Cold showers allegedly help to toughen people up, and a Dutch study led by the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam has revealed that employees who take one in the morning “are significantly less likely to call in sick to work.”
Modern luxury spas say that the practice can even “improve circulation and the immune system.” The reason for the touted benefits of cold showers remain a mystery, and animal studies imply that the exposure to the cold helps release beta-endorphins, “which make dealing with pain easier.” (Related: Is Hydrotherapy Good For Your Skin?)
Participants in the Dutch study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, allegedly have more energy when they start their day with a cold shower. The researchers shared, “Our findings show that routinely showering (hot-to) cold for at least 30 days resulted in a reduction of self-reported sick leave from work but not illness days in adults.”
The “energy boost” experienced by people who took cold showers had the same effect as the caffeine hit from a cup of coffee. One set of participants showered normally and another group began with a warm shower that was followed by a 30, 60, or 90-second blast of cold water.
While testing the alleged benefits of the cold showers, the Dutch researchers discovered that some of the participants “reported feeling persistently cold, particularly in their hands and feet.” On the other hand, those who had cold showers apparently experienced “a small improvement in their quality of life.” Most of the participants stated that they would resume the cold showers, and the bulk of them kept their word. In the 60 days that followed the three-day experiment, two-thirds of the participants took cold showers daily.
The study didn't find a remarkable difference in the reported illness days of study participants within the over 90-day period, which depended on whether they took cold showers or not. The result could also challenge claims that “stress hormones triggered by the cold water boost the immune system.” But results showed that at least 29 percent of people who took cold showers were not as likely to call in sick. Those who exercised regularly and took cold showers were 54 percent less likely to take a sick day.
The authors stated, “Cold bathing is a common custom in many parts of the world. Ever since the introduction of civilized bathing, humans have experimented with water temperature variation to expose the body to extreme conditions... In ancient times, Roman bathing was based around the practice of moving through a series of heated rooms culminating in a cold plunge at the end. In modern times, the traditional ritual of the 'frigidarium' has been kept in most saunas and spas around the world.”
The Dutch researchers advocated the continued study of the benefits of taking cold showers. They stated, “Even though the vast majority of participants reported a variable degree of discomfort during cold exposure, the fact that 91 percent of participants reported the will to continue such routine (and 64 per cent actually did) is perhaps the most indicative of any health or work benefit.”
Aside from waking you up, especially if you need to go to work early, here are five benefits that you can enjoy when you take cold showers: