When a man gets a little too excited, we tell him to take a cold shower to cool down. Interestingly, if he followed that advice, he would gain more energy from the experience, including more testosterone. You may cool him down temporarily, but you’ll make him stronger for the next time. All over the world, people have used cold water baths or showers as therapy for a wide range of ailments. In the 1800s, ice bath treatments were medically prescribed to patients as hydrotherapy to cure everything from broken bones to psychological disorders.
While hydrotherapy has largely been replaced by pharmaceuticals in western countries, the practice of immersion into icy cold water continues. People in northern climates go from the sauna to jump into a pile of snow to invigorate their bodies. The annual polar bear clubs take a dip in freezing lakes each year. Athletes are increasingly turning to this method to help speed up the recovery time after the major physical stress of competing.
As the body feels cold water, it responds with a survival response designed to protect vital organs. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin are closed and blood flow is directed internally to keep the body’s core warm. When the body re-emerges from this chilly environment, the blood rushes back into all of the tiny blood vessels. The effect is to help flush out the damage to cells caused by physical exercise and to keep inflammation in check. Athletes recover from exercise more quickly and they show increased stamina if they take an ice bath between training routines.
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This process seems to produce a variety of other positive benefits to the body as well. As the body warms up after the chilly experience, it releases antibodies as part of the process of recovery. This boosts the immune system and helps to protect the body from inflammation and other disease. To add more power to men in this recovery stage, the body releases testosterone, so all those brave souls who brag about their manliness after jumping into a frigid shower or pile of snow after a sauna may actually be correct. If the man has fatherly desires, he will be interested to know that chilled baths can increase sperm counts dramatically. This may be a case of the chill beats the pill?
The recovery process also activates the body to access fat stores, known as brown fat, which can result in accelerating weight loss. Cold water treatments close the pores of the skin and hair follicles, which helps to prevent the skin from drying out as quickly as a hot shower will. The result is skin that appears more refined and shinier hair. The invigorating aspect of a cold bath stimulates almost every part of the body, including the brain. As the body rushes to recover from the effects of the frigid water, it sends signals to the brain that boost moods and may be a tool to help fight depression.
The amount of time you spend in a cold shower or bath is up to you and it depends on the temperature of the water. Fifty-degree water will feel chilly, and you may tolerate ten to fifteen minutes of it. A shower at thirty-nine degrees will feel even chillier and you may find that three to four minutes is all you can tolerate. This is not simply an instant dip in and out of the icy water. Stay in the cold water for more than two minutes to stimulate the optimal recovery process.
A word of caution is warranted; if you have heart disease or high blood pressure or suffer from any illness that creates a fever, you would be well advised to avoid the added stress of chilling your body down. If you are not certain, please consult your medical practitioner for advice before trying this technique. If you are clear to go for it, then keep the hot water in the tank once per week and let the chills help to boost your performance.