Dr Mosley: Expert reveals exact time you need to stay in a cold shower to improve health

Sunday Brunch: Tim Lovejoy and guests discuss cold showers

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Cold shower benefits have had much hype of late with an array of health benefits. Dr Michael Mosley spoke on his BBC Sounds podcast – Just One Thing, to discuss the exact time one should spend having a cold shower to gain the full benefits.

There is growing evidence that suggests that cold water swimming on a regular basis can boost your mood, lower stress, improve your cardiovascular health and strengthen your immune system.

“If you don’t live by the sea you can of course have a lovely cold shower at home,” said Dr Mosley.

He continued: “When having a cold shower, it will trigger a stress response and you will start hyperventilating, your heart rate will shoot up and your body will be flooded with adrenalin.

“Gradually over time you will adapt, and your stress response will fall becoming more muted and it is thought that by exposing our bodies to small amounts of stress in a controlled way we get benefits.”

Mike Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology at the extreme environmental laboratory at Portsmouth university spoke on the show and said: “The measures of immune function seem to suggest that if there is going to be a benefit to going into the cold it arises from a shorter immersion rather than a longer immersion.

He added: “It points to the beneficial effects potentially being from skin cooling whereas if you stay in long enough for deeper tissues to cool and start moving toward hyperthermia then that could actually be detrimental.”

Mosley asked what the bare minimum is a person can get away with, to which professor Tipton answered: “A lot of it relates to the cold shock response and it’s the first minute of immersion where you have sudden cooling of the skin that relates to gasping and hyperventilation, increased heart rate and cardiac output but also the release of a whole range of stress related hormones.

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“This is part of the fight or flight response that we have evolved as a tropical animal, so I think around one or two minutes.”

Dutch research stated that 30 seconds was enough, but a person should try and build that up to a minute.

Professor Tipton discussed how the most important aspect is when you get your breathing back in control and that could be for some 45 seconds but the general advice, he gives people is to stay still for one minute to 90 seconds until you get your breathing under control.

It may feel uncomfortable to immerse our bodies in cold water, but it can also be invigorating.

This is because water that’s colder than our natural body temperature causes the body to work slightly harder to maintain its core temperature.

When taken regularly, cold showers can make our circulatory system more efficient.

Over time, the body becomes more used to this sudden shock to the system and the health benefits begin.

When it comes to the best time of the day to immerse yourself in cold water, health experts advise in the morning.

A cold shower in the morning does more than wake a person up and improve their circulation.

The cold and warm stimuli constrict and dilate your blood vessels, which strengthens the immune system.

Studies have also shown that cold water reduces sore muscles and supports recovery after sports.
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