The James Bond Shower: A Shot of Cold Water for Health and Vitality

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 18, 2010 · 196 comments

in Health & Sports

As a kid, I was a big James Bond fan. Saw all the movies and read all the books. One thing I noticed about the book version of James Bond was that every time he took a shower, he would start off with the water nice and hot, and then turn it down to cold for the last few minutes. Perhaps this little detail of Bond’s personal bathing regimen was a subtle way for Ian Fleming to illustrate Bond’s Scottish ancestry, as this type of shower is commonly known as a “Scottish Shower.” Who knows.

Being an impressionable kid, I started doing it too. I didn’t know the proper name for this type of shower, so I just called it the “James Bond Shower.” Taking a shower that started hot and ended cold proved to be quite invigorating. It woke me up and added a bit of pep to my step throughout the day. I’ve continued the practice of the James Bond Shower into adulthood. Along the way, I’ve discovered that cold water baths have been used for centuries as a way to treat various ailments and that modern studies lend credence to the health claims associated with this age old treatment.

Below we give a brief rundown on the benefits of the James Bond Shower.

A Brief History of Cold Water Therapy

“Nothing like sitting in an ice cold bath with nothing but my bare bum in it while reading the latest Dickens novel to invigorate and enliven the senses. Tally ho!”

James Bond wasn’t the first to enjoy the benefits of a shot of cold water. In ancient times, hot water was a luxury. People had to live near a hot springs in order to enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, so for most of human history people bathed in cold water. But even when the Ancient Greeks developed heating systems for their public baths, they continued bathing in cold water for the health benefits.

The Spartans, hard-asses that they were, felt hot water was for the weak and unmanly. When they did take baths (which was, like, once a year) they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for ass kicking.

During the first century, Finnish folks would sweat it out in saunas and then jump into an ice cold lake or stream, a pastime which is referred to as “avantouinti” or “ice hole swimming” and is still enjoyed by modern Finns and others wild and woolly Scandinavians.

Those Finns are so crazy! Or are they?

Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.

In the 1820s, a German farmer named Vincenz Priessnitz started touting a new medical treatment called “hydrotherapy,” which used cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. He turned his family’s homestead into a sanitarium, and patients flocked to it in the hope that his cold water cure could help them. Among his clientele were dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, and a few princesses to boot.

Priessnitz’s hydrotherapy soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States. Celebrities and other famous folks took to it, like, well, a duck to water and helped popularize the cold water cure with the masses. For example, Charles Darwin (a chronically sick guy and owner of an awesomely manly beard) was a huge proponent of hydrotherapy. The first hydrotherapy facility opened up in the U.S in 1843, right when the sanitarium craze hit America. By the the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy/sanitarium resorts existed in the U.S., the most famous being the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded by John Harvey Kellogg. You know. The guy who invented corn flakes. And believed in the awesome power of enemas and a “squeaky clean colon.”

The popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline in the 20th century as many in the medical field moved to drugs to treat illnesses. As doctors concentrated on conventional medicine, more holistic methods began to be seen as quackery. While hydrotherapy was prescribed less and less to cure illnesses, doctors continued to use it to treat injuries such as strained muscles and broken bones. You’ll find athletes today taking ice baths to speed their recovery from injuries and intense workouts.

Benefits of Cold Water Showers

While doctors may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold bath and call them in the morning, a shot of cold water can still impart real health benefits:

Improves circulation. Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower proponents argue that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking than their hot water-loving counterparts.

Relieves depression. Lots of great men from history suffered bouts of depression.  Henry David Thoreau is one such man. But perhaps Thoreau’s baths in chilly Walden Pond helped keep his black dog at bay. Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicates that short cold showers may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”- the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline — a chemical that could help mitigate depression. I guess a bout of the blues isn’t so bad after all.

Keeps skin and hair healthy. Hot water dries out skin and hair. If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers. Also, cold water can make your manly mane look shinier and your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.

Strengthens immunity. According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.

Increases testosterone. During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of “self-pollution,” i.e. whacking off. Cold water was thought to extinguish a man’s flaming carnal desires. There was even a ghastly device invented on this principle.

How wrong they were! The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. If you’re looking to increase your testosterone, instead of juicing up like Mark McGwire, hop into a cold shower.

