in a warm bathtub after work? Plus a few candles, bubbles and relaxing music… pure hygge. But cold showers? That's a shocking contrast. In the name of wellness, the benefits of cold water can apparently be pretty life-changing.
The likes of Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner are said to be fans of cold water therapy, not to mention the growing influence of wellness guru and ice bath afficionado Wim Hof. Even in my childhood, my dad always swore by taking cold showers to push the immune system and get going in the morning. And yes, I don't remember ever seeing him sick. However, back then, not only because I prefer to shower in the evening, I continuously ignored his advice. Until now.
So in a bid to boost my wellbeing, enhance my focus and just generally feel better, I've been trying the cold shower trick for the last six months to see if it really works. Here's what I found out.
Cold showers: are there really that many benefits?
Before I subjected myself to the cold water pain, I wanted to know if there's any science behind it. Dr. Franz Laqua, GP and balneologist tells me: "It is recognised in medicine that the immune system is strengthened by cold water treatment." He adds: "The muscles regenerate faster and the connective tissue is strengthened. Circulation can also be stimulated by the application, the blood pressure lowered or the pulse rate regulated."
"Anyone who uses cold water consciously not only strengthens the immune system, but generally increases health and vitality," adds fitness coach and health trainer Markus Führer. He offers ice bathing workshops using the famous Wim Hof method.
Speaking of Wim Hof, the extreme athlete and record-breaker known as ‘The Iceman’ has written several books on the subject. His latest work, with the promising title Never Sick Again: Healthy, Strong and Efficient Through the Power of Cold, claims the benefits that cold water can have. In addition to an improved immune system, these include feelings of happiness and better mental health. According to Wim Hof himself, he takes a three-minute cold shower every morning.
How to start a cold shower routine
Actually, you can't go too wrong with cold showers. The prerequisite is, of course, that the physical health is given. "If you suffer with certain conditions, I wouldn't advise cold water therapy," warns Dr. Franz Laqua. "These include heart disease, certain allergies, tumours, lymphedema or lesions." It's always best to get clarification in advance.
Otherwise: "Cold water from the shower can be used by anyone," says Dr. Laqua. To start, he advises: "It's best to end your daily shower with a short cold water session." Importantly, according to the physician: the water should not hit the skin with too much pressure – rather let it flow calmly. Then start with the legs and arms and always shower toward the heart. You can also do partial showers, for example, only on the legs or face.
Following Dr. Laqua's advice, I start my experiment, and turn the tap fully toward blue. I remember my first time six months ago clearly – a feeling like a thousand pinpricks piercing my skin. My body automatically goes on alert, my breath catches. I run the shower from my legs over my arms – and finish with a lightning second over my head. All in all, I only managed a few seconds. And yet I felt totally revitalised afterwards. Fresh. Warm.
But for a better effect, I needed to aim to do it for longer. Health trainer Führer tells me that the most important thing is to control my breathing. And indeed: with calm breathing I manage to stay longer and longer under the cold shower. In the end, I even managed almost two minutes.
Six months of cold showers: My conclusion
To sum up my experiment: cold showers are kind of amazing. Once you get over yourself and incorporate it regularly into your daily routine, it actually has some great benefits. For example, the immediate feeling of wellbeing afterwards. I'd describe it as a pleasant warmth that spreads throughout the body and lingers for hours. Plus the pride of having overcome the cold. And a better mental boost (even happiness hormones are released).
But the most brilliant thing about the experiment is certainly the fact that I really didn't get sick at all. Despite having a toddler at home who is constantly sick (too bad you can't give them cold showers), I haven't had a single infection in the last six months. For me, cold showers = getting sick less.
But if you want to try it yourself, you should know one more thing. After showering, be sure to get your body warm again. "Slowly drink a warm, not hot, cup of tea, wrap up warm and plan to rest," Führer recommends. And then? Maybe ice bathing or winter swimming?!
This article originally appeared on GLAMOUR Germany.