Do Cold Showers Really Help After a Workout?

It’s a common belief that cold showers are good for you after a workout. But is there any scientific evidence to support this? We take a look at the research.


Taking a cold shower after a workout can have many benefits that contribute to a better recovery. Cold showers reduce swelling and muscle pain, prevent an elevated heart rate to settle down, and countless other benefits. While there are plenty of pros, some may find it uncomfortable or unpleasant. However, when done correctly and the body is acclimatized to it, the rewards of taking a cold shower can be immense. In this guide, we take you through the benefits of taking cold showers after exercise and how to do so safely.

The Benefits of Cold Showers

Cold showers have been touted as a great way to cool down after exercising. They can reduce inflammation, improve muscle recovery and repair, and even boost mood and energy levels. It’s also said to help with circulation and boost the immune system. Let’s look at the benefits of cold showers in more detail.

Improved Circulation

Taking a cold shower is an effective way to improve circulation after a strenuous workout. Cold water causes the body’s blood vessels to constrict, forcing more blood into the capillaries and less back into larger veins. This increased circulation moves oxygen and nutrients to the muscles more quickly, helping them recover faster. Better circulation also helps flush out lactic acid, which can build up in muscles after intense activity and cause discomfort or soreness. Cold showers have even been found to decrease inflammation – reducing injury-related swelling and joint pain – while increasing white blood cells that help fight infection.

Reduced Muscle Soreness

Exercising causes tiny tears in the muscles, which is why they are sore after a rigorous session. Cold showers can help reduce muscle soreness by decreasing inflammation and helping to constrict the blood vessels, ultimately reducing circulation and lactic acid buildup in the muscles. This can lead to decreased aches and pains following an intense workout routine. Additionally, cold showers are thought to increase norepinephrine levels, a hormone that is linked to pain tolerance, which can also help reduce post-exercise soreness.

Improved Immune System

Research shows that cold showers can have a positive impact on the body’s immune system. By taking a cold shower, the individual can stimulate their parasympathetic mode, which is responsible for calming and restoring the body. Taking a cold shower not only aids the body in battling bacteria and viruses, but it also produces higher levels of white blood cells—which are responsible for fighting off and destroying toxins within the human body. Moreover, taking regular cold showers helps reduce inflammation that can cause discomfort and lead to long-term health issues such as heart disease and cancer. Additionally, cold showers help keep skin healthy by reducing pores and preventing acne breakouts. Finally, regular cold showers will help improve entry of oxygen into your bloodstream providing better uptake at your cells leading to overall better performance during exercise or general physical activities.

Improved Mental Health

Studies have shown that taking a cold shower can have a surprising effect on your mental health. Through various mechanisms, the cooler temperatures can lead to increased feelings of calmness and mindfulness, helping to reduce levels of stress, depression and anxiety. A cold shower can also help improve cognition by boosting alertness and increasing dopamine levels when the water comes in contact with the skin. Further research has demonstrated that cold therapy may even reduce fatigue resulting from intense workouts or stressful days at the office. The bottom line? Regularly taking gradually colder showers is not only good for your physical body but for your mental health as well.

The Drawbacks of Cold Showers

Cold showers have become a popular post-workout practice for many athletes. While cold showers may offer several benefits, such as reducing inflammation and promoting muscle recovery, there are also some drawbacks to consider. In this article, we will discuss the potential drawbacks of taking a cold shower after a workout.

Risk of Hypothermia

One of the main risks of taking a cold shower is hypothermia, which occurs when your body temperature drops to 95°F or lower. Hypothermia can cause a range of dangerous symptoms, including disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, and even organ failure. If you’re participating in activities that involve contact with cold water for long periods of time (for example, competitive swimming), it’s important to take frequent breaks to help maintain your core body temperature. Additionally, if you experience any signs of hypothermia during or after a shower (including shivering, feeling unusually cold or sluggish, and difficulty speaking or staying awake), be sure to call 911 immediately.