Increases fertility. Trying to become a dad? Cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases. Experiments done in the 1950s showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive. Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months. More recently, the University of California at San Francisco did a study with men who were exposed to 30 minutes of “wet heat” (hot baths and such) a week. When the men cut this exposure out, their sperm count went up by 491%, and their sperm’s motility improved as well. While switching from a hot to cold shower may not have as dramatic an effect, if you’re trying to create some progeny, it surely won’t hurt.

Increases energy and well-being. Every time I end a shower with cold water, I leave feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. It’s almost like drinking a can of Diet Mountain Dew, minus the aspartame. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. I’m a believer.

Getting Started with Cold Water Showers

If you’ve spent most of your life taking hot showers, suddenly turning the dial in the other direction can be a big shock to the system. I took a break from the James Bond Showers for a few months. When I decided to get started again with them, my heart almost jumped out of my chest, and I nearly passed out from hyperventilating when the cold water hit my body. Too much, too soon.

My suggestion (based on personal experience) is to gradually decrease the temp of the water so your body can adjust.

Which reminds me, some people with certain conditions should avoid cold showers because of the shock to the body’s system. If you have the following conditions, you’ll have to harness your inner 007 another way:

  • Heart disease. If my normal, healthy heart felt like it was about to explode, imagine how a diseased heart will feel.
  • High blood pressure. The contraction in your blood vessels caused by cold water could cause a stroke. Apparently.
  • Overheated or feverish. Your blood vessels need to dilate in order to release heat. Cold water causes them to constrict.

Okay. If you’re healthy enough for a James Bond Shower, here’s how it’s done.

1. Start off with the hot water.

2. Wash your hair with some Pinaud Elixir shampoo, just like 007.

3. When you’re ready to rinse, just turn it down to cold. Bond would spend a few minutes under the cold water, meditating about a lost love or on how awesome his job is.

4. As you walk out the shower, kill the hitman that’s been hiding in the closet using nothing but a towel and a Scotch tumbler.

5. Say a pithy one liner; proceed to put on tux.

You’ll start seeing the benefits right after the first shower, and it only gets better as you continue. While cold water showers won’t give you the charm or skills of 007, you’ll feel like a new man.

{ 186 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonathan January 18, 2010 at 2:46 am

I had a problem with the local gas company about a year ago, and they had my gas shut off because of a leaking pipe that was underground out in my front yard. It was on me to get it fixed and it was pretty expensive so it took me a while to get the money to do it. Well, I have a gas powered water heater, so i was taking cold showers for close to three months. It really sucked at first, but after a while i got used to it, and honestly it wasn’t that bad! It was pretty invigorating.

2 Sal January 18, 2010 at 3:01 am

“The popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline in the 20th century as many in the medical field moved to drugs to treat illnesses”.

Haha. The popularity of hydrotherapy declined because it clearly doesn’t deliver on its claims of treating everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. It’s fine that you peddle a cold shower as a form of manliness; I’ll even agree that it’s somewhat invigorating. But don’t try to peddle it as a source of health and vitality.

3 Brett McKay January 18, 2010 at 3:08 am

@Sal-

I’m not “peddling” anything, sir. Cold water has been shown to boost immunity, aid in circulation, mitigate depression and boost testosterone. To me this qualifies it as a source of health and vitality. If you have proof that it does not do those things, please offer it, otherwise I do not see the point you are making.

4 George January 18, 2010 at 3:39 am

I’ve been doing these for just over a year now, albeit with a slight variation. The method i use is the ‘contrast shower’ whereby you turn the water to cold for a minute, back to hot for a minute, back to cold etc. – supposed to open and close the capillaries in your skin to flush out the toxins or something.

nice post man!

5 Christopher Hall January 18, 2010 at 3:56 am

@Brett McKay

Brett, while I liked this article, it does set off my pseudoscience detectors like a blaring claxxon on the starship Enterprise.

You’re making the claim that it increases testosterone, and boosts the immune system according to “a study” done by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England. That’s fine, but without being able to actually read that study, and search any possible errors in data or criticism, I can’t accept that as decent proof.
You’re asking Sal- to back up his claim that it’s ineffective, but you bear the larger burden of proof because you made the original claim.

