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Why I Take Only Cold Showers


Taking cold showers has become central to my environmentalism.

You might immediately assume this is an effort to avoid reproduction out of concern for overpopulation. But no. It has nothing to do with suppressing my libido.

Intrigued? Read on. Disappointed?


Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a recurring theme: acting in ways that benefit the environment also benefits you. The two aren’t mutually exclusive–on the contrary, green lifestyle changes almost always result in being happier, healthier, and wealthier.

So how do cold showers factor into that?

Image credit:

For starters, cold showers are better for you than warm showers. Exposing yourself to cold water for brief periods is an example of hormesis, or ‘good stress’. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “low doses of otherwise harmful agents are beneficial at threshold low levels…[activating] multiple conserved protective enzymatic and signaling systems.” In other words, studies indicate that low-level environmental stresses can result in a strengthened immune system, upregulation of mechanisms that repair DNA and proteins, and augmented antioxidant defenses.

This is how vaccines work. The injection contains a weakened version of a pathogen, which gives the immune system the ‘practice’ it would need to defend itself against the real deal. It’s also part of why doctors recommend a daily glass of red wine.

Research also suggests that cold showers may improve circulation, relieve depression, maintain skin and hair health, and also increase testosterone and fertility in males. Hmm, maybe this is about libido!

As for the environmental benefits, these should be obvious. You’re less likely to linger in a cold shower, so you’ll conserve water. Also, cold showers use less energy, since heating the water for a hot shower requires a lot more electricity. Needless to say, cold showers will save you money on your energy bill as well.

Image credit: photoree user Oncle Tom

Showering in cold water evidently has its benefits. But at the beginning of this post, I said it’s central to my environmentalism. I’ll explain:

I’ve been taking cold showers exclusively since July, and they’ve come to represent my commitment to both maintaining my health and fighting for the environment.

If I can endure regular cold showers, then I can make myself eat healthy and exercise regularly (which have their own indirect environmental benefits). It’s a rather visceral reminder that I care about my body and want to do things that improve it.

Cold showers also reinforce my convictions surrounding environmental issues. They help me remember that for billions of people, hot showers are a luxury available only to the rich. Hot showers are a product of the industrial age, which is in danger of ending abruptly if we don’t address the enormous problems that face us quickly and decisively.

Let me reiterate: the collapse of global civilization during this century is a very real possibility if we don’t get our shit together.

On that note, I think this also makes a great metaphor for what we need to do as a society. Cold showers are traditionally recommended as a treatment for an overactive libido. And I certainly believe that as a civilization, we need to quell our lust for resources, profit, and unlimited expansion. Because we have reached this planet’s limits.

And there’s nowhere else to expand.

Now how about a laugh? Click here to read the short story that made fun of a contest and won.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/11/2012 12:04 PM

    Love it! Such a great idea! Particularly noble for someone in your neck of the woods and at this time of year!:) It’s given me inspiration for an article… Really enjoyed the site and have subscribed.

    • 10/11/2012 1:53 PM

      Thank you–that’s very high praise! I’d love to read the article–be sure to tweet me the link.

  2. 10/11/2012 12:07 PM

    I got cold just by reading this. There’s a fair point in your idea, but it’s quite a radical step. How about turning the shower to cold water after three minutes? Please?

  3. 10/11/2012 2:28 PM

    Not a bad idea. All the flexing you’ll be doing while in the cold water has to be some sort of isometric exercise too. It reminds of Cryotherapy. It’s the latest thing athletes are doing. They go into this machine that will basically subject the players’ bodies to nitrogen gas at temperatures of -256 to -274 degrees for three minutes. The reason? Here’s a quote from a team trainer: “The immune system prompts blood to rush away from the extremities to protect the vital organs in the player’s core, where the blood is oxygen- and nutrient-enriched. Once the three minutes in the chamber ends, the body relaxes from the stress and sends the enriched blood to areas it is needed, such as fatigued muscles.”
    So in addition to helping the environment, you’re a freaking athlete! That is how that works, right?

    • 10/11/2012 2:41 PM

      I heard the same thing, about the cryotherapy. Interesting! Though possibly not as good for the environment.

      And yes, environmentalism is always accompanied by athletic prowess! Always.

