Contrast Showers - The Beautiful Exchange of Warm and Cold

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 4 min

You see it with children at the pool: They shower with cold water and then jump into the warmer water. For thousands of years, people have been jumping from warm springs into cold rivers. Contrast showers allow you to do this comfortably within your own four walls. This way, you can easily and quickly perform a simplified form of hydrotherapy according to Kneipp at home.

How Contrast Showers Work

“Do you shower with warm or cold water?” “Both.” This is the principle behind contrast showers. This practice is often attributed to the clergyman Sebastian Kneipp, who in the 19th century expanded hydrotherapy with Kneipp methods. He recognized that water can bring numerous health benefits. The basis for water therapy was established in the 18th century by figures such as Théophile de Bordeu or the German physician Siegmund Hahn.

The contrast shower works according to the following principle:

  1. Warm Start: You can begin your shower with warm water as usual.
  2. Now Cold Water:After enjoying the warm water for some time, reduce the water temperature. It should be noticeably cool to cold. If you are using a rain shower, now is the time to switch to the handheld showerhead.
  3. Start with Legs and Feet: Direct the stream first to your right foot and slowly move up the outer side of your leg to the hip before cooling the inner thigh. This minimizes the strain on the heart. After treating the right leg, repeat the process on the left leg.
  4. Now the Arms: After completing the leg contrast shower, proceed to cool the back of your right hand and gradually work up to the shoulder. Then treat the inner side of the right arm, starting from the armpit. Repeat the process on the left arm.
  5. Repeat! Return to warm water until you are ready for the cold shower again. You should avoid using cold water on the torso to avoid excessive strain on the heart. Cooling the extremities causes the blood to cool, transporting the cold through the body and torso.
  6. Then Warm Up! To prevent hypothermia, the last shower should be with warm water. After the shower, make sure to wrap yourself warmly.

Contrast Showers: Tips and Tricks

Attention: Elderly individuals or those with heart problems should consider avoiding contrast showers. Consult your doctor! Contrast showers can strain the cardiovascular system, which can lead to issues for some people. 

Otherwise, remember that the warm water should be comfortably warm and the cold water should be genuinely cold. However, it's crucial to start slowly and gradually increase. Many people start with icy cold water and lose interest after the first contrast shower. Initially, it's sufficient to use cool water and keep temperature fluctuations during the contrast shower relatively small. Over time, your tolerance will improve.

Additionally, when taking a cold shower, maintain calmness and steady breathing. This is the true art of contrast showers. People experience a so-called cold shock, which triggers an increased pulse and faster breathing. Try not to let this cold shock happen by breathing deeply and evenly. Calm breathing is more important than water temperature. You'll notice that over time, you can remain calm with progressively colder water temperatures.

Benefits of Contrast Showers: Why Should I Try It?

We must make it clear that there are no exact scientific proofs for the health benefits of contrast showers. Therefore, it is not, for example, a component of conventional medicine.

However, it is known that blood vessels constrict in cool temperatures and expand in high temperatures to regulate body temperature. Additionally, from regular sauna use, it is known that the organism's thermoregulation can improve. Nevertheless, whether the same applies to contrast showers is unclear.

There is also a reference to a small study involving 20 elderly patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This study found that a certain hardening effect occurs due to the increased presence of lymphocytes (a component of white blood cells) in the blood. [1]

Furthermore, smaller sports medicine studies have provided indications of positive effects of contrast showers on recovery after exercise sessions. This includes potentially improved recovery after running [2], cycling [3], and soccer [4].

Other benefits frequently mentioned online are not medically substantiated and are thus attributed to alternative medicine. This includes claims like the invigorating effect of contrast showers, suggesting that the temperature should enhance alertness. However, there is no study that supports this; nevertheless, personal experiences in this regard can be found.

The idea that contrast showers result in tighter skin is also such a myth. Studies may provide clarification.

Contrast Showers: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of cold showers?

Many claim advantages to cold showers. However, the significance of cold showers is often overestimated. We might advise against cold showers during a cold. When you have a cold, your body is already compromised and should invest all its energy in fighting the illness. You should shower at a comfortable temperature when you have a cold.

The benefits of cold showers for the immune system are widely debated. We would recommend contrast showers instead, as they are more comfortable.

Potential psychological benefits of cold showers are conceivable, but they also need further research.

How Long to Take Cold Showers?

We recommend contrast showers as they combine the benefits of cold and warm showers. Additionally, it might be challenging to take cold showers every day; contrast showers are more comfortable.

Cold or Hot Shower When You Have a Cold?

If you are already experiencing a cold, it's too late to help with cold showers. Our recommendation is to take warm showers when you have a cold to make yourself comfortable. Taking hot showers during a cold doesn't make sense either as it would further stress your body. 

Is Hot or Cold Shower Better?

Both warm and cold showers have benefits. Cold showers can increase blood pressure, promote circulation, and potentially have positive effects on mental well-being. Warm showers also improve circulation and contribute to overall comfort. Therefore, a middle ground is recommended with contrast showers.

Cold Showers: How Long?

Don't push yourself too hard. With contrast showers, we recommend using a cold water temperature that you can tolerate. Over time, you will notice that you can use and prefer colder water. As mentioned, focus on maintaining steady and even breathing in cold water rather than aiming for an extremely low water temperature.





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