How A Cold Shower Can Improve Your Immunity

If you've ever scrolled Instagram or YouTube and came across clips of celebrities and influencers dipping their nearly-naked bodies in baths of icy cold water, you may have furrowed your brow and thought, "Uh... no thanks." If that sounds familiar, join the club.

Thanks to social media and some star-studded advocacy, cold water therapy has been steadily gaining attention over the last few years. For many of us, however, the seemingly kooky practice is still shrouded in mystery and illusion — perhaps stemming from the fact that everyone we see partaking seems to sell out stadiums or rule the airwaves. As it turns out, however, it's been working just fine for us little people for quite some time. Healthline notes that cold water therapy — the practice of submerging oneself in water cooled to around 59 degrees Fahrenheit — has been used by humans for millennia. As it turns out, cold water therapy isn't a form of torture, but rather a technique believed to encourage certain health benefits.

How can a cold shower make you healthier?

As is common with viral wellness trends, there's a lot of talk in connection with cold water therapy and its many advantages. If you've been listening to the palaver surrounding it, you might think a Siberian shower will have you energized during the day, sleeping like a baby at night, and inflammation-free. However, according to Healthline, the evidence to support these claims has been purely anecdotal up until this point. Now, science has gone ahead and proven that it can do the body some good.

A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that cyclists who immersed themselves in cold water for 10 minutes after an extreme workout reported less soreness, and a similar 2016 study published in Medicine had the same results.

The science-backed benefits don't stop at sore muscles. A 2008 study published in Medical Hypotheses found that two short cold showers daily alleviated symptoms of depression. Additionally, some research has indicated that cold water can elevate your metabolic rate, which burns energy and calories. However, more research is required before weight loss can be officially added to the list of health benefits stimulated by cold water therapy (Healthline).

Can cold water improve your immune system function?

While your childhood likely saw no shortage of demands that you put a jacket on before you catch a cold, science suggests that a little chill might actually do your immune system some good. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology came to the conclusion that so long as they were noninfectious, stress-inducing stimuli (like regularly exposing your body to cold water) can actually activate the immune system and increase metabolic rate.

In order to examine whether the immune system can be improved voluntarily, a 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America exposed participants to a bacterial infection. Those who were instructed to practice meditation and deep breathing while partaking in cold water immersion had fewer symptoms. Additionally, their bodies produced more anti-inflammatory chemicals. In theory, that means that a cold shower a day might be able to keep the doctor away!