A classic hot-cold water therapy typically used by marathon runners, contrast showers are believed to improve circulation, reduce inflammation and support muscle injuries by causing blood to be redirected to your vital organs. Also used on health retreats as part of wellbeing spa rituals, here are five reasons people swear by contrast showers…
May people believe that contrast showers benefits include improving circulation. The idea is that the contrasting temperatures increase circulation by causing your heart to send blood to your vital organs. Over time, the theory goes, this forces your circulatory system to become more efficient and adaptable.
There is some evidence to suggest that sudden temperature changes can cause the body to help generate cells in the immune system. A study published by the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam reported that taking a contrast shower every day had a significant effect on employee’s susceptibility to illness.
The reason many athletes swear by contrast showers after workouts, is because they are said to help aid muscle recovery and prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). The idea is that exposure to cold water helps to reduce inflammation and injury by restricting blood flow to the affected area. Heat, on the other hand, causes the widening of blood vessels, which allows more blood to flow to affected tissues or limbs. So essentially you’re controlling blood flow to the muscles to help them heal.
While we’re a little wary of the evidence on this, there is some belief that contrast showers can help lift a low mood by increasing blood flow to the brain and releasing endorphins. It’s something of a working theory, but a cold shower is certainly exhilarating!
Whether it’s just because a cold shower is something of a dramatic wake up call or because of the idea that contrast showers improve blood circulation, some claim that they have energy boosting effects akin to caffeine. The belief works along the same lines
It’s easy really. Working on the basis of contrasting temperatures, the idea is to quickly change your body temperature from hot to cold and back again. This is usually done by immersing yourself in hot water, then cold water. For example, by turning your shower from hot to cold and letting it run, or by going from a Jacuzzi to a cold experience shower in a spa. Experts say the key is not to just go from one hot shower or bath to a cold once but by alternating repeatedly between hot and cold water for about 20 minutes. For example, being in a nice hot shower for four minutes, and then under cold water for one.
Many health retreats include contrast showers as part of the wellbeing experience. At the Living Well Spa at Homefield Grange, the Sunday Sleep Over includes contrast showers alongside healthy vegan food or juice cleansing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a 50 minute Top to Toe Therapy including Hammam, a Black Soap Exfoliation, Moors Mud Wrap, Scalp Massage, daily Nordic walking, cardio classes, healthy food demonstrations, motivational health talks and movies and plenty of herbal tea.
You should always seek the advice of a medical professional before practicing any treatments or therapies, especially if you’re pregnant or undergoing any medical treatment.
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