The miracle of indoor plumbing means there’s always warm water waiting for you in the bathroom — unless your spouse or kids used up all of the hot water. Being forced into an unplanned icy shower can seem unpleasant, but research from the Netherlands suggests cold showers might be better for you in the long run.
Geert A. Buijze led a study in which 3,000 volunteers were instructed to either end their showers with a 30-, 60-, or 90-second burst of cold water, or finish as they usually would. The researchers looked over attendance data of volunteers over the course of a month, and they noticed something interesting: the people who finished their showers
with a blast of cold water, for any amount of time, were absent 29 percent less often than the group who didn’t add cold water to their shower habits. Cold showers seem to result in fewer sick days.
In an interview with the Harvard Book Review, Buijze pointed out that the volunteers who took cold showers reported feeling ill just as often as the volunteers who kept their usual shower routines. The difference was that the symptoms of the cold shower group were “less severe” or they had more energy to push through any illness and keep working.
How is this possible? Buijze explains that, “cold temperatures activate the brown — or good — fat in the body … Brown fat doesn’t have any proven connection to immunity, but it does affect the body’s thermoregulation. When activated, it keeps the body warm by burning calories. It may also increase your energy and metabolism and help control your blood sugar. That could reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes.”
Buijze admitted that the cold showers could just be a placebo effect, but even psychological phenomenon can have real positive changes. As for whether or not cold showers make you more productive, the jury is still out on that one.
“[T]heoretically the cold shower people were cumulatively more productive over the study period, since they were absent less often,” says Buijze. Basically, productivity is all about how you spent that extra time you get when showering in cold water. If 30 seconds is all it takes for 29 percent more time, it’s certainly worth a shot!
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