Most of us crave a long warm or even hot bath or shower to start or end our day to soothe mental stress and sore muscles. But, is warm or hot water the best option for our mental or physical well-being?
There is evidence showing that ice baths and showers have several health benefits. An ice bath or shower is defined as using water for the shower or immersing in a tub of water that is between 56 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be tricky getting the temperature down to this level; not all taps will accommodate this. So, it is advisable to have a small counter top ice maker to facilitate the proper temperature.
Helps fight depression and encourages mental alertness
Using water for stress relief and medicinal purposes have been going on for centuries. Hydrotherapy was utilized by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, most notably with warm or hot water. The Scandinavians are probably best known for the icy cold plunges, especially after a hot sauna.
A scientific study conducted in 2008 confirmed that, in general, hydrotherapy reduces pain. Having less physical pain certainly, lifts spirits and helps with cognitive function.
Ice baths and showers are part of an alternative medicine movement known as cryotherapy. Modern day athletes, both professional and amateurs swear by it. The late, great Katherine Hepburn was always ahead of her time and professed that regular ice showers kept her energetic and youthful.
Icy or cold water creates electric impulses sent by cold receptors creating an antidepressant effect. A cold bath or shower will also increase the oxygen level, thereby raising the heart rate and increasing the energy level. There is also evidence that by increasing your energy you may also find that your metabolism is boosted resulting in the loss of a few unwanted pounds. Weight loss may also be a way to raise self-confidence and fight depression.
Aids muscle recovery and fights soreness
Though many professional and serious amateur athletes make use of ice baths or showers as part of their recovery routine, an icy shower can also be beneficial after gardening, housework, a workout at the gym or just common strains and stresses on your joints and muscles.
An icy bath or shower will reduce body temperature and reduce blood flow. In doing so, it decreases inflammation and swelling. One of the pluses of using this type of cold therapy rather than Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory pain medications is that while these drugs come with adverse side-effects such as damage to kidneys or the liver, especially with prolonged use, an icy shower will have positive side-effects such as increased energy.
If a temperature of 56-60 degrees seems too frigid for a bath, you may want to compromise by starting with a temperature a few degrees warmer than 60 degrees. Additionally, when taking an actual ice bath or water, it is important not to stay exposed or immersed in the water more than eight minutes. Even the most hard-core athlete would advise you to follow the eight-minute rule.
Promotes healthy skin and hair
There are times, of course, where nothing sounds or feels better than a hot bath or shower. But overexposure to hot water can raise havoc on your skin and hair. High temperatures strip the skin of protective oils that guard against dry and cracked skin. Hot water and high temperatures can also encourage rashes and chronic skin conditions.
Cold water closes your pores and seals your scalp. It also flattens your hair follicles. It may very well be that your friend with the shiny, healthy looking hair is following her conditioner with an icy cold rinse, as cold or icy water makes hair shinier and stronger.
Try taking a warm shower instead of nearly hot and follow that with an icy rinse for your body and hair for a minute or two. You may very well find improvements in the health of your skin and hair.
Additional information about ice baths and showers
Though taking ice baths or showers may be ultimately good for your health, it is important to proceed with caution and not overdo this type of regiment. Prolonged exposure to icy water may cause hypothermia and other complications.
You may also want to consider starting with one ice shower per week and gradually work up to two or three ice treatments per week.
Don’t follow your ice bath or shower with warmer water. Be aware that an immediate warm-up shower may very well negate the benefits of the cold temperature plunge or shower.
See what an ice bath or shower can do to improve your physical and mental health. If you have any concerns, be sure to check with your doctor or healthcare professional.