I was talking to a fellow teacher earlier this week and he was complaining that after he exercises it takes him a while to stop sweating. I assured him that this is a very common problem and I suffer from it as well. This led me to begin researching the topic. There is a mountain of research about cold water baths for endurance athletes. And while that is great, 30 minutes submerged in an ice bath isn’t always feasible. But can you get some of the benefits if you just took a cold shower after exercise? It seems the answer is yes.
There are a number of advantages to a cold shower but most of them stem from the physiological response to cold water on your body. We all know that a cold water splash helps to wake us up in the morning. Basically a cold shower takes that idea and extrapolates it to your whole body.
Most of the benefits stem from the innate response to cold temperatures; your body will respond by trying to keep your organs warm. This happens via a redirection of blood flow towards your organs, helping to keep them insulated and properly functioning. This change in hemodynamics is known as vascular compliance. As your body becomes better able to manage the constriction and dilation of your blood vessels, your circulation improves. Any improvement here will directly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension. The change in blood flow also helps to reduce some of the inflammation that occurs after exercise; thus reducing some of the associated fatigue and soreness.
The cold water will also stimulate metabolic changes. As the cold water hits your body, it can actually aid in weight loss. Your body will begin to burn fat in order to keep the organs warm. It may not be significant, but the more effectively your body can use fat for energy the better.
Cold water showers are also good at maintaining healthy skin and hair. The cold water helps to seal the pores, which reduces the chance of dirt and other substances entering your skin. The cold water will also help to keep healthy hair as it nourishes the scalp more effectively than warm water.
So next time you hit the showers after exercise, muster up the courage to turn the cold water up. Your body will be grateful.