Are the benefits of cold showers worth the discomfort? Experts weigh in

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Most of us have experienced that moment of shock when the hot water runs out mid-shampoo — but many experts claim the benefits of a frigid shower are worth the unpleasant jolt.

For those who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into ice baths or cryotherapy, cold showers can provide a way to ease into the physical advantages of experiencing lower temperatures of water.

Cold plunging and cold showers have gained popularity in recent years, largely inspired by the Dutch world record-setting Wim Hof, who combines a unique breathing technique to endure near-freezing temperatures for extended periods, according to Kyle Zagrodzky, founder and CEO of OsteoStrong in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Zagrodzky, who has had a long career in the health and fitness industry, incorporates cold water therapy in his practice.

Benefits of cold showers

“Cold water stimulates blood flow, enhancing overall circulation and getting your heart pumping,” Zagrodzky said in an email to Fox News Digital.

Cold plunging and cold showers have gained popularity in recent years for their potential health benefits. (iStock)

A cold shower can be particularly effective after a workout, as it reduces muscle soreness and inflammation. 

Exposure to cold water can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which can reduce stress, alleviate pain and instantly improve mood, the expert noted.

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“Personally, I’ve experienced a transformative mood boost after taking a cold shower when feeling emotionally low and unmotivated,” Zagrodzky said.

Cold showers can also have an aesthetic benefit, as they can help tighten pores and lead to improved skin and hair health, he added.

“Personally, I’ve experienced a transformative mood boost after taking a cold shower when feeling emotionally low and unmotivated.”

Contrary to the common association of cold exposure with catching a cold, Zagrodzky said that frigid showers can strengthen the immune system. 

“Another unexpected benefit is weight loss, as your body expends extra calories to maintain body temperature when it’s exposed to cold,” he said.

Potential risks

While cold showers are generally safe for most healthy adults, they can come with some risks — especially for individuals with specific medical conditions, warned Dr. Raj Dasgupta, chief medical adviser at Sleepopolis in California. 

water in shower

While cold showers are generally safe for most healthy adults, they can have risks, especially for individuals with specific medical conditions, experts say. (iStock)

“Cold exposure constricts the blood vessels and can lead to an increased risk of elevated blood pressure, which could have negative effects for people with heart disease, including hypertension,” he told Fox News Digital via email. 

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Those who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, may need to avoid cold exposure, since it can put added strain on the heart, warned Dasgupta. 

Individuals who have cold urticarial (hives), which is a skin reaction to cold exposure, or Raynaud’s syndrome, which causes numbness in the fingers and toes in response to cold temperatures, should consult with a doctor before starting cold showers, he advised.

Man in shower

Experts recommend a slow start with cold showers — and gradually increasing the duration of the showers. (iStock)

The same goes for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Dasgupta added, “If you experience any negative side effects from taking cold showers, stop immediately and talk to your doctor.”

How to get started

For those interested in getting started with cold showers, Zagrodzky recommends taking a 60- to 65-degree Fahrenheit shower for 10 to 15 seconds, gradually reducing both temperature and duration each day. 

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Below is his guide to water temperatures:

Moderate cold: Water temperatures between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius) are suitable for most people.

Cool or cold: Temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (7-10 degrees Celsius) provide a more invigorating experience.

Very cold: Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) are challenging and more appropriate for specific therapeutic goals, such as reducing muscle soreness and inflammation.

Toothbrush and other bottles in shower

“Cold showers shouldn’t be considered a primary treatment for any condition, and conclusive research about cold therapy is still limited,” a doctor said. (iStock)

Dasgupta agreed that to help your body adapt to cold water, it’s important to begin gradually. 

“You can start by slightly reducing the water temperature with each shower and then gradually increase the duration,” he said. 

“Pay close attention to your body, and if you experience discomfort, it’s important to get out of the shower and warm up.”

“Cold water stimulates blood flow, enhancing overall circulation and getting your heart pumping.”

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