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Hot or Cold Shower After Workout: Which Is Better?
After a pumping gym session, your first inclination is probably to hit the shower. But what temperature are you turning the dial to? There are lots of hot shower benefits and also many cold shower benefits. That leaves a big question: Is it better to take a hot or cold shower after a workout?
As it turns out, the answer might be personal and depend on your unique needs as an athlete. You can learn more about this topic today from your friends at Jack City Fitness—we know all about the cold shower vs hot shower debate and have our own take on the topic. Remember, if you still have questions after reading this article, you can call our Boise fitness club at (208) 999-1111 to talk specifics—our coaches would love to hear from you!
Cold Shower Benefits: After Workout (and Beyond!)
Cold showers are not always the most appealing concept, sure. If you only associate them with bad roommates or cheap hotel rooms, that makes sense. Cold water tends to feel like a shock to the system when you aren’t expecting it. However, many folks purposefully take cold showers—and not only do they enjoy them, but they also experience benefits that last long after turning off the tap.
Here are just a few cold shower benefits to consider:
1) Better Circulation
Your circulatory system is one of the most important parts of your body. Without well-functioning circulation, your heart will have a harder time delivering oxygenated blood to your body. This can lead to all sorts of complications and issues, including muscle pain and tingling or numbness in the body. In general, remaining physically active, eating well, avoiding smoking, and managing stress are all helpful ways to care for your circulatory system. However, experts also suggest that those looking to optimize their circulation try taking a cold shower. According to these theories, cold water creates a reaction in the skin and body which encourages faster deep-tissue blood flow.
Please note that while cold showers help improve circulation for many, everybody is different. If you have a history of cardiovascular or other health issues, it’s best to chat with your doctor before giving this a try.
2) Easier Post-Workout Recovery
Feeling the effects of a big workout?
The theories and research surrounding cold showers and blood flow also contribute to this major cold shower benefit. It is believed that cold showers promote vasoconstriction, which is a fancy word for narrowing of your blood vessels. When your body experiences vasoconstriction. Afterwards, it will respond by widening the blood vessels, which is called vasodilation, and that helps your muscles recover after a big gym sesh. Furthermore, scientists have found proof that cold showers can strengthen your overall immune system!
3) Reduced Skin Inflammation
Is dry, inflamed skin getting you down? Your solution might be as simple as a cold shower. Doctors have suggested that cold showers might soothe skin and help with the urge to itch.
4) Natural Energy
Tomorrow morning, ditch the coffee and try a cold wash! According to cold shower enthusiast Wim Hof, people take deeper breaths when they step under an unheated tap. This helps decrease and stabilize your CO2 levels, which leads to increased alertness and focus.
5) Improved Mental Health
Wim Hof also speaks about an experience called hardening, which can occur from frequent cold showers. According to his theory, cold showers beget a (small) stress response in the body. When a person regularly engages in this practice, their nervous system gets used to—or “hardened” to—this stress. When real-life stressors come up, your nervous system will be primed to handle them.
Hot Shower Benefits After Workout and More
Would you prefer a hot shower after workout time? You’re not alone—many athletes do. Lucky for you, there are plenty of hot shower benefits to enjoy as well.
1) Illness Relief
When flu season begins, you might find the urge to jump into a nice hot shower. It turns out there may be a good reason for this. A hot shower can be a wonderful remedy for colds, especially if they involve your respiratory system. The steam produced can help open your airways, clear up your nasal passages, and help you release any phlegm.
2) Muscle Relaxation
Feeling the pain of your last big activity? If your muscles are feeling tired or sore after a big workout or physical endeavor, a hot shower might help soothe the tension.
3) Better Sleep
Struggling with insomnia? One of the best hot shower benefits is its ability to activate the parasympathetic system. This system of bodily nerves helps regulate relaxation and digestion. When it’s activated by a hot shower or bath, your body will be able to relax better. This can aid sound sleep.
Are Risks Associated With a Cold Shower or Hot Shower After a Workout?
When deciding whether to take a hot or cold shower after a workout, it might be worth considering some of the associated risks.
The risks of taking hot showers tend to be mostly related to skin health. While hot showers might feel nice on the skin at the moment, they can also lead to damaged keratin cells, causing dryness and irritation. Hot showers can indeed exacerbate eczema and cause itchiness. Folks with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues should also exercise caution when taking hot showers, as they can worsen those conditions. However, these risks exist with any hot shower, not only ones taken after a workout.
There are also risks of taking cold showers, though they also are not limited to post-workout. If you’re getting over any type of illness, your weakened immune system may not respond so well to the cold water. This is also true if you are already experiencing particularly cold weather conditions, as it will be difficult to regain a safe body temperature after your shower.
In general, we suggest speaking with your healthcare provider about your cold shower vs. hot shower decision before making changes to your lifestyle.
Contrast Water Therapy: What is It?
If you can’t decide between cold or hot showers, perhaps contrast water therapy is for you. This technique has been lauded by fitness coaches and physical therapists alike!
Contrast water therapy involves alternating both cold and hot water during short periods over the course of one shower (or bath.) This causes your blood flow to “pump” as it is both restricted and lifted. This action helps your circulation as well as manage post-workout muscle soreness.
What’s Better for YOUR Shower After a Workout: Hot or Cold?
At the end of the day, your shower after a workout sesh is a personal matter. Whether your best choice is a hot or cold shower after a workout will depend on your circumstances, needs, and goals.
If you’re having trouble naming or working toward your goals, you’re not alone. Beginning and maintaining a workout routine is a big undertaking, and many athletes prefer to do so with the helping hand of an athletic coach. They will be able to assess your fitness needs to help provide a customized workout plan for you—and everything from your shower temperature to muscle recovery tips can be discussed according to your unique needs.
You can get started today by contacting the Jack City team at (208) 999-1111! We’ll invite you to our Boise gym for a FREE fitness consultation and conversation about your goals. If you like the looks of our fitness center, you can start enjoying our 24/7 access, incredible classes, and first-class amenities right away.