Nature has presented us with environmental conditions to better our moods, take control of our immunity, and give us energy. We all have it in us to perform extraordinary things and to change our bodies, even our autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is in control of your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, hormonal releases, and more! According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of the word ‘autonomic’ is “acting or occurring involuntarily”. However, recent research is starting to show how humans are able to tap into their own internal systems and alter them.
One way that we can begin to tap into our ANS is through the process of cold emersion. The cold is an environmental condition that we have been trying to avoid. We have hot water, air heaters, and even heated blankets that we believe are technological advances; however, they may be some of our biggest crutches. Nevertheless, adopting new habits can bring an abundance of health benefits.
When we are healthy, our core temperature is around 97.7–99.5 °F. Therefore, according to the Harvard Medical School, you can expect your body to react when it is exposed to temperatures outside of this range. The blood vessels begin to constrict to keep the internal temperature stable. Additionally, you may begin to breathe heavier to fill your lung with oxygen as your heart rate increases. Then, after some time, your body will level out once more and your breathing will return to normal.
There are many benefits that you can expect from adding a cold shower into your daily routine. Your level of alertness will increase due to the increase in oxygen in your blood. Also, your skin and hair will benefit because the cold water will tighten pores and hair cuticles. Additionally, your immunity may increase due to an increase in bacteria-fighting cells and from an increase in blood flow through your body. Next, you may experience slight weight loss because the cold can activate the brown fat in tour body which tends to burn more calories than normal white fat. Lastly, cold showers may help soothe our muscles after a workout and assist with relieving soreness.
Even after hearing the benefits, it may seem ludicrous that you’ll ever want to immerse yourself in a cold shower. Rightfully, cold showers should never be forced. Also, people with health conditions should consult their physician before beginning cold immersion. Therefore, a good place to start is to alternate your showers between hot and cold. For example, start your shower as hot for 60 seconds, then cold for 30 seconds, and back to hot. You may continue to move towards more cold as you feel more comfortable. This shower method itself helps with blood circulation according to LifeSpa! You may try this after your exercise session at Urban Fitness Studio showers!
To further increase the benefits of cold showers, adopting a breathing technique would be ideal. UFS offers Yoga sessions where you learn how to control your breathe and move. Furthermore, Dr. Casper, our in-house chiropractor, can help you learn how to breathe properly and allow your body to receive the most out of breathing.
“8 Pros and Cons of Cold Showers.” HRF, Health Research Funding, 29 July 2015, healthresearchfunding.org/8-pros-and-cons-of-cold-showers/.
“Autonomic” Def. 1. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, Web. 8 July 2019
Douillard, John. “Hot Science on Cold Showers.” John Douillard’s LifeSpa, 28 Aug. 2018, store.lifespa.org/hot-science-cold-showers/.
Joeng, Hyeon Cheol, and Yoo Jin Choi. “The Effect of Cold-Water Immersion on Fatigue, Stress, and Autonomic Nervous System Activity of Body Fatigue Recipient.” Advanced Science and Technology Letters , vol. 116, 2015, pp. 6–10.
Mooventhan, A, and L Nivethitha. “Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body.” North American Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 6, no. 5, May 2014, p. 199.
“Out in the Cold.” Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing, Jan. 2010, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/out-in-the-cold.