I’m sure your Bond Shower does work for you and make you feel great. I know a chilly icy cold shower in the morning does me wonders for waking up, but if you’re going to make scientific claims, especially ones considering highly complex operations like the immune system, you need to be able to back that up with good solid evidence.

6 IrishTony January 18, 2010 at 4:03 am

I started doing this in the gym after workouts…..People tended to look at me like I was some kind of freak, so I challenged them to try it.
Needless to say, this has gained serious popularity.
I find the cramping is much much less after finishing the gym with a Scottish shower.

Nice post Brett,
T

7 Beaker January 18, 2010 at 4:05 am

I have been taking this shower for years without knowing of its name or its supposed benefits, I just find that it makes the shock of coming out of the shower into a cold room a bit easier.

8 Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com January 18, 2010 at 4:20 am

Kudos for the best title I’ve ever seen! Seriously though I might try this. Tim Ferriss and now you guys have recommended it. There has to be something to it.

9 Tyler @ Psyduction.com January 18, 2010 at 4:46 am

Awesome advice. I’ve funnily enough been researching cold showers recently looking for an answer to it’s benefits since I’ve heard so many. Thanks for taking the time to write a detailed list – I shall have to try it out.

10 Graham Hutson January 18, 2010 at 5:48 am

Also known as the Broken Down Boiler shower. Good for warmer climates, although it’s tough getting anything to lather up in cold water.

Nice imaginitive post as usual!

http://www.openzedoor.blogspot.com

11 TR January 18, 2010 at 8:12 am

I’ve been doing this since Jr. High, when my health class noted that rinsing with cold water after a warm shower might help acne. I’m not sure if it did or not, but to this day, it feels weird to simply turn off the hot water and get out of the shower. For one thing, I feel much colder. I have to rush to grab my towel. After rinsing with the cold, I feel warm when I get out as my body compensates for the drop in temperature. I’ve found this especially effective in the winter months when #1. The straight cold water seems to be even colder, and #2. The heat hasn’t come on in the house yet.

12 Jason January 18, 2010 at 8:58 am

Do you have to finish with cold? That is the part I hate. :)
I have tried it in the past, but maybe it is time to try it again. If anything I’ll save money by using less hot water.
When I wetshave the final rinse is with cold water, you can feel it tighten the pores.

13 Mike at The Big Stick January 18, 2010 at 9:04 am

I have been reading a series of books written by Brad Thor for years. In them the hero always manages to find time for a nap and a shower like you describe just before he kills 20 bad guys. I never realized the James Bond connection. Pretty cool.

I fall on the ‘warning’ list due to high blood pressure. One thing I have taken to doing at the gym to fight off the shock of leavng a hot shower is to immediately enter the sauna . I stand there for 20-30 seconds and the heat evaporates most of the moisture off of me and brings me up to room temperature. It also makes drying off much easier.

14 ed Haponik January 18, 2010 at 9:06 am

one of the aikido sensei i’ve with whom i’ve trained advocates leaving a bucket of water outside overnight and dumping it over one’s head each morning, regardless of the temperature.

i can’t say i’ll ever be that hardcore, but i do subscribe to the brief cold shower method to get one’s ki activated and positive. after hot shower, i just feel sluggish.

15 Steve January 18, 2010 at 9:28 am

Thanks for pointing out the health risks as well as benefits. A friend of my father’s died several years back from a heart attack caused from the switch between a sauna and an ice cold pool.

16 Aaron January 18, 2010 at 9:49 am

I learned about this reading Eugene Sandow’s(famous strongman) strength books a few years ago. He advises taking cold bathes after strength training. I think he said it helped with recovery and kept him young.

17 Alessandro January 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

A search on the MEDLINE database shows that cold water immersion has some salutorious effects on recuperation from exercise and that it affects immediate physiologic parameters (e.g., heart rate), but that it does not affect longer-term physiology.

