Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
Do you know what a Scottish Shower is? It’s become my newest health routine! I’m loving it and want to share with you what it is, why I do it, and why you should add it to your healthy lifestyle routine as well. Settle in because this month’s newsletter is coming to you in two parts because I have a lot to share with you. I hope you’ll find it both fun and engaging. And at the very least, refreshing!
A Scottish Shower starts off with the water nice and hot, and then you turn it down to cold for the last few minutes. I wanted to know more about the history of this practice, so I did some research. I’ve discovered that cold water baths have been used for centuries as a way to treat various ailments, and that modern studies support the health claims associated with this age-old treatment.
A Brief History of Cold Water Therapy
In ancient times, hot water was a luxury. People had to live near a hot springs in order to enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, so for most of human history people bathed in cold water. But even when the ancient Greeks developed heating systems for their public baths, they continued bathing in cold water for the health benefits. The Spartans felt hot water was for the weak and unmanly. When they did take baths, which wasn’t very often, they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for fighting.
During the first century, Finnish people would sweat it out in saunas and then jump into an ice cold lake or stream, a pastime which is referred to as “avantouinti” or “ice hole swimming” and is still enjoyed by modern Finns and other Scandinavians as well. Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.
In the 1820s, a German farmer named Vincenz Priessnitz started touting a new medical treatment called “hydrotherapy,” which used cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. He turned his family’s homestead into a sanitarium, and patients flocked to it hoping his cold water cure could help them. Among his clientele were dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, and princesses. Priessnitz’s hydrotherapy soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States. Celebrities and other famous people took to it and helped popularize the cold water cure with the masses. For example, Charles Darwin, who had many health issues, was a huge proponent of hydrotherapy. The first hydrotherapy facility opened up in the U.S in 1843, just when the sanitarium craze began in America. By the the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy/sanitarium resorts existed in the U.S., the most famous being the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded by John Harvey Kellogg. However, the popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline in the 20th century as many in the medical field moved to drugs to treat illnesses. As doctors concentrated on conventional medicine, the more holistic methods began to be seen as quackery. While hydrotherapy was prescribed less and less to cure illnesses, doctors continued to use it to treat injuries such as strained muscles and broken bones. You’ll find athletes today taking ice baths to speed their recovery from injuries and intense workouts. It’s always good to know some history, but of course the bottom line is knowing HOW this benefits you!
Benefits of Cold Water Showers
While doctors may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold bath and call them in the morning, cold water can still impart real health benefits:
1. Improves circulation. Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercise and work. Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower advocates propose that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking. According to Dr. Joesph Mercola, a natural health expert, as cold water hits the body, its ability to get blood circulating leads the arteries to more efficiently pump blood, therefore boosting our overall heart health. It can also lower blood pressure, clear blocked arteries, and improve our immune system.
2. Relieves depression. Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicates that short cold showers may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”. That’s the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline, a chemical that could help mitigate depression. Cold showers have been shown to relieve depression symptoms due to the intense impact of cold receptors in the skin, which send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain. They produce an anti-depressive effect, and boost moods, making cold showers a pick-me-up.
3. Keeps skin and hair healthy. Hot water dries out your skin and hair. If you want to avoid this, turn down the temperature of your showers. According to certified dermatologist Jessica Krant, ice cold water can help our skin by preventing it from losing too many natural oils. And your hair gets the same benefit. Along with that, one of the benefits of cold showers is how they will help your hair appear shiny, strong and healthy by keeping the follicles flat and increasing their grip to the scalp. This is great news for any of you who are scared of losing your hair.
4. Strengthens immunity. According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response. I see this as one of the most important benefits of cold showers because the fact that they increase your immunity is huge. Who doesn’t need a better immune system?
5. Increases testosterone. The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute mentioned above showed that cold water showers increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. There’s also an increase in fertility. The University of California at San Francisco did a study with men who were exposed to 30 minutes of “wet heat” (hot baths and such) a week. When the men cut this exposure out, their sperm count went up by 491%, and their sperm’s motility improved as well. While switching from a hot to cold shower may not have as dramatic an effect as bathing, if you’re trying to create some offspring, it can’t hurt.
6. Increases energy and well-being. Every time you end a shower with cold water, you’ll leave the shower feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. Of course that’s anecdotal evidence, but I’m a believer.
7. Cold showers build strong will power. Maybe this is one of the best benefits. To a cold shower virgin, the amount of will power it takes to take cold showers may seem like that of a superwoman, because for the common person it is a pretty big change. Doing something you are so resistant to, every single day, right when you wake up, takes a lot of mental strength. And over time, this mental strength and discipline will become an automated habit that spreads into every area of your life.
Stay tuned for part 2 of your Joyinmovement newsletter on cold showers. It’ll come your way tomorrow! Besides more benefits of taking cold showers, I’ll give you many tips on how to get started with this health practice.
Here’s to your health,