A lot of discussions happen on the benefits of hot showers for the body, while ice-cold showers are also said to be extremely beneficial. As such, have you ever wondered which is better?
Hot showers are known for their relaxing effect, primarily due to the heat that encourages vasodilation — the widening of blood vessels — which enhances blood circulation. “This process can soothe muscle tension and alleviate stiffness. The steam generated from hot showers can also aid in decongesting the respiratory tract, offering relief from symptoms of colds and allergies,” said Dr Vandana Punjabi, senior consultant, dermatology, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai.
In contrast, cold showers are known for their quick refreshing properties. “The initial shock of cold water activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system, potentially leading to increased alertness and a burst of energy. Cold exposure can reduce inflammation, and speed up muscle recovery post-exercise,” said Dr Punjabi.
Who are these for?
Hot showers are ideal for individuals with chronic muscle pain or those seeking to relax before bedtime. Conversely, cold showers are more suitable for athletes or individuals with muscle soreness after intense physical activity. “Hot water showers can dry skin and exacerbate skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. A lukewarm shower is recommended for people with these skin conditions and a moisturiser applied right after shower to entrap the moisture in the skin,” described Dr Punjabi.
In contrast, cold water shower is good for people with high blood pressure, diabetes and poor circulation, said Dr Santosh Pandey, acupuncturist and naturopath, Rejua Energy Center, Mumbai.
Dr Punjabi also said that washing the face with cold water is recommended for people with acne or rosacea as this has a calming and soothing effect on the skin and prevents flare of these conditions.
However, for some, it’s essential to seek medical advice, before opting for a particular shower temperature. Individuals with cardiovascular conditions should consult their cardiologists before taking cold showers as rapid temperature change can add stress on the heart. Likewise, those with skin conditions like eczema may find hot showers aggravate dryness and irritation, explained Dr Punjabi.
Which one to pick?
Choosing one over the other is difficult as both have their pros and cons. So the choice in terms of which shower one should go for accordingly, is situational and depends on the individual requirements, said Dr Pandey.
However, if Dr Punjabi is to go by, popularised by the popular culture detective, James Bond, the bond (contrast) shower which involves alternating between hot and cold water during the same bath, may merge the benefits of both temperature extremes. “It can enhance circulation through a process similar to a vascular workout, as blood vessels constrict under cold water and dilate with hot,” said Dr Punjabi.
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Moreover, the transition from hot to cold water can train the body’s ability to adapt to temperature changes, potentially increasing resilience to stress. “When integrating contrast showers into a routine, it is advisable to start with warmth and gradually transition to cold to avoid shock to the system, ending on a cold cycle for a refreshing bath,” elucidated Dr Punjabi.
Why go for the combination approach?
A combination approach, such as starting with a hot shower and finishing with a brief cold rinse, can amalgamate benefits, potentially offering a balanced way to rejuvenate the body and mind. Dr Punjabi added that if you have any medical condition, do consult once with your physician to go with the recommended shower type as a precautionary measure.
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