Sure, it sounds miserable, but standing under chilly water in the morning could improve your physical health—and your outlook on the world. Cold showers have been the secret weapon for everyone from the ancient Spartans, who thought it made them tougher, to James Bond, who claimed they made him more alert.
There are hosts of physical and psychological benefits to an invigorating shower. And that’s not to mention the added plus of a shorter morning routine, because who wants to stand under an icy tap for longer than necessary?
1. Immunity boost
Researchers have found a correlation between exposure to cold water and an increase in glutathione, an amino acid that boosts your immune system, rids the body of toxins and fights stress.
2. Better skin
Hot water strips essential oils from your skin, dermatologists say, leaving it dry and itchy. Showering in cold water a few times a week will reduce skin inflammation and keep your hair from becoming brittle.
3. Faster muscle recovery
Athletes, from high school track sprinters to NFL linebackers, soak in ice baths for short periods of time to ease muscle soreness after a race or game. The same principle applies to weekend warriors who want to shorten recovery time from a long run or an afternoon of gardening.
4. Improved mood
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University found cold showers could ward off depression. They studied “adapted cold showers,” which consist of a five-minute gradual transition period of dropping water temperature (to make the shock of the chilly water a little less unpleasant), followed by two to three minutes of showering in 52-degree water. “A cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain,” they wrote, “which could result in an anti-depressive effect.”