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Cold vs hot showers: Which is best?

In partnership with Kristy Curtis

Let’s look at the benefits of a cold shower vs hot shower

30 year old male with cultural tattoos showering at a camp in the bush
30 year old male with cultural tattoos showering at a camp in the bush

For many of us, the idea of a cold shower tends to invoke an involuntary shudder. Despite that, cold showers have been gaining popularity as the hotter option (so to speak) in recent years, with some fitness devotees favouring chilly water for relief from muscle soreness and to minimise the effects of injury.

And it’s not just professional athletes, either. Next-gen cold water therapies – think: cryotherapy, ice baths and winter ocean swims – are becoming increasingly attractive for anyone looking for health benefits such as improved mood or better metabolism.

“Everyone can benefit physically and mentally from taking cold water showers,” says personal trainer and health and wellness coach Kristy Curtis. “Cold water causes increased mental alertness, improved brain function and blood flow to muscles.”

Let’s look at the benefits of a cold shower vs hot shower.

What are the cold shower benefits?

According to science, a shower is generally considered ‘cold’ when the water temperature is below 20 degrees Celsius. A big benefit? Reducing muscle soreness post-exercise and lessening the long-term effects of injury. 

“Cold showers narrow the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), which in turns helps rid the body of lactic acid, which can cause muscle pain and cramping,” explains Kristy.  

“Constricted blood vessels also reduce inflammation and result in a decrease in swelling so your muscles are not as sore in the following days after a workout,” she adds.

Along with the wins for circulation, Kristy says cold water offers effective natural pain relief following an injury.

“It can help with numbing the nerve endings of the injured area,” she says. “Think of it like placing ice on an injury.”

Outside of pre and post workout support, cold shower benefits may include:

  • Increasing metabolism and assisting with weight loss

  • Relief from colds and symptoms of respiratory illness

  • Boosted immunity

  • Pain relief

Then there are the mental health wins, like lower levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) and improvements in depression symptoms.

A woman in her late 20s standing in a grey towel while wearing a white towel around her wet hair

What are the benefits of hot showers?

Before you psych yourself up for exposure to freezing water, don’t rule out hot or warm showers just yet – according to Kristy, they have their pros, too. “For the purpose of recovery, both have benefits,” she says. “While cold showers reduce inflammation and decrease swelling, warm showers can really relax your muscles.”

Science confirms that one of the benefits of warm showers is helping dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow and soothing stiff joints and tired muscles. They are, however, not so great when it comes to injury rehabilitation, as opening up the blood vessels can encourage increased swelling and inflammation, Kristy says.

Outside of workouts, warm showers may improve cardiovascular health thanks to the impact on blood vessels. 

When are hot or cold showers better?

When it comes to cold vs hot showers, there’s definitely room for both. For the purpose of pain relief, some people choose to have warmer showers in the morning as it helps them feel more mobile – particularly if they are suffering from joint conditions such as arthritis. 

And then there are studies suggesting taking a warm shower one or two hours before bed
can help you sleep better.

Are you wanting relief post-injury? As Kristy mentioned, it’s best to stick to cold rinses, in order to avoid inflammation.

Potential risks of cold showers

There aren’t many reasons why cold showers are bad for you. Apart from the obvious
discomfort of feeling cold, if you’ve got a heart condition you should exercise
caution. Showers below 20 degrees can put added stress on your heart and lead to heartbeat irregularities or arrhythmia. Chat to your doctor if you have any questions.

Please note: Before making any sudden changes to your health routine, it’s always best to run it by your GP. The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

Kristy Curtis wearing a black sports bra at the gym and smiling at the camera

In partnership with

Kristy Curtis

Kristy Curtis is one of Australia and Asia’s leading wellness experts. She discovered her passion for fitness at a young age and has since transformed that passion into a career, with a successful personal training business and as a TV presenter. Kristy strongly believes while there are some things in life you can’t control, you can take ownership and responsibility of your health by eating good food, thinking positively and keeping your body moving. Every night before bed, Kristy completes a sudoku puzzle.