You may think the idea of alternate hot and cold showers for health benefits, known as contrast showers, a bit of a modern day quack remedy but the Finns, Latvians and Russians would beg to differ.
Saunas, followed by cold immersion or a plunge pool is a centuries old tradition in these cultures and follows exactly the same principles as hot and cold contrast showers.
Contrast showers have the added bonus of being available to those without access to a sauna and also allow the body to adjust gradually to greater temperature differences.
How Does Contrast Showering Work?
Contrast showers always start with a warm or hot shower and finish with a cold one.
Initially the temperature ranges are small – less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit – but increase to ranges of 45 degrees.
If your shower isn’t fitted with a thermostat, gauges are easily obtained perhaps most readily in the baby section of stores where they are used to test bath temperature. These may not always have the full maximum or minimum temperature ranges that you require but you will probably find that you can estimate your own temperatures after a while.
For the first ten days you will initially shower for 40 seconds at 97 degrees Fahrenheit and then follow this by 20 seconds at 86 degrees. Repeat twice more for a total of three warm and three cold treatments. After the first few days you can increase the temperature range gradually until after three months the range is 45 degrees.
People react to cold variations differently and the times for cold immersion and the length of time it takes to reach the maximum temperature difference may vary a little from person to person.
A good gauge is that of shivering which is the obvious manifestation of the body’s signal to start implementing emergency warm-up processes. Aim to be towel drying as you start to shiver.
What are Contrast Showers Good For?
Most people report feeling energized and invigorated after a cold shower but the benefits of contrast showers goes well beyond this simple fact.
Many of the claims for the health benefits of contrast showers have medical and scientific backing and it would appear that this list is being added to all the time.
One of the biggest support groups for contrast showers are amongst professional athletes or ardent amateurs who claim that the treatment is highly effective for post workout skeletal and soft tissue trauma, muscle spasm and soreness.
Contrast showers have also been indicated in treatments for the relief of arthritis, lowering blood pressure, boosting the central nervous system, the reduction and relief of respiratory infections and conditions, stimulating male and female sex hormone production and pain relief.
Additionally, contrast showers may have some benefit for bolstering the immune system through the sudden temperature changes and overall well-being is promoted through improving the blood circulation.
It is thought that contrast showers may improve the body’s antioxidant functioning through gradual adaptation to cold temperatures. This, in combination with the hot treatment which triggers the body’s natural toxin elimination and sweating mechanisms, may be why contrast showers help the body to detoxify.
Contrast showers pose no risk for any healthy adult but any individual with any type of chronic condition including heart disease or high blood pressure should seek medical advice before starting the treatment.