Cold shower: Cold showers can boost immune system by up to 30 percent reports Dr Mosley

Showering: Dermatologist recommends ways to keep skin healthy

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Most people balk at the idea of a cold shower but not those that hail from Nordic countries. A cold water plunge is a popular pastime in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. As Dr Michael Mosley explained in his podcast, Just One Thing – with Michael Mosley, the Nordic’s may be on to something.

According to Dr Mosely, when introduced gradually, cold showering “gives our immune system a bit of a boost”.

To support his argument, he cited a randomised controlled trial carried out in the Netherlands.

The aim of this study was to determine the cumulative effect of a routine cold shower on sickness, quality of life and work productivity.

Between January and March 2015, 3018 participants between 18 and 65 years without severe comorbidity (presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions) and no routine experience of cold showering were randomised to a (hot-to-) cold shower for 30, 60, 90 seconds, or a control group during 30 consecutive days followed by 60 days of showering cold at their own discretion for the intervention groups.

Quality of life, work productivity, anxiety, thermal sensation and adverse reactions were also recorded.

What did the researchers find out?

The researchers observed a 29 percent reduction in sickness absence for (hot-to-) cold shower regimen compared to the control group.

For illness days there was no significant group effect and no related serious adverse events were reported.

“A routine (hot-to-) cold shower resulted in a statistical reduction of self-reported sickness absence but not illness days in adults without severe comorbidity,” the researchers concluded.

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Other health benefits of cold showers

In addition to boosting our physical health, having a cold shower may improve our mental health.

Research into the evidence that links cold showering to depression alleviation was published in the journal Elsevier.

According to the research, exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system.

Dysfunctions in the sympathetic nervous system are thought to underlie mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and chronic stress.

“Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect,” notes the research.

Further evidence supports this hypothesis.

Practical testing by a statistically insignificant number of people, who did not have sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively.

Hydrotherapy is a therapeutic whole-body treatment that involves moving and exercising in water.

The therapy was also found to have a significant “analgesic effect” and it does not appear to have noticeable side effects or cause dependence, the study authors wrote.

Analgesics are a class of medications designed specifically to relieve pain.

It is important to note that more rigorous studies are needed to test the validity of the hypothesis.

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