Google “Cold Shower” and you will get one full page of posts with “Benefits of cold showers”. In the last couple of years, I came across “Cold Shower Challenge” primarily through two lenses: 

  1. As a habit-building 30 days challenges
  2. As a tool to embrace discomfort in the path of stoicism

Backstory

Cold Shower is not new to me. I grew up in Chennai which has a warm climate. There was no necessity for a geyser as the water from overhead tank gets naturally boiled as early as 8 am in the morning. So we used to take a shower early in the morning. My idea of a cold shower was not having a hot shower. Few years in between I lived in Srirangam which has the majestic river Cauvery and its tributary Kollidam running on two sides. We used to bathe in these rivers almost every day. 

After moving to Bangalore for work, which was colder than Chennai, I got accustomed to hot water showers. I am now in Pune, which has a similar climate as Bangalore. Summers are hot and winters are cold. Cold according to my standards. Please do not compare to Delhi level cold or Canada level cold. My definition of cold does not have to have snow. Last year, one of my friends did a cold shower challenge for a while. I was toying with that idea since then. 

The Challenge

I took this challenge recently and in no time I completed a streak of 50 days today.  To be honest, the first few days was not a challenge at all as the weather was transitioning from summer to monsoon. The last couple of weeks has been a challenge with the mercury levels dropping. One advice that was given to me by somebody when I was a kid was to start from the feet when you are bathing in hot water and to start from the head when you are using cold water. Starting from the head for cold water helps you quickly adjust to the temperature and starting from the feat for hot water prevents your burning your skin accidentally. I don’t know if it is relevant but I am putting it out here so that it may be useful for some soul someday. I follow the advice and it works well for me. 

The YouTube content about cold water showers talks about various benefits. I didn’t research that before taking up this challenge. One day, when I was in the shower I had an idea of writing a post on Cold Showers. I started looking for the benefits of the cold shower after I was 45 days into the challenge. Very proactive of me.  I started seeing if I feel any difference at all. I couldn’t tell you. Probably I would have saved a few Rupees on electricity. Other than that, nothing was glaringly visible. I started researching the benefits and looked for some books when few blog posts would have been enough. 

I read the following books because (1) they were short (2) they were free with the kindle unlimited subscription and (3) the titles were cheesy.

I would not recommend buying these books unless you have Kindle Unlimited and you are looking for a light informational read. Now, let us look at some of the benefits

Benefits of a cold shower

Improves Skin & Hair: All of these books suggest that cold shower improves the skin and hair. I did not observe any change. My better half thinks that’s because I stopped grooming since the lockdown and I now look like Chewbacca. 

Alertness and Energy: I definitely felt this. Immediately after the shower, I was able to feel the energy. That’s because of the increased blood flow. 

Willpower: I can’t say if it increased the willpower but getting into the cold shower required some willpower especially in the last two weeks. Maybe I will start another habit-challenge and see if I can keep up.

Immunity Boost: The books say the cold shower improves the immunity as it produces more white blood cells. I do not know how to evaluate this during this covid times as I have been eating healthy in general. I used to catch a cold quickly when the weather changes but this time I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go out much and catch it from other infected people. I cannot attribute it completely to cold shower though. 

Weight Loss: Every book talks about weight loss because of a cold shower. If I had known, I would have done this long time ago. I have lost a few kilos but I don’t think it is because of the cold shower alone. As I said earlier, we have been generally eating healthy since March

Reduction in Muscle Soreness: The cold water after intense workouts seem to reduce muscle soreness. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t worked out in a while. Definitely not intense. 

Cons of a cold shower

Those were the pros of cold showers. There is always two sides to a coin, Good and evil co-exist. So, I was looking for the cons of cold showers. They were trivial like when you are sick or have a common cold don’t take cold showers. The major cons that were concerning were 

Heart Rate: Sudden exposure to cold water makes your heart pump faster. This could potentially stress your heart and may not be a good idea for people who have heart ailments. 

Blood Pressure: Sudden exposure to cold water makes your blood vessels constrict and as a result, it increases the pressure. 

Like everything else, cold showers have two sides too. Whether it will be good for you not, only you can tell. 

To summarize my experience, I found myself alert and energetic after the shower and I did embrace the discomfort. More than the benefits, I am happy that I was able to complete the streak of 50 days.  I will leave you with a question to ponder – How the hell Wim Hof does that?