Many of us look forward to a warm shower in the morning or after work, so the thought of deliberately bathing in cold water can be a little cringe-inducing. But, regular showers do more for our bodies than just upkeeping hygiene and comfort – and water temperature can have a lot to do with these effects.

Some people, especially athletes, have suggested that taking cold showers has helped them with their metabolism, circulation, and alertness, among other things.

Below, we’ll take a look at what scientific research has uncovered about these sorts of claims, and explore the benefits and risks of both cold and hot showers.

Cold shower benefits

Cold shower benefits

We might not always think about it, but external temperatures can impact our bodies in many different ways, both internally and at the surface of the skin – so it’s worth considering how your regular shower temperature could be affecting you.

Here are some of the most widely recognised benefits of taking cold showers…

Cold showers can increase circulation

Sudden exposure to cold water can send the body into a state of shock, as it works harder to maintain its core body temperature. The blood vessels at the surface of the skin constrict to reduce heat loss, increase blood flow to the body’s core, and keep us as warm as possible. Regular cold water exposure can be a good way to give your cardiovascular system a workout, and is used in certain forms of hydrotherapy to treat poor circulation.

Cold showers can boost metabolism

Sticking with the theme of shifting the body’s functions into overdrive, cold showers have been shown to temporarily boost metabolism.

Alongside increasing blood flow to the body’s core in order to warm itself up, the body also creates heat by burning additional calories.

If you’re trying to lose weight, then burning a few extra calories here and there is always going to be a win – though cold showers aren’t sufficient as a weight-loss method on their own.

That being said, boosting your workout with a cold shower to cool off can also support muscle recovery, as we’ll cover next…

Cold showers can soothe muscle soreness

Besides just helping you to cool down, taking a cold shower after a workout can have the added benefit of soothing muscle soreness and decreasing inflammation.

The constriction of blood vessels at the surface of the skin (caused by exposure to cold water) helps to reduce inflammation caused by exercise.

Studies have even shown that cold showers can accelerate the healing process for the micro-tears that naturally form in our muscles when we work out. This can help to relieve muscle soreness more quickly.

Cold showers can wake you up

Finally, exposing yourself to cold water in the morning can be a very effective way to wake up your brain and body.

This might not seem so appealing or necessary if you’re already a morning person. But if you tend to feel like you’re walking through treacle until you’ve had your morning coffee, then braving the icy water first thing might be just the boost you need to get your days off to an energetic start!

Controversial claims about cold showers

Controversial claims about cold showers

Online articles about the benefits of cold showers can often mix in a few fantastical claims with the ones that are supported by science – so there are some controversial claims to be found out there.

Here are the biggest contenders…

Do cold showers boost endorphins?

With only a little Google research, you’ll quickly find many claims that cold showers can boost your mood. Plenty of these are unconfirmed, but there are also lots of articles and videos claiming that there is scientific evidence of a link between cold showers and a boost in the production of endorphins (happy hormones).

While there is some evidence to suggest this, it’s very limited. The majority of articles online reference the same 2008 study, which saw researchers investigate whether cold showers could be useful as a treatment for depression.

However, only a handful of participants were observed, and none of them actually had the right symptoms to be diagnosed with depression.

The study concludes by stating that ‘wider and more rigorous studies would be needed to test the validity of the hypothesis’. And since then, no further significant results have been found to add support to this study.

Can cold showers boost your immune system?

Unlike the endorphins claim, fairly good evidence exists to support the immune system-boosting effects of regular cold showers. This study of over 3000 participants over 90 days found that those who took regular cold showers took less sick days than the hot shower control group.

Though this is far stronger evidence than that of the endorphins study, the researchers didn’t measure any biological effects on the participants before or after showering – meaning we don’t know exactly why the cold shower group took less sick days.

So, it’s entirely possible that cold showers are good for our immune systems – though it’s best to take any solid claims about this with a grain of salt.

Cold shower risks

Though there are some clear benefits to taking regular cold showers, it’s important to be aware that they may be harmful for those with certain conditions.

If you have heart disease or any other cardiovascular condition, taking regular cold showers could be an unnecessary risk.

Increased heart rate is a completely normal and expected part of the body’s response to cold water shock, as it works to pump blood to core tissue. But if you have a heart condition, provoking your heart in this way could be dangerous, potentially leading to arrhythmia.

How to start taking cold showers

If you want to try making cold showers a regular part of your routine, you might still be a little apprehensive about the prospect of subjecting your body to chilly temperatures first thing in the morning.

However, there’s no need to jump in at the deep end – you can gradually ease in. You might want to try slowly turning the water colder toward the end of a warm shower, then seeing how long you can bear it before you dry off.

If you want to get to the point where you’re always taking cold showers, then you can use this method to help you take longer cold showers over time.

Alternatively, it’s perfectly fine to just keep up the habit of ending a warm shower with a cold splash, as you’ll still be getting the benefits.

Hot shower benefits

Hot shower benefits

There are also upsides to taking hot showers – so it’s best not to assume that cold showers are always better for you.

Here are a few ways hot showers can be good for our health…

  • Hot soup and warm baths are often recommended for relieving symptoms of a cold, and the same effects can be enjoyed by taking a hot shower. This is because steam can help to clear the airways and sinuses of mucus, allowing you to breathe easier and feel less stuffy.


  • Hot air and steam can also have an effect on the skin, dislodging dirt that may have built up in the pores. This means that taking the occasional hot shower can help to reduce skin blemishes, in conjunction with proper skincare.


  • Finally, hot showers can also have a relaxing effect on the muscles, and relieve tension. For this reason, hot showers can still be a good option after a workout – and they’re also helpful for winding down before going to bed at night.

Hot shower risks

Just like cold showers, hot showers can also be harmful in certain ways. Taking too many hot showers can lead to dry skin, as the heat can be destructive to the protective layer of skin, known as the epidermis. Exposure to hot water can damage the fine barrier of sebum – an oily substance which protects the skin and locks in moisture.

For that reason, hot showers can be a poor choice for those with skin conditions such as eczema. However, it’s also worth noting that taking hot showers can increase blood pressure – which is especially undesirable if you already have high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues like heart disease.

Final thoughts…

So, should you brave the cold, or stick with regular hot showers? As with many questions of health, the answer is: it depends.

As much as many media outlets have championed cold showers as a life-changing habit or even miracle treatment, the reality is that both cold and hot showers can provide a few different minor benefits. So it’s worth making the decision based on what you’d like to achieve.

For instance, if you struggle to feel motivated or awake in the morning, or you’re working on improving your circulation, then cold showers could be a great addition to your routine.

On the other hand, if you like to take your showers in the evening and the heat helps you to relax before bed, or you want to use them as an occasional aid as part of your skincare routine, then hot showers could work for you.

We hope that you’ve found our advice helpful. For more health tips, why not check out the health and fitness section of our website?