Fewer sick days
Sniffling your way through cold and flu season? When it comes to battling common illnesses, it’s a two-pronged approach: Avoid all the germs you can and strengthen your immune system for those (awful) occasions when your coworker comes in with the stomach flu or your kid sneezes right into your face. (These habits boost your immune function.) And when it comes to fortifying your body’s defenses against germs, science has a new weapon—cold showers. Ending your daily shower with an icy blast can help reduce the number of sick days you take by 30 percent, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. Participants who turned the faucet to cool for 30 to 90 seconds at the end of each shower not only took fewer sick days but strangely also reported less anxiety and a slightly better sense of life satisfaction. (If you can make it through a minute in cold water then that big project suddenly seems less scary, perhaps?)
Less body fat
Here’s a strange-but-true scenario: Wearing your bathing suit in the snow may actually help you look better in said bathing suit. Enduring cold temperatures has been shown to change the way the body metabolizes fat, changing unhealthy yellow fat into “active” brown fat and leading to weight loss and fat loss, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health. In addition, you burn extra calories in the cold as your body expends more energy to stay at its preferred 98.6 degrees. There isn’t much research into cold-bathing as a long-term tactic but that hasn’t stopped some people from using “cold water therapy” or “shiver systems” to successfully lose weight, at least in the short term. Whether you prefer cold showers to more traditional weight loss methods is up to you though. Here’s how to lose fat without diet or exercise and here’s more on how brown fat affects metabolism.
Energy for days
As anyone who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge can attest, dumping cold water over your head will really wake you up. This is because any shock to your system activates endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals most often associated with a runner’s high. One of the primary effects of endorphins is an immediate rush of super-charged energy, and cold-shower enthusiasts say the boost lasts long after the cold shower is done and you’re warmed up again. It was even shown to help reduce the long-term exhaustion that characterizes chronic fatigue syndrome, according to a study published in Behavioral and Brain Functions. One proponent? Katharine Hepburn, who was famous for her lifelong love of “invigorating” cold showers and swims, a habit she got from her doctor father who said the cold increased energy and vitality. Here are more ways to get a burst of energy.