Search IconSearch

Are Cold Showers Good for You?

The potential benefits to your circulation and metabolism may not be worth the discomfort

A close-up of streams of water pouring out of a shower head

Do cold showers offer health benefits that last longer than your goosebumps? It’s an idea with definite shock value, but be cautious before jumping in, says exercise physiologist Zach Carter, CSCS.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Numerous internet headlines tout the advantages of chilling in the shower. Potential benefits include everything from improving your circulation to weight loss to ramping up your immune system. But while there is science and research behind the claims, taking a cold shower should not be viewed as a cure-all or replacement for more traditional (and warmer) wellness therapies, explains Carter.

“There is a potential upside,” explains Carter. “The question is whether it’s worth the stress you put your body through in the process.”

How cold showers increase circulation

There’s a reason your first reaction to a polar blast of H2O is to move away from it: Cold water strains your body. The natural response to icy water hitting your skin is your system flipping the switch to survival mode.

The shock brought by cold water puts your circulatory system into overdrive. Your body increases blood flow to warm your core and protect vital organs. At the same time, it constricts circulation near your skin.

This process stimulates blood flow, which – on the whole – is a good thing for your overall health. Even your skin gets clearer and healthier with increased circulation. But there are better ways to get your blood pumping that don’t involve shivering, notes Carter.

“Go for a 10 minute walk instead,” he says. “You’ll be better off.”

Can cold showers help you lose weight?

Your body’s heightened reaction to frigid water temporarily ratchets up your metabolism. As your system fights to keep warm, it expends energy. This self-heating process burns additional calories.

But don’t expect to freeze your way to a beach body. “Cold showers are not going to be your best route to weight loss,” says Carter.

Impact of cold showers on your immune system and mental health

Taking cold showers may help you dodge catching the latest… well, cold. Researchers have found that taking icy showers may heighten your immune system and make you more resistant to illness.

A clinical trial in the Netherlands found that cold showers led to a 29% reduction in people calling off sick from work. Another study even connected cold showers to improved cancer survival.

On the mental health side, researchers found that cold showers may help relieve symptoms of depression. (The study did note that more research is needed.)

Carter, however, cautions against putting too much emphasis on the power of a cold shower. “Cold showers are not truly efficient in any of these areas,” he says. “You’re not getting enough for the discomfort they bring.”

Risks of taking a cold shower

If you have heart disease, resist the urge to adopt a cold shower routine. Your body’s reaction to cold water puts added stress on your heart and could lead to an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.

“It’s going to tax your heart in a way that could be dangerous,” says Carter.


How to take a cold shower

So you still want to try a cold shower? Well, take a deep breath, because turning the shower nob from H to C isn’t going to be pleasant.

The benefits of a cold shower begin when the water temperature dips to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, says Carter. To put that in perspective, that’s about 40 degrees F lower than your typical steamy shower.

Give your body time to adjust as you drop the water temperature, advises Carter. Thirty seconds under the cold stream can deliver some of your desired responses and results. The potential benefits of the cold water session begin to ebb after three minutes.

Carter says he has never recommended cold showers as a treatment option. Overall, he views the potential benefits as being oversold. “It’s just not a necessary situation to put your body in,” he says.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Wet plastic loofah hanging on shower knob
April 2, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Is Your Loofah Full of Bacteria?

This puffy shower accessory can become lodged with skin cells (and other gross things), so make sure you dry it daily and clean it once a week

person adjusting ear bud in ear
March 6, 2024/Ear, Nose & Throat
Take Good Care of Your Ears: Tips for Ear Hygiene and Hearing Protection

Care for your ears by steering clear of cotton swabs, taking precautions in loud settings and seeking medical help when needed

Shoe storage shelf home, including purses and bike helmets
February 14, 2024/Primary Care
Wearing Shoes in the House: ‘OK’ or ‘No Way’?

Leaving footwear on invites germs, bacteria, toxins and other unwanted guests into your home

three bars of castille soap in front of three bottles of castille liquid soap
January 8, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Is Castile Soap a Cure-All Cleanser?

This olive oil-based soap is generally mild and safe when diluted

person showering
December 19, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
Evening vs. Morning Shower: Which Is Better?

It’s a wash — when you bathe is a personal preference

applying lotion after washing hands
November 13, 2023/Skin Care & Beauty
What Can I Do About Dry Hands From Overwashing?

Try turning the heat down on the water and opting for a moisturizing soap

person applying deodorant
October 20, 2023/Cancer Care & Prevention
Can Deodorant Cause Cancer?

Research doesn’t show a link between the personal hygiene product and breast cancer

Closeup of a person washing their hands
October 19, 2023/Primary Care
Why You Really Should Wash Your Hands After Using the Bathroom (Every Single Time!)

Technique matters — and research suggests most of us still aren’t doing it right

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims