My mother’s uncle who lived well into his eighties always took a cold shower, even during the Lahore winters. Looking farther afield, photographs of tourists bating in frozen lakes is a common sight. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended cold baths for his patients.
Professional athletes take ice baths to reduce local inflammation and muscle soreness. Furthermore, there is ample scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of cold showers.
Michele green, MD, a New York-based dermatologist, is of the view that cold showers can increase and activity and alleviate stress by stimulating skin receptors and increasing serotonin in the body, which relieves symptoms of depression.
A recent study in the Netherlands reported that people who took cold showers for a month experienced a 29% decline in the number of sick days. While the exact effect of cold water of the immune system is unclear, it is assumed that cold temperatures induce a neuro-endocrine effect, which triggers a fight-or-fight response, causing hormones like cortisol to increase shortly before a shift to a relaxation response.
Cold showers are also recommended post-workout because exercising dilates capillaries and heat is dissipated throughout the skin. a cold shower constricts capillaries keeping the blood within centred, giving a jolt of energy to the body and creating a feeling of invigoration.
Hot water strips the skin of moisture (which exacerbates skin diseases) and dermatologists too are recommending cold showers as they tighten pores and seal in moisture. However, care must be taken to ensure exposure to cold water does not exceed 15 minutes as cold temperatures aggravate vascular conditions such as Raynaud’s syndrome in which fingers and feet turn blue.
NB: people suffering from anaemia or bone and joint diseases must consult their physician before indulging in cold showers.
By Dr Samia K. Babar. The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.