Consider the following abstract as an example:

Halson SL, et al. Physiological responses to cold water immersion following cycling in the heat. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2008 Sep;3(3):331-46:

“Cold water immersion (CWI) has become a popular means of enhancing recovery from various forms of exercise. However, there is minimal scientific information on the physiological effects of CWI following cycling in the heat. PURPOSE: To examine the safety and acute thermoregulatory, cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine, and inflammatory responses to CWI following cycling in the heat. METHODS: Eleven male endurance trained cyclists completed two simulated approximately 40-min time trials at 34.3 +/- 1.1 degrees C. All subjects completed both a CWI trial (11.5 degrees C for 60 s repeated three times) and a control condition (CONT; passive recovery in 24.2 +/- 1.8 degrees C) in a randomized cross-over design. Capillary blood samples were assayed for lactate, glucose, pH, and blood gases. Venous blood samples were assayed for catecholamines, cortisol, testosterone, creatine kinase, C-reactive protein, IL-6, and IGF-1 on 7 of the 11 subjects. Heart rate (HR), rectal (Tre), and skin temperatures (Tsk) were measured throughout recovery. RESULTS: CWI elicited a significantly lower HR (CWI: Delta 116 +/- 9 bpm vs. CONT: Delta 106 +/- 4 bpm; P = .02), Tre (CWI: Delta 1.99 +/- 0.50 degrees C vs. CONT: Delta 1.49 +/- 0.50 degrees C; P = .01) and Tsk. However, all other measures were not significantly different between conditions. All participants subjectively reported enhanced sensations of recovery following CWI. CONCLUSION: CWI did not result in hypothermia and can be considered safe following high intensity cycling in the heat, using the above protocol. CWI significantly reduced heart rate and core temperature; however, all other metabolic and endocrine markers were not affected by CWI.”

So while cold showers or jumping in an icy pool feel quite invigorating, the evidence supporting an actual physiologic advantage is equivocal. Nevertheless, since a large part of recovery is “mind over matter” — and moreover, since mood and perception clearly can have an influence over metabolic and endocrine states — if it seems to work for you, then by all means continue… and don’t worry so much about the science.

18 Kevin (strongandfit.net) January 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

I’m also skeptical about any real benefits of showering in cold water. Good way to catch the flu.

19 Sean F. Glass January 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

Interesting to see this!!! Several years ago, I was introduced to the concept of cold showers; I was initially skeptical but gave it a try. I found it to be an excellent practice! Really does get your circulation up which is always good and it’s better for your skin and hair surely. That’s as far as I’ve gone with the “science” of it lol but it’s certainly worth it for the increased circulation to the extremities and for the energy boost.

The only difference is, whenever I’ve done it, I just start right out with the cold water and jump in. No starting with hot. In my opinion, this is even more “manly.” lol ;p It’s a jolt at first but your body adjusts and if you stay in long enough, you won’t even feel it. And due to the increased circulation, when you get out, you will be warmer than you are getting out of a hot shower.

Then when you get out dry yourself vigorously with a towel. Your skin will be glowing ;P

20 Nate @ Practical Manliness January 18, 2010 at 11:27 am

For the last few months, I have ended every shower with cold water, but I never knew if it was really beneficial. Glad to hear that it is!

21 danny January 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

Cold water can feel great, but please be careful. I pulled some muscles doing some sprints after “cold water therapy”. It’s easy to overdo things due to the adrenaline and numbness, and I think cold muscles tear more easily

22 jake January 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

goddamn it
i was going to draft up an article for my blog on how tough taking cold showers gets you

i do it every morning, no hot to cold bullshit – just straight up cold showers

the key is to remain fully calm and aware of the cold water hitting your skin

other key points:
1) rub vigorously to stimulate your lymph glands/fluids [armpits, groin/thigh, abdominals, neck]

you’ll notice that it kinda HURTS to rub your skin vigorously when it is being doused with very cold water.

this is a great thing if you are trying to build up your pain tolerance and overall toughness

(teachers of the russian military martial art systema utilize cold water as one of their main methods of improving pain, stress, and cold tolerance – http://www.systemanorway.com/default.asp?iId=JLEIH)

Here is an excerpt from the above site:
“Added to this, is the sheer psychological power of cold. The most universally accepted pain threshold test is known as the Cold Pressor Test. Simply stated, this test involves having a candidate volunteer to submerge their bare arm in a vat of ice water up to the elbow. This test has been widely used to measure pain tolerance, precisely because it is inexpensive, safe (providing you do not submerge for more than 5 minutes at a time) and effective in conducting a tremendous amount of pain. Cold is a universal deterrent. Throughout the history of our planet, cold has been a powerhouse motivator. Whether, driving us to seek out shelter and become sedentary (which led to a host of related advancements like art and writing), or simply motivating us to migrate and seek warmer climes, or possibly even pushing us to discover fire, cold has been an integral stimuli in our evolution. ”

