Why cold showers could help your immune system during lockdown

In the James Bond books, it’s a regular thing for 007 to start off a shower blasting out steamy hot water, only to quickly turn it to “ice cold” for the last few minutes. This would have been fine for the Bond actor, Scotsman Sean Connery as alternating between the hot and cold taps in this way is also known as a “Scottish Shower”.

Dutch athlete, Wim Hof, known as “the iceman” has long been pushing the idea of ‘cold thermogenesis’, which is a $20 phrase for the ten cent idea of a cold shower.

Wim Hof is an extreme athlete who has set world records for swimming under ice and running barefoot half-marathons in the snow.

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In Wim’s home country of The Netherlands, a study was carried out called The Cool Challenge. More than 3,000 people between the ages of 18 and 65 took part in the trial, that with the flick of the taps had them going from a hot shower to an icy blast for the last 30, 60 or 90 seconds for thirty days and, they did it in December in northern Europe. Brrrrrr!

Here’s the results:

• 29 per cent reduction is sickness absence from work

• Improved immune system

• Improved cardiovascular function

• Increased vitality

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The researchers concluded that the cold showers might make a person’s illness (if they had one) feel less severe, allowing them to continue with their daily activities. Now, that’s got to be good news, especially for anyone who’s a sole trader or self-employed. It’s bad enough feeling sick, but knowing that no-one’s going to do the work if you’re not there only doubles the blow.

Likewise, who wants to miss that special event or spend a weekend under the weather, when a cold spell could potentially make that less likely?

Another round of research found evidence from a similar test to support the belief that cold hydrotherapy (a cold shower) can “relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively”.

Why cold showers could help your immune system during lockdown

The research also showed “significant analgesic effects”, meaning that the cold therapy can relieve pain, which any sports-injured person knows already.

On top of this, RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – is still an effective go-to initial remedy for sprains, strains and other injuries. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times in my footy career RICE was the order of the day from the sports doctor.

Give the cold blast a go

1. Commit to the cold shower challenge. From tomorrow morning make the decision to turn that tap from hot to cold at the end of your shower.

2. Begin with an icy addition of 30 seconds for the first week, then

increase it to 60 seconds for the second week and 90 seconds by the

end of the month.

3. Make sure you’re immersing your whole body, not one leg or arm at a time You want that cold water on your noggin, your back and yes, your cheeky parts too.

4. It’s OK to make yelping sounds and noises when the cold hits. Giving voice to your feelings is absolutely encouraged!

There’s a famously laugh-out-loud episode of Seinfeld where the George character runs into a shrinkage problem after a cool dip in a swimming pool. That might be the only temporary downside of the benefits from cold shower, but then, it is only short-lived!

Yes, we’re in winter right now, but if you start adding this beneficial one-minute activity to your early morning routine today, just think how much easier it’ll get and how much healthier you’ll be when spring and summer roll around.

The hot-cold shower is the easiest thing in the world to do and it’s a health hack that’ll cost you nothing so don’t shrink at the idea.

Adam MacDougall is the creator of The Man Shake | @adammacdougall5

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