Q & A Library
Are Cold Showers Good For You?
A friend of mine takes cold showers and swims in the winter in the ocean with a "polar" group that does this annually. He claims that cold water has all kinds of health benefits, but I'm not convinced. Does swimming in cold water or taking cold showers really promote good health?
Answer (Published 4/9/2012)
I like swimming in cold water. I often swim in the bracing ocean and lake waters near my summer home in British Columbia, and I frequently end showers with a cold rinse, which is stimulating to the nervous system and can wake you up. It also helps retain heat in the body by constricting surface blood vessels. There’s not much scientific information on this subject – in a search of the medical literature, I could find only nine studies that mention cold showers (also know as cold plunges), and none of the investigations was recent. However, the smattering of research that has been done suggests that regular exposure to cold water (via showers, baths or swims) may have some health benefits, including:
Cold water may do all that and more, but the science behind the claims for health benefits is very thin. Showering or swimming in cold water is a matter of personal preference – there is no compelling health reason to switch to cold showers or dive into frigid water. In fact, I advise against it for anyone who has high blood pressure. Low temperatures (including cold weather) constrict blood vessels. As a result, blood pressure rises because more pressure is needed to force blood though narrowed blood vessels.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.