We may all prefer steaming hot showers in winter and a tepid wash on a hot day but physicians say we would enjoy significant health benefits if we altered temperatures more frequently.
The rise in popularity of the Dutch Wim Hof’s method of regular ice baths has sparked discussion of how bathing temperatures affect the body.
Mitchell Diamond, the recovery expert and founder of the Sydney Cryo Spa Clinic, said there are numerous bodily advantages of both hot (between 35 and 42 degrees) and cold treatments.
Mitchell also recommended attending regular cool cryotherapy and hot sauna sessions to help improve bodily issues further.
Online informative publication Medical News Today has outlined the benefits hot and cold showers have on the body
The health benefits of cold showers and cryotherapy
Cryotherapy, known as ‘cold therapy’, utilises extremely cold temperatures (often below 100 degrees Celsius) to reduce certain symptoms and improve overall health.
Decreases inflammation, swelling and pain
Recovery expert and founder of the Sydney Cryo Spa Clinic, Mitchell Diamond (pictured), outlined how there are numerous bodily advantages of both hot (between 35 and 42 degrees) and cold treatments
Similarly to applying an ice-pack to a burn or injury, exposure to cool treatments can help decrease swelling and inflammation.
Mitchell said cryotherapy suits all types of people who suffer from muscular discomfort to major health issues involving swelling – such as arthritis.
‘The most common health benefit from cryotherapy is the reduction of inflammation, increase in blood flow to the vital organs, anti-aging factor and muscle recovery,’ Mitchell said.
According to Medical News Today, exposure to cold water triggers an ‘automatic pain response’ known as stress-induced analgesia (SIA), ultimately resulting in the decrease in pain, swelling and inflammation.
Similarly to applying an ice-pack to a burn or injury, cool treatments such as cryotherapy or cold showers can help decrease swelling and inflammation
What is the Wim Hof method?
Wim Hof, known as the Ice Man, has done extensive training that enables him to control his breathing, heart rate, and blood circulation and to withstand extreme temperatures.
His Wim Hof Method is built on three pillars, which are breathing, cold therapy and commitment.
Combined, these three pillars form a powerful method that is capable of changing your life. The Wim Hof Method is even know to relieve symptoms of several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, sarcoidosis, vasculitis, and several autoimmune diseases.
Learn more here
Reduces muscle soreness and fatigue
Medical News Today outlined how one study conducted in 2009 tested the impacts of ‘cold water immersion’ on the physical stamina of athletes.
One group of participants immersed themselves in cold water after playing sports and the second group received ‘tepid water immersion’.
The results showed few differences between the two groups, but those who received the cold water treatment had reduced levels of muscle soreness and fatigue.
One study conducted in 2009 found ‘cold water immersion’ therapy reduces muscle soreness and fatigue
The benefits of hot showers and infrared saunas
‘No matter the person, every individual will receive the same health benefits from an infrared sauna,’ Mitchell said.
Improves cardiovascular health
While studies have shown cold water therapy has significant impacts on the body, hot showers and infrared saunas also have several benefits.
‘[While] you are in the infrared sauna your body is working hard at producing sweat, pumping blood and burning calories,’ Mitchell said.
This increase in blood flow and improved cardiovascular health can assist those with chronic illnesses and heart-related diseases.
‘As infrared saunas promote cardiovascular conditioning, it drastically reduces your chances of any heart issues in the future,’ he said.
‘No matter the person, every individual will receive the same health benefits from an infrared sauna,’ Mitchell said
Improves muscle soreness
Exposure to hot temperatures can also help soothe sore, tender muscles and joints, which commonly occurs after exercise or in the elderly.
‘In a muscle recovery perspective, the increase of blood circulation carries off the metabolic waste products and gives oxygen to the muscle so they can recover quicker,’ Mitchell explained.
While studies have shown cold water therapy has significant impacts on the body, hot showers also have numerous benefits
Improved brain health and sleep
Taking 20-minute hot showers has also shown to improve brain health and sleeping patterns.
‘Infrared saunas have also been known to show effect on the autonomic nervous system, putting clients in the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state, allowing your body to regenerate, relax and heal,’ he said.
One study conducted in 2018 found taking hot showers or baths can significantly benefit brain health by increasing the brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which is a protein responsible for the functions of the brain and spinal cord.
Health organisations also recommend taking a hot shower before bed to improve sleep quality, as the high temperature allows the body to relax and a fall in body temperature is experienced afterwards.