2) your heart, balls (especially your testicles), intestines, liver love the cold while the kidneys really don’t, so if you are physically weak, sick, etc, try not to keep your kidneys cold for too long (kidneys are the seat of one’s primordial jing [your energy source inherited from your parents], and your yang functions [masculine bodily functions])

3) try not to keep your head/face under the cold water too long (if you begin to feel that dull pain akin to brainfreeze on the surface of your skin, youve overdone it)
your blood is meant to stay up there

ive been doing this for over a month now (starting my day with an ice cold shower)
at first, i couldn’t last for over a minute
i felt some illogical fear, my chest would get tense, i would get an urge to close my eyes and take gasping breaths

now, i am able to and enjoy doing alternate nostril breathing and circular breathing while standing under the ice water

its gotten to the point where my body starts generating intense heat even before i step under the showerhead…. its like warming up, priming your engine for the day ahead

there is no other better way to get your body going in the morning

23 jake January 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

some other comments:

cold showers will make you immune to the winter cold (unless it is extremely cold and windy outside)

the ritual of taking a cold shower will show you facets of you are truly made up of and will very quickly and noticeably develop your willpower and discipline (if self-mastery is what you are into)

“Beyond sheer pain thresholds, dousing will massively increase your overall body awareness or what researchers call “kinesthetic intelligence”. Kinesthetic researchers have found one common truth in their studies: it is difficult if not impossible to move a body part unless you are first able to feel it. From this perspective alone, cold water dousing will give you an entirely new awareness of your total body and make you able to explore and discover new subtleties in your movement. In Systema, we often say that you will live the way you douse. If you run away from the challenge of dousing and choose the comfort and warmth of your bed over the conditioning and intentional work of dousing, you are in effect choosing to reinforce weakness and the self-image of yourself as a quitter. If you douse, but race through the activity as something you simply “should” or “must” do but fail to appreciate the practice, then you will likely live most of your life in the identical way, without the mindfulness and joy you deserve. As Jack London wrote, “the purpose of man of to live, not to simply exist.” The way in which you douse will also evidence your body’s natural flinch responses. If during your douse, you flinch, hunch your body, grow tense and forget to breathe, you would likely react in the same manner in the face of any pain or extreme stress. Dousing will reveal much of your true nature. ” – http://www.systemanorway.com/default.asp?iId=JLEIH

24 Harry January 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

“Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing.”

Actually, Orthodox Christians still have an annual ritual which usually includes cold water. At the feast of the Holy Theophany (January 6) after blessing the water, the priest will throw a hand-cross into the water, and all the young men will jump in and get it.

Likewise, in some parts of Russia, you still get people dunking into a frozen lake or pond as shown in that one photo in your post.

25 jake January 18, 2010 at 11:48 am

Final comments/insights that may be a little esoteric (i didn’t write these excerpts):

Cold water also draws tension away from the body. Tension is usually blocked energy, an old thought form or emotional baggage we have been carrying from a particular experience. These all become locked within the body and as we have regular cold showers these are drawn to the surface of our body and removed. Swimming in the sea or in fresh water also has the same effect. The sun expands and feeds our etheric body and the sea carries the negativity away. When swimming in a public pool however, you must remember that whoever has swum previously in that water leaves behind all their negative energy that the water has absorbed from them. Have a cold shower afterwards to get rid of what you may have collected.

and

“Ishnan” is the term used in the old days when people in India referred to cold showers (very cold showers). “Ishnan” is the point at which the body, by its own virtue, creates the temperature that it can beat off the coldness of the water. This happens when the capillaries open with the onset of the cold water. They close again during the course of the cold shower and it is at that point that all the blood rushes back to flush the organs and the glands. This process allows the glands to renew their secretions and “youth” (i.e. young glands) again returns to the body.

26 Shmikey January 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I lived in rural Northern California when I was a lot younger and had to take a shower outside in a makeshift shower that I rigged up with a hose and a shower head. I loved it. I still do it when I need to wake up the brain cells in morning. Thanks for the post.

