THE POWER OF COLD WATER

July 5, 2011

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“One who bathes willingly with cold water doesn’t feel the cold.” ~Tanzanian Proverb

As I started to get deeper into Systema training. I wanted to find out more about the Systema masters. One of those masters I researched is Vladimir Vasiliev. As I read about him I came across an article that mentioned his health regimen which included cold-water dousing. I was inspired by this article to start taking cold showers. 

I have found cold showers afforded me the opportunity to practice good breath control as well as tempering my body to deal with things it is not used to dealing with. I also considered cold water bathing as a good way to practice one of the elements of Stoicism; which is to deny yourself pleasures from time to time so that you do not develop attachments to material or other temporary things.

As I continued to do cold showering, I started researching the benefits of bathing in cold water. I was inspired to find out more after reading Tim Ferriss‘ book, The 4-Hour Body which covers using cold therapy to increase weight loss and boost metabolism.

From my personal experience I find there is something to cold water therapy. For most people, many benefits can be experienced via 10 minute cold showers almost immediately. It would be highly advisable to start with cold water showers before moving to ice baths and other forms of cold-water dousing.

Bathing in cold water for most people to start will be very uncomfortable at first. But if you stick with it, I think you will find it will become refreshing and even enjoyable as odd as that sounds. At just under a year of doing it, I am reaching a point of looking forward to a cold shower and enjoying it. I particularly enjoy it when the water is cold enough to numb the skin and scalp.

Take a cold shower to gain some of these benefits:

  • A cold shower at night before bed can knock out your insomnia. I have found this personally to work very well for me. Ten minutes of focusing a cold shower on my head, neck, chest and back is a refreshing end to the day, and begins an intense relaxation that starts about the time you are toweling off to go to bed. I know I have had several nights of not remembering a thing once my head hit the pillow in spite of chronic insomnia. I have also noticed cold showers have helped me get going when I have not had enough sleep.
  • Cold water bathing can stimulate your immune system. The cold shot to the body causes the body to raise the metabolic rate which in turn creates more heat. It has also been shown to create more white blood cells. Cold-water dousing like jumping into an icy pool or pouring ice water over your head and can create flash fevers that go as high 107 degrees Fahrenheit. A study published by Shevchuk and Radoja shows the potential to enhance anti-tumor immunity via cold stress. Another study shows that winter swimmers have improved antioxidative protection.
  • Cold water showers have the ability to increase your hormone production and activity. Men may see an increase of testosterone.
  • Cold showers have the potential to alleviate depression based on this study by Shevchuk. I have noticed that I feel less prone to irritation and the blues since I have started my cold shower regimen. I also feel less stressed when taking a cold shower at the end of the day.
  • A study by Nikolai Shevchuk seems to show a possible treatment for fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome via cold water bathings. I did not know about this at the time I started cold showers, but CFS is something I have had for a number of years. I can say that my bouts of CFS has been significantly reduced if not altogether removed. I will keep taking cold showers just for this benefit alone.
  • Cold showers seem to improve the appearance and health of your hair and skin. I have received comments about the glow of my skin (I’m a guy BTW- nobody ever has told me that I have a glow) and my hair is no longer frizzy after it dries from being washed.
  • Cold showers increase internal circulation which helps with detoxification.
  • Cold showers can boost your metabolism. Particularly good for the winter when you are trying to stay warm- odd as that sounds. If you are constantly feeling cold, you may need to give your metabolism a kick via cold showers. Boosting your metabolism via cold showers is a good way to increase weight loss.
  • If you practice Stoicism- cold showers are a very Stoic thing to do ;-) I think there is a psychological benefit to cold showers which is a Stoic bonus.
  • Cold water showers can make you appreciate the simple pleasures we have in life more such as hot showers.

If you find cold showers a little too shocking or hard to endure at first. Start with a warm or hot shower and work the temperature downward slowly. It does get better with time. For those of you with medical conditions, please be cautious of any unintended affects the shock of cold water might have on your medical conditions.

Check out Ray Cronise’s blog about thermal loading for more in depth information.

Article by Chris Harris @ Between the TemplesImage credit: seanmcgrath

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