Cold Therapy and Breathing
Taking regular cold showers is associated with numerous health benefits. Most of these positive effects ensue from deep breathing that is caused by cold exposure. Researchers have discovered that frequent exposure to low temperatures can also speed up body metabolism. Another notable benefit is a reduction in muscle inflammation which is the cause of sore and swollen muscles. This is also the reason you may have seen athletes take ice baths after strenuous exercise.
Cold exposure has also been linked to positive changes in mood and mental health and an improved immune system. The exact temperature of a cold shower or cold hydrotherapy is around 59°F (15°C) to treat health conditions or stimulate health benefits. It’s also known as cold hydrotherapy. Cold hydrotherapy has existed for centuries and it is now practised in the form of cold showers, immersive cold-water baths, and open-air swimming etc.
Furthermore, cold showers have proven to help practice deep breathing that has a number of benefits. Keep reading to know about cold showers, their effect on breathing and the resulting benefits.
Increased blood flow
Adding regular cold showers to your routine increases blood flow to the core of the body. When exposed to extreme cold, the body has a difficult time maintaining internal temperature. As a result, its controlled physical response includes increasing blood flow towards the vital organs. Simultaneously, cold showers activate faster and deeper breathing. These two activities synergize to increase oxygen levels in the bloodstream which is essential for all functions. Deep breathing induced by cold exposure also increases heart efficiency. (1)
Improved response to stress
Every time your body has been exposed to extremely cold temperatures it activates the sympathetic nervous system also knows as the ‘fight or flight’ response. The response is carried out by hormones called adrenalin and cortisol. The presence of these hormones in the body for a long time further increases the stress and induces a pro – inflammatory state. But when you repeatedly and regularly take cold showers, you are training your body to get used to it. At the same time, cold showers induce deep breathing which slows your heart rate and allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream which results in your brain calming down. Additionally, these deep breaths induce the production of endorphins which are the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. As a result, your body becomes better adapted towards fighting the fight or flight response, calming you down and easing anxiety.
Improved symptoms of depression
Deep breathing is medically known to be an adequate physical response for emotional control (2). A case study conducted in 2018 showed that a 24-year-old woman who was a long-time sufferer of depression benefited from weekly open water swimming so much that she could stop taking medications to control her emotions and symptoms. Deep breathing induced by cold showers works in the same way. Stress is a known inducer of anxiety and depression, once the body learns how to keep stress at bay, it will pave the way towards better mental health.
Reduced chronic or acute pains
Deep breathing induced by cold showers has numerous benefits for pain relief. Deep breathing allows an increased concentration of nitrous oxide in the blood, Nitrous oxide is a chemical that reduces general tension in the muscles. This can be targeted towards muscles that are contracted during acute or chronic pain. Furthermore, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic system of the body which is the ‘rest and digest’ phase. Cold exposure allows for a phenomenon called vasoconstriction to take place (Vasoconstriction means constriction of blood vessels in the body), this, in turn, reduces the oxygenation and blood flow to the injured area. As a result, the swelling and inflammation in those muscles go down and the pain is relieved.
Boosted immune response
Multiple studies have shown that deep breathing induced by cold showers can boost the immune system. (3) In one study, Dutch researchers combined cold therapy with deep breathing and mediation to demonstrate their positive effects on the immune system. The participants of this study showed an increase in the levels of anti-inflammatory chemicals and a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines which helped them manifest an overall better response to infection. The reason for this is that when the blood is fully oxygenated, it is better suited to absorb nutrients and vitamins, this effect strengthens the immune system by providing it with all the substances it needs in order to fight diseases.
All of these benefits can only be reaped if you keep track of the time, temperature and frequency of your showers and make them a habit.
At CryoShower, a team of experts can help you through this process to maximize your takeaway from the practice. CryoShower’s patented technology can further reduce the temperature of the cold water and improve the befits of cold therapy exposure. We also have our CryoShower app available on both Apple and Android devices to help you through the process by helping you track the benefits, recovery, and mental well-being.
REFERENCES & More Sources
1 Keatinge, W. R., McIlroy, M. B., & Goldfien, A. (1964). Cardiovascular responses to ice-cold showers. Journal of Applied Physiology, 19(6), 1145-1150.
2 Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical hypotheses, 70(5), 995-1001.
3 Kox, M., van Eijk, L. T., Zwaag, J., van den Wildenberg, J., Sweep, F. C., van der Hoeven, J. G., & Pickkers, P. (2014). Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(20), 7379-7384.