27 James Bond January 18, 2010 at 12:30 pm

It is indeed very invigorating. Also recommended is an ice cold shower directly after the sauna or steam room.

28 MAS January 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Good article, but you missed the #1 reason to take cold showers: Fat Loss.

Cold temperature exposure can stimulate the activation of BAT (brown adipose tissue). Two studies came out in April 2009 demonstrating this effect (follow my website link, if interested). I’ve been doing this for 2 years and I’ve never been leaner.

29 Bruce Williamson January 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

It does have the feel of pseudoscience. Brett you should have the standard catch all disclaimer “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA”. At the very least cite the study.

An interesting article though even if I don’t buy into it.

On the other hand I think a lot of our aversion to cold is mental. The classic case of the Wild Child (L’Enfant Sauvage) shows that people can survive in the wilds of southern France) without any clothing.

30 Exurban Jon January 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I’m Finnish and heartily vouch for the sauna. Use the steam to open up your pores and sweat out all the impurities from your skin. Then, rinse it off with a pore-closing dip in fresh cold water. You can never feel cleaner.

31 Eric Granata January 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hah! Very entertaining read. Thanks Brett. I started taking cold showers after my morning workout and really enjoyed it. It really did seem to start the day off right.

32 CoffeeZombie January 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Another way of doing this is to be taking a shower when someone else flushes the toilet. Or, of course, take the shower after someone else has taken one and used up much of the hot water.

Maybe if you’re expecting it it’s more enjoyable. ;-)

33 Steven January 18, 2010 at 4:34 pm

This is funny. I’ve done this for years. I did it because getting out of a hot shower into a cold room was a shock, so I let the cold water run on me to adapt to the change. Now I know what it’s called, and I’m not even Scottish.

34 Charlie January 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm

This has been done since Roman times. I feel it works – scientific evidence or no. Thomas Jefferson was known to soak his feet in ice cold water daily, as well, and believed that it – combined with the extensive amount of time he spent outdoors – contributed to his overall health.

This isn’t a scientific explanation but think about it: our ancient human ancestors didn’t have hot water. If they lived near water, whether standing or running, they would bathe in it regardless what temperature it was. I think this has lived on in the form of “Polar Bear” dips. Also, they undoubtedly had the ability to create steam with the simple hot rock technique and probably soaked in the steam and rinsed in colder water.

Humans are not really built for “climate control”. We’re meant to be outdoors in whatever weather happens to be taking place. A cold shower can help your body get into a more “natural” state, in my opinion.

I’d also like to point out that colds, the flu, &etc. are viral, not due to exposure to cold temperatures or cold water. I believe that in actuality, exposing yourself to colder temperatures and inclement weather toughens you up, boosts your immune system, and generally makes you more hardy. I mean, look at farmers, loggers, fishermen, etc. These people work all day in any weather and when you talk to them, you’ll find that they don’t seem to get sick as easily as the average office worker. The only way to build up a resistance to anything is to expose yourself to it – the fundamental principle behind vaccines.

35 Warren January 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I don’t know if cold water will do what the article says it will do, but I will tell you this: I am lucky enough to have a cabin near a crystal clear, spring fed, river. From time to time, at aformentioned cabin, the guests are over served. A nice bath in the spring fed river (53 degrees year round) the next morning will knock a hang over completely out of you. I usually feel fine for the rest of the day!

36 Nick Healy January 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Last Spring I read an article about an interview with Hugh Jackman where he talked about filming for X-Men in Toronto, Canada. He got up early one morning and got into the shower and was hit with bone-chilling, Toronto-in-Winter water (no hot water). He said the rage he felt made him think that this was what it was like to be Wolverine and he found it got him pumped for his morning work-out and has been doing it ever since. I started doing it last summer before my morning trips to the gym and have to agree it does help you work-out harder. My girlfriend calls it my “Wolverine shower”. I guess I will now have to tell her it’s actually a 007 shower:)

37 Kultron January 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Charlie is most certainly correct in saying that the chances of getting the flu have nothing to do with cold water showers. One only has a greater chance of getting the flu if one suffers from hypothermia.

