The Benefits of Taking a Cold Shower After Exercising

Among the benefits of taking cold showers, we can highlight the normalization of the heart rate and inflammation control. Let's expand on this a little more.
The Benefits of Taking a Cold Shower After Exercising

Last update: 12 October, 2020

It’s kind of the norm to take a shower after doing exercise. Of course, there are always two options when you’re about to do it. You can choose to shower with cold or warm water. Although in a normal situation it’s logical to choose the comforting option, in this case, it may not be. Believe it or not, taking a cold shower after exercising has many incredible and interesting benefits.

The first advantage of taking a cold shower after exercising is that it allows the body to return to normal. When you do sports, your heart rate goes up, blood runs to the muscles, and your body secretes hormones that allow you to make the necessary efforts.

That being said, cold water helps your heart rate to slow down. A study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research confirms that cold showers reduce cardiac stress in athletes. In addition, vasodilation stops, which is what helps that extra blood supply get to the muscle.

However, we must clarify that this research indicates that these cold shower effects were analyzed in a warm environment. Up next, we’ll be listing other benefits that this practice brings to the world of sports.

Limits damage from microtrauma

Thanks to the effects of the cold temperature on the body, the micro-tears suffered by the muscles in an exercise session won’t cause so much damage. In other words, cold water helps limit late-onset damage and does so very well. We refer to pathologies such as aches or pains in specific muscles.

A shower head.

Controls inflammation

Another benefit of vasoconstriction is limiting the blood supply to the muscles. In this case, the muscles or structures that become inflamed after exercising will stop being so much earlier. If you don’t use cold water, the inflammation will keep more and more blood coming in, making the situation worse.

Taking a cold shower after exercising will help to break this cycle and thus prevent both inflammation and the appearance of edema, which occurs when blood leaks into the extracellular space due to fiber breakage.

Other benefits of taking a cold shower after exercising

There isn’t much scientific evidence on the following points, nonetheless, they’re worth considering as possible benefits. First off, cold showers may help burn fat.

In this sense, the theory states that there are cells located in the neck and shoulders that burn fat when exposed to the cold. In this way, a cold shower would basically target these cells.

On the other hand, many researchers believe that cold water has positive effects on the skin. They say it could help make the skin smoother and even tone it.

Lastly, cold temperatures don’t dry out the sebaceous layer under your skin. With this, it’d theoretically also have more beneficial effects on the hair than heat.

Contraindications of this habit

The shortlist of contraindications to taking a cold shower after exercising is worth mentioning. For one, if you already feel cold, taking a cold shower isn’t going to have many beneficial effects. In fact, it’s more likely to have harmful effects than positive ones.

Secondly, if you have circulatory problems, the vasoconstriction caused by cold water may be detrimental. You must also be careful if you’re sick. Raising the body’s temperature while sick can have a detrimental effect on the immune system.

A person grabbing the shower faucet.

Rules for taking a cold shower after exercising

With all of that said, we dare to conclude that taking a cold shower after exercising is very positive. However, it’s vital to bear in mind that you must wait about 15 minutes before doing so. The reason for this is that it isn’t good to subject the body to a change in temperature so suddenly.

If the cold bothers you, you can start with warm water and gradually cool it down. Actually, the ideal thing would be to submerge oneself in lukewarm water after being exposed to cold temperatures.

In this way, you avoid the compensation effect that occurs in the body when you subject it to very high or very low temperatures. In other words, when the body is subjected to cold temperatures once the stimulus has ceased, it’ll overheat as a compensating mechanism. By finishing your shower with warm water, it’s possible to cancel this effect after having enjoyed the beneficial effects of a cold shower.

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  • A. Ajjimaporn, R. Chaunchaiyakul, S. Pitsamai et al. Effect of Cold Shower on Recovery From High-Intensity Cycling in the Heat, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: August 2019 – Volume 33 – Issue 8
  • K. Kauppinen. Sauna, shower, and ice water immersion. Physiological responses to brief exposures to heat, cool, and cold. Part II. Circulation. Arctic Medical Research. 1989 Apr;48(2):64-74
  • N. Shevchuk. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical Hypotheses. Volume 70, Issue 5, 2008, Pages 995-1001