Risk of Shock

One of the main risks associated with taking cold showers is the possibility of shock, which can lead to hyperventilation and other breathing problems. Cold showers are thought to be beneficial because low body temperature causes an increase in blood flow throughout the body, but it can also lead to cold shock. The sudden drop in temperature due to a cold shower can cause a rush of adrenaline, resulting in increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. This can be dangerous for people with heart conditions or other medical issues. It’s important to remember that everyone’s body responds differently to temperature changes; so if you’re considering taking a cold shower as part of your recovery routine, as always, talk it over with your doctor first.

Risk of Infection

Although taking a cold shower may be therapeutic after working out, it can also lead to infection if not done carefully. Cold water can reduce the production of protective oils on the skin and it can cause the outer layer of skin to become dry and cracked, making it vulnerable to infection. According to medical experts, reducing your shower temperature when you’re done with exercise or any physical activity is recommended.

They suggest switching between hot and cold water so you keep your skin hydrated but still get the body-cooling benefits of a cold shower. Additionally, this ensures you don’t stay in cold water for too long which can shock your body and further decrease the integrity of your skin’s protective barrier.

Furthermore, those with certain underlying conditions like cardiovascular diseases should take extra caution when taking cold showers. Muscle soreness, dizziness or breathing difficulties after a workout is an indication that you need to reduce your temperature as soon as possible so seek medical advice if such symptoms persist.

Alternatives to Cold Showers

Taking a cold shower after a workout has become a popular post-workout routine, but it is not the only option available. If a cold shower doesn’t sound like an appealing option, there are a few other alternatives that can help speed up the recovery process and reduce muscle soreness. In this article, we will discuss some of the alternatives to a cold shower that can provide similar benefits.

Warm Showers

Warm showers can still be beneficial for athletes after working out. While the initial shock of cold water rejuvenates the body, warm water is just as effective in aiding recovery by providing a sense of comfort and relaxation. The heat from the shower stimulates increased circulation, bringing more oxygen to tired muscles and reducing inflammation. The steam produced can also help clear any congestion due to exercise. Taking a slightly cooler shower than your typical warm one is more refreshing while still providing the same relaxing effects of warmth.

While it may take longer for skin temperature to return to its normal level with a warm shower, it is actually safer because temperatures that are too cold can make skin even more sensitive to injury or damage. It is also gentler on your hair and scalp, leaving them feeling softer and healthier compared to a chilly blast! Additionally, for physical or mental relaxation purposes, warmth has been found to have calming effects on the body overall as well as improve cognitive functions like focus and mental alertness.

At the end of your workout, whether you choose an invigorating cold rinse or a soothing warm soak, make sure you incorporate some type of showering into your recovery routine for optimal performance benefits!

Contrast Showers

Contrast showers, also referred to as “hot/cold” showers, are an effective way to cool down after a workout without risk of hypothermia. Contrast showers involve alternating between durations of hot and cold water. Start with 30 seconds of cold water and immediately follow it up with 30 seconds of hot water. Repeat this process for 3-4 rounds before ending with a final round that consists of only cold water.

An effective contrast shower will not only cool you down from your workout, but also can improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation after exercise, relieve muscle tension and help reduce fatigue. During each period of cold or hot water, it is important to focus on your breathing as it can help improve the contrast shower experience as well as relax your body.

When taking contrast showers it is important to pay attention to how your body responds to each level of temperature. Some people may prefer a higher duration at one temperature over another depending on how their bodies react. It is also advised to not start the contrast shower too early after working out so that increased blood flow resulting from the exercise is not disturbed too soon by variations in temperature shock resulting from the cold or warm temperatures involved in the process.

Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salts, which contain magnesium sulfate, are thought to help with sore muscles, cramping, and inflammation after a workout. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath can be especially beneficial when you are sore from a tough gym session. It can also help you relax and reduce stress. To make a relaxing Epsom salt bath at home, add two cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath and soak for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to hydrate afterwards since Epsom salts may cause dehydration if they are not thoroughly washed off of your body.


In conclusion, cold showers have varying effects on the body and can be helpful for athletes and fitness enthusiasts in a number of ways. Cold showers can help to stimulate blood circulation, reduce inflammation, and even aid in muscle recovery after a strenuous workout. So, when your post-workout muscles call out for relief, answering with a cold shower may be beneficial to your overall health and physical performance.

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