Here at Nuun, we’re all about hydration. But what about the other ways that water can benefit the body? Today’s blog looks at two of the most common aquatic therapies being practiced today: warm baths and cold showers. Let’s dive right in!
Health Benefits of Warm Baths
The association between warm waters and wellness can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire—if not earlier! Temples and towns were built up around naturally occurring hot springs near and far and people made pilgrimages to bath in the “healing” waters. One famous illustration of the long history of warm baths is the town of Bath in England. There you can still visit the old roman baths AND take a soak in the newly updated spa next door. This resort town has been in near-constant use for hundreds and hundreds of years and even in the not-so-distant era of Jane Austen, people were known to have hot baths in the town of Bath prescribed to them by doctors.
But what are the actual health benefits of a nice warm bath? Probably not as many as the regency era physicians would have hoped. However, many benefits to bathing do exist. Some include: reduction of pain and inflammation, increased lung capacity and sinus clearance, core temperature regulation, and a reduction in stress and anxiety.
One popular ingredient in health-conscious bathers’ tubs is Epsom salts. While some athletes swear by the inflammation-reducing properties this practice is purported to have very little scientific evidence suggests that the benefits of an Epsom salt bath are greater than a regular bath of the same temperature.
One common mistake that bathers make is filling a tub with water that is too hot. Not only can this cause discomfort and even damage to the skin, but it can also increase or aggravate inflammation. An ideal bath temperature should be one in which you can comfortably sit-down in. Pro Tip: Test the temperature of your bath with your elbow—not your hand! You had is less temperature sensitive than the rest of your body and might feel comfortable in water that is in fact still too hot.
Health Benefits of Cold Showers
You don’t have to subscribe to the incredibly trendy Wim Hof method to reap the benefits of taking a cold shower… but it might help! For most people, cold showers are a dreaded experience or hot summer day exclusive. But people who take cold showers every day swear by their benefits. What benefits could possibly be worth enduring the agony of an icy blast from the showerhead, you ask?
Well, the first benefit of cold showers that everyone can agree upon is increased alertness. If you’re not already wide awake when you step into your cold shower you very soon will be. The cold water causes an increase in heartrate and oxygen intake (rapid breathing) and perks you right up. Cold showers (and ice baths) are often used in sports medicine for the treatment of swelling, inflammation, and injuries. However, this might not be right for everyone or every situation so obviously consult with your doctor before prescribing yourself an icy shower routine in treatment of any condition.
Some beauty gurus swear by cold showers as being better for skin and hair. While anecdotal evidence is positive, there aren’t enough scientific studies to really be able to say for sure. However, cold showers have been shown to calm itchy skin conditions or at least alleviate the desire to scratch at the skin.
A word of caution on cold showers: if you’re not used to taking a cold shower don’t jump in the proverbial deep end. Start with short bursts of cold water at the beginning and end of your usual shower and work to build up a tolerance. Also, don’t take cold showers when you’re sick. Your body is already working hard to maintain proper core body temperature and the extra effort of warming you up after a cold shower isn’t a good use of your energy resources. It is important after a cold shower to always give yourself time to dry off thoroughly before going outside in cold weather—even if that wonderful alert feeling makes you want to tackle your day right away!
So, Hot vs Cold?
Ultimately there are benefits on both sides of the faucet dial. The important thing is to practice either method of hydrotherapy safely. That means keeping your baths at a safe temperature and your cold showers to a reasonable length.
In general, if you’re looking to wake up or refresh yourself right after a workout a cold shower is your best bet. If you’re looking to relax, unwind, and soothe tired muscles a warm bath is the way to go.
Looking for more ways to relax? Consider Nuun Rest—a magnesium-rich drink designed to support the body’s natural relaxation functions.