Stefano Ganddini of collegetopia.co joins us to discuss the many surprising health and productivity benefits of cold showers and how this ritual has helped him to accomplish his goals.
- The Cold Showers article on Collegetopia
- Momentum app
- 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris
- Mr. Money Mustache – What is Stoicism?
- Meditations by Marcus Arelius
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Using Evernote the Right Way
- Evernote Web Clipper
- Habit RPG
- Stefano’s website
- Stefano’s new book
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10 Reasons To Take Cold Showers
In the modern world, hot water is one of those things that that we take for granted, but for most of human history hot water was a rare luxury.
A Brief History of Hydrotherapy (Cold-Water Therapy)
First of all, if we consider the fact that modern humans have been on this planet for 200,000 years, and modern water heating systems weren’t created until the 18th century, this means that throughout 99% of human history people had to bathe in whatever water was available to them — lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.
(Of course, people who lived near hot springs could enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, but they were the exception.)
What’s my point?
Well, from an evolutionary perspective, one could argue that hot water is a very new and unnatural phenomenon.
This might explain why cold-water exposure has been found to have so many therapeutic benefits, and why people have continued to bathe in cold water even after the first water heating systems were created.
The origins of cold-water exposure as a form of therapy, called hydrotherapy, can be traced all the way back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations.
While the science behind it was initially poorly understood, during the 19th century hydrotherapy became a very popular form of medical treatment and began to spread all over the world.
At its peak in the late 19th century, there were over 200 hydrotherapy establishments in the United States.
However, the popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline during the mid-20thcentury as drug therapy started to replace many water-related therapies.
Yay for Big Pharma.
Today, the chances of your doctor prescribing you with 30 days of cold showers are, well, slim to none.
But, Big Pharma hasn’t won just yet. It seems that hydrotherapy might be making a comeback…
A Neo-Modern Revival
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding cold showers recently.
Tim Ferris (#1 New York Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek), Joel Runyon (creator of IMPOSSIBLE), and Brett & Kate McKay (founders of The Art of Manliness) are just a few of the many modern-day advocates of taking icy cold showers.
Here are 10 reasons why you should take cold showers:
1. Improves immunity.
One study found that the intensive voluntary short-term cold exposure of winter swimming results in improved antioxidative protection, which reduces the risk of disease. Another study, also on the effects of winter swimming in cold water, showed that red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets count increased significantly after brief exposure to cold water.
2. Increases energy.
Exposure to cold activates the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response. This triggers a neural response that creates a natural boost of energy in order to give the body increased strength and speed. In other words, you experience an adrenaline rush.
Research also suggests that exposure to cold can temporarily counteract physiological changes often associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
3. Promotes weight loss.
A recent study has found that exposure to cold can stimulate growth of brown fat – the “good” fat that burns energy and helps keep us warm. Similarly, another study has found that shivering for 10-15 minutes can have the same effect as exercising on a bicycle for 1 hour. If you’re looking for a good way to shiver, cold showers should do the trick.
4. Relieves symptoms of depression.
This study found that a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
5. Decreases stress.
A 1994 study that looked at winter swimmers found a drastic decrease in plasma uric acid concentration during and following the exposure to the cold stimulus. This can be viewed as an adaption to repeated oxidative stress, resulting in an increased tolerance to stress.
6. Refines hair and skin.
Board-certified dermatologist Jessica Krant, MD, advises against using hot water because “excessively hot water will strip healthy natural oils from your skin too quickly.”
7. Improves breathing, body oxygenation, and blood circulation.
When the cold water hits your skin, you experience the phenomenon of cold shock, an involuntary response characterized by a sudden rapid breathing (hyperventilation) and increased heart rate. The rapid breathing opens up your lungs (just like physical exercise does), which brings in more oxygen to your body and all of your vital organs.
8. Saves time and money.
Taking cold showers will save you time and money in more than just one way.
You won’t have to wait for the water to warm up.
You’ll take shorter showers.
You’ll spend the rest of your day much more efficiently — the days that I take cold showers are usually my most productive days.
Shorter showers and colder water means savings on your water heating bill.
9. Builds tolerance for discomfort.
If you want to achieve anything great in your life, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
By constantly challenging ourselves with something, even if it’s as simple as taking a cold shower, we build our tolerance for discomfort and develop a mental toughness that enables us to keep calm in times of stress, to adapt to the obstacles that life throws at us, and to fearlessly take on new challenges.
10. Feels amazing.
Sure, being in the cold water sucks, but the feeling you get after a cold shower is even better than the feeling you have during a hot shower.
As soon as you finish taking a cold shower, a warm rush encapsulates your body and you suddenly feel invincible.
It’s a sort of natural high that’s hard to describe, but it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
Getting Started with Cold Showers
The most important rule of taking cold showers is that you’re turning the knob all the way cold. The colder the better.
I used to be pretty adamant about starting cold from the very beginning, but many suggest starting out warm and then gradually decreasing the temperature of the water so your body can adjust. This is commonly known as a “Scottish Shower,” or the “James Bond Shower.”
This is definitely easier, and for the most part, seems to have all the same benefits as starting cold from the beginning, without the initial shock. Personally, I like the shock, but if you’ve spent your whole life taking hot showers, it might be best to ease into it.
For your first cold shower, I’d suggest starting out warm and then gradually transitioning to cold. Then, for each subsequent shower try starting at a slightly colder and colder temperature until you’re starting completely cold.
Overtime (data shows with as little as six 3-minute long exposures), your body will adapt to the cold water and attenuate the cold-shock response by as much as 20-30%.
“Is this medically safe? Can I get hypothermia?”
I am not a doctor, but based on my research I can confidently say that the chances of you getting hypothermia are very, very slim.
Hypothermia from exposure to cold water is not as sudden as is often believed.
People can survive for at least thirty minutes before becoming even mildly hypothermic in ice water (0 degrees Celsius).
The main risk from cold-water exposure is actually cardiac related and comes from the cold shock response. As the arteries narrow, the heart has to work harder to pump the same volume of blood throughout the body.
For this reason, people with heart disease and high blood pressure are advised against taking cold showers because the additional work load can cause the heart to go into cardiac arrest.
But if you’re healthy and have no heart conditions, a little cold water is not going to hurt you.
If You’re Scared, That’s Good
I’m reading a book right now called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and one of the key principles in the book is that the more scared we are of something, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
I love this.
It reminds me of a great quote by Nelson Mandela:
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
Instead of running away from our fears, we should use our fear as a guide, as a compass, to do the things that will bring out the best possible version of ourselves.
At the end of the day, taking cold showers is a just a simple way of getting into the habit of doing the things that scare us – the things that usually come with the biggest reward.
Stefano Ganddini is a senior in college and the creator of Collegetopia.co. He has spent the last three years trying to figure out what differentiates those who succeed from those who don’t. Join his newsletter to learn about unique, and sometimes unusual, but incredibly effective things that will help you start making small changes in your life to start achieving your biggest goals.
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