On average, people in the UK will have 227 showers a year, according to a survey by Laterooms.com. It’s so much a part of our daily life that we probably don’t give much thought to the benefits beyond hygiene and cleanliness. However, the temperature of our shower can make a huge difference to our bodies, our minds and more. We’ve evaluated the pros and cons of hot showers and cold showers to help you decide which one might be best for you or if changing your routine and switching between the two could be of benefit.
The heat is on
It goes without saying that hot showers are more popular in the UK, with traditional British weather being way short of temperatures that would require a cold shower to cool down. But aside from warming us up on bitterly cold mornings, hot showers have more to offer.
- Heat is excellent at relieving tense and tight muscles and soothing stiffness. Hot water, with the aid of a powerful or massaging showerhead, can act as a mini massage, loosening knots and easing away aches and pains from exercise or being cooped up in an office chair all day.
- Feeling anxious or stressed? Get yourself into the shower and turn that temperature dial up. Studies have shown that hot showers can stimulate your brain’s production of oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone, and ease stress.
- If you’re struggling with a cold, which most people in the UK will at least once or twice a year, and finding it hard to breathe through your nose, a hot shower could be your saviour. The steam from the hot water acts as a decongestant and works to open your nasal passages and break up the accumulation of mucus, allowing it to drain out and hopefully help you to get some much-needed rest.
If you’ve been out for a wintery morning run, got caught in an icy downpour or have just got back from a swim in your local lido, a hot shower is the best way to shake off the chill and warm your body back up gradually. There has also been research that suggests that we get viruses more in the winter because being cold suppresses our immune systems, so it’s important to restore your body’s natural temperature as soon as possible.
Cold as ice
For most people, the idea of a cold shower is on a par with a cold cup of tea or a cold plate of mashed potato. However, cold showers are good for you in many ways and they even have the edge over their warmer counterparts in some areas.
- There’s no need to have an entirely cold shower, but turning your mixer shower cold for the last few minutes can help to shock your body awake. The sudden change in temperature helps to shake the last vestiges of fatigue out of your body and improves your mental alertness.
- They’re not just beneficial to wake up either. Our body temperatures drop as we nod off at night, so one of the benefits of cold showers is that having one before bed can make it easier to fall asleep.
- Research has shown that taking cool showers (not freezing cold, but around 20˚C) for a few minutes can be effective in the treatment of depression. The water can send electrical impulses to the brain, which helps boost mood. However, this is not a treatment in itself and should only be employed with the approval of a therapist.
- Hot water can be bad for our hair and skin. It can cause dry, itchy skin and split ends, while cold water is much more beneficial and hydrating, helping to smooth split ends and closing pores to prevent grease and dirt getting in.
- Cold showers help to improve circulation, prompting blood to rush to your organs and pump more efficiently.
- Cold showers can even help with weight loss. Our bodies have two kinds of fat: white and brown. White is the bad kind that we generate when we don’t burn enough calories, while brown is the good fat that helps keep us warm. Taking cold showers encourages brown fats, which then helps with the loss of white fat.
Having a cold shower after a workout can help your muscles recover quicker and prevent you feeling stiff the next day.