Over the past several months, I’ve been practicing a daily ritual that, to many, likely sounds like a third-world nightmare: cold showers. I first learned about the many benefits of cold showers after coming across Wim Hof, aka “The Iceman,” and his breathing technique that he claims allows him to withstand severe cold by actively manipulating the autonomic nervous system, writes Matt Lupo.
To say Hof is eccentric would be the understatement of our time, but given that he was able to climb 22,000 feet of Mount Everest in nothing more than shorts and shoes, he caught my attention. Then, after watching the Ted Talk on Cold Shower Therapy with Joel Runyon, I decided to take the plunge. Now, several months later, I’ve become so fond of this routine that I actually look forward to the cold.
The following are just a few of the many reasons why.
#1 – Higher “T”
According to the Thrombosis Research Institute, cold showers may actually boost testosterone production in men. This biochemical is vital to every man’s way of life, not only boosting libido but also energy and strength. If you’re on any type of fitness regimen, especially high-intensity training such as martial arts, you want all the natural testosterone you can get.
#2 – Immunity Boost
The Thrombosis Research Institute has also indicated that cold showers increase the number of white blood cells, which we rely on to fight viruses. The belief is that this increase in metabolic rate, caused by the body’s natural response to try to warm itself up, activates your immune system. In turn, this reaction releases more white blood cells.
#3 – Fat Burn
Your body houses two types of fat: white and brown. White accumulates when we take in more calories than our bodies need to function. Because such fat is not burned for fuel, it turns into the problematic areas such as “love handles” that plague so many of us. However, brown fat is good fat as it generates heat to keep our bodies warm. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, a Harvard Medical affiliate, brown fat is activated when exposed to extreme cold. Thus, cold showers can promote brown fat activity and result in natural weight loss.
#4 – Speed Up Recovery
Inflammation is the bane of our existence. In fact, the innumerable negative health consequences that result from inflammation require their own separate article. With that said, a cold shower can be quickly effective in reducing inflammation, especially the type caused by an intense workout. A cold shower is a faster and cheaper alternative to ice baths and the increasingly popular cryotherapy chambers.
#5 – Increased Grit
This one is tougher to quantify in scientific terms, but I can vouch for it from personal experience. It’s common sense, really: Being a gritty person means doing things that aren’t always pleasant when you don’t want to do them. Try taking a cold shower right after you get out of bed or, almost worse, when you’re half asleep getting ready for bed. It would be much easier to ease into the day with a hot shower or bid the day farewell with a belly-flop onto the sheets. This gives your mind and gut a little extra fortitude when something far more difficult—and likely important—comes your way.
Words by Matt Lupo.