  4. 10/11/2012 6:58 PM

    Well – you haven’t convinced me fully towards taking cold showers. BUT – we have taken to using a shower hose with a shut-off. And I’ve started recycling various “grey water” for supplementing toilet flushing, on average reducing about 75% of the water (coming out of our well, granted – we’re not on city water). Plus I’ve been putting up more “stick-on” tinted window plastic that traps solar heat in the winter and reflects it in the summer.
    So can I shower in warm water? (I hate HOT showers.) :D

  5. Andrea permalink
    10/12/2012 8:02 AM

    When I tried this about a year ago, my heart started pounding so hard it felt like it would burst right out of me. I feel I need to work slowly towards cold, maybe transitioning through lukewarm? It’s also really good for circulation, something I have difficulty with.

    • 10/12/2012 11:11 AM

      Yikes, I would definitely take a more gradual approach, then. You might want to talk to your doctor about it before you go full-fledged cold showers.

      So, how did I do with this post’s level of inappropriateness? :D

      • Andrea permalink
        10/12/2012 2:13 PM

        Well, seeing as you chose not to include any incriminating pictures, I think we’re good. :)

  6. 10/12/2012 8:59 AM

    I’ve heard this before but you are braver than I! It’s easier to do in the summer for sure. Please give us an update in January on how it’s going:)

  7. 10/13/2012 6:01 PM

    love this. what else do you do for environmentalism?

  8. 10/13/2012 7:19 PM

    I started taking cold showers at the beginning of this year for similar reasons, and that inspired me to write a post called “una ducha má natural” (a more natural shower) . It helps me to stay focused, reminding me that I can do things my way (which is the green way).

    • 10/13/2012 8:01 PM

      Good for you–keep it up! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, hope to see you here again.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    10/16/2012 11:03 AM

    So stoked i just ran across this article!.. A year ago, after months of nagging of a friend to turn me onto cold showers, finally convinced my stubborn self to try it.. and might I say, the benefits over the last year are phenomenal.

    & That adrenaline rush of the cold shock you experience will lower stress and help you stay level headed and in control of other high adrenaline situations.

    Objective: Stay in the water until you’ve adapted to the temperature. (2-3 minutes, 50-60 degrees)

    • 10/16/2012 11:31 AM

      That’s great to hear! Like I said in the post, I’ve been taking them since July, and I’m enjoying the benefits too. I’d heard how good they were for you before, but what finally convinced me to try it out was reading about hormesis in the fantastic book Fitness for Geeks.

      I hadn’t heard of an optimal length of time for staying under the cold water, though yours certainly makes sense. Where did you find it? I’ve timed mine, and it takes me about 5 minutes to wash using cold water. (Using warm water my showers used to be much less rushed, lol.)

  10. raeme67 permalink
    10/17/2012 11:35 PM

    I am not much of an environmentalist, but I will pass on the cold shower thing to my husband for purely selfish reasons. Go testosterone!

  11. Nate permalink
    10/27/2012 9:41 AM

    I showered cold for almost a year in my youth, not for any noble cause other than to save the money that would have otherwise gone into the coin operated hot shower timer in my apartment for a monthly ration of beer. I do feel like it also contributed to a general sense of well being, other than intoxication.

    • 10/31/2012 9:01 PM

      Sounds like a noble cause to me :)

      Your story is consistent with all the other evidence I’ve gathered–both anecdotal and scientific.

  12. Denise Peace permalink
    11/05/2012 4:06 AM

    We all have to rise to our own level of greenness and responsibility. I take hot showers. In my older age, I am 45 now, cold water is PAINFUL to me. We used to swim in the mountains, and my last trip on a warm day in August convinced me that my rivering days are over. Camping experiences with luke warmish water chill me to the bone. I don’t revel in many luxuries…but a hot shower is one of them! So —I will skip the yearly air travel, and my hubby will ride his motorbike even in the snow,…but NAH to feeling icy and grumpy.

  13. 12/08/2012 2:56 PM

    Good article – sort of convinced. I will give it a go but suspect I will backslide after about one attempt. Taking a cold shower sounds like it should be followed up with a breakfast of porridge without cream or sugar.

  14. crashleyrogers permalink
    01/18/2013 12:19 PM

    WOW who would have thought cold showers could do so much! I love cold weather so now I guess I should learn to enjoy cold showers (:

  15. Emily permalink
    03/01/2013 2:37 AM

    I actually set my water heater to low to force myself to take cold ones! Initially it was to conserve energy and reduce my carbon footprint but its great to know I’m doing right for my body as well. Thanks for the article!

  16. 06/30/2013 8:29 PM

    I’ve always crazy folk/eccentrics, not that those are bad things to be, heh. You have definitely given me some insight I never knew I was looking for. I like the idea of the cold shower being a catalyst for other ways of self improvement.

    Currently residing in Centro Cancun, a cold shower is sounding quite therapeutic

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