The Finnish guy got it right, the largest benefit is how the 2 waters affect your pores. Calling this pseudoscience or whatever is rather absurd.

38 Peter O'Reilly January 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Great article. I’m definetely going to try this out. That hitman in the closet doesn’t stand a chance.

39 Bruce Williamson January 18, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Yes we are designed to be outdoors but we are designed to be in semi-tropical or tropical environments. He human body is most comfortable and operates best at around 72 deg F.

CWI may have studies and Bret cited a reference but have those studies been peer reviewed? There is this thing called the scientific method and it has served us well over the last few centuries. There may be some merit to CWI but just say “I feel good” isn’t enough. I too feel good after having a good single malt scotch.

40 hj January 19, 2010 at 2:08 am

For steps 4 and 5, may I suggest: whip/trip the hitman with the towel, then clobber him on the head with the tumbler. Finish with: “Well, he took quite a tumble” and a wry smile.

And don’t forget step 6: a martini.

41 David Dovey January 19, 2010 at 3:35 am

I used to do this until I started wetshaving, and now I actually turn up the heat in the last stages of my shower for my face wash, to get the pores open and the blood rushing to my skin. I’m conflicted!

That being said I’ve pretty much been taking entirely cold showers these past few days, as it’s been 43 degrees celsius outside and the thought of a hot shower isn’t exactly appealing…

42 Robbo January 19, 2010 at 4:22 am

I was living in a shoddy flat last year and the water heater stopped working a number of times. We once went a month with no hot water, so I got used to cold showers pretty quickly. Scottish showers sound a bit more palatable than full on cold showers though, so I’m going to give it a go.

43 Robert D January 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

I read this article last night and found it quite interesting. Interesting enough to give it a go this morning. After rinsing the shampoo out of my hair I turned it to cold before soaping. Wow! That’s probably the most invigorating thing I’ve felt in a while. I had to really focus to keep my breathing and heart rate straight. It was quite meditative. Now I’m feeling better then ever. I will definitely continue taking these types of showers. I highly recommend-

44 Richmond Jones January 19, 2010 at 11:00 am

I can agree with the energy rush. I’m a big proponent of swimming in natural bodies of water, especially rivers and everytime I finally will myself to jump in I get extremely pumped up. Everyone has experienced it, the cold thats so intense you can’t make any noise except for shrieking, a manly shriek of course. Your hands ball up and your feet start kicking to get you out as soon as possible. Nature’s version of the James Bond shower really gets the body awake.

The benefits are great to hear about, I was unaware but now glad to know there’s something good coming out of it.

45 Shoh Ueno January 19, 2010 at 11:06 am

Technically speaking, the Finnish, while indeed woolly and wild, are not Scandinavians.

Linguistically speaking, Finnish people speak a language that is related to Hungarian, not the Scandinavian languages. (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, etc. which trace their lineage to Old Norse.)

Here is an anthropological explanation:
http://www.mankindquarterly.org/samples/niskanenbalticcorrected.pdf

46 GS Ron January 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Ha. All my adult life I’ve been doing this very thing without realizing it had significance beyond giving me a quick charge. And, the best benefit from ending up with a cold shot for the last few minutes of your shower is that it’s a ruthlessly effective hangover remedy.

47 Angus January 19, 2010 at 3:51 pm

A word of advice to those who live in Colorado or other mountainous areas: I live in Boulder, CO, where the water comes directly from snowmelt. As such, if I turn the knob to its coldest, it runs at about 40 degrees and WILL freeze your brain in about 30 seconds. Run it slightly warmer than the absolute coldest it can be and a few minutes is no problem.

48 k2000k January 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

If you like cold showers try swimming in a cold pool, better search out a high level competition pool as most pools for lap swimming keep their temperature at a level I found intolerably high while swimming competitively, you swim alot faster and have a much better feel for colder water..

49 Mark Nelson January 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm

I just tried it out. My God, that felt great.

50 Doc January 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I don’t know about all the science, but here’s my take:

I read the article and I my first thought was roughly “Ye gods, that sounds horrible”. Then, I go into the shower to do my regular thing, and find myself toying with the idea more and more. Eventually decide to do it since retribution is only a wrist-turn away.

It was great! I felt like a king all day. Intend to continue doing this, health benefits or not because it felt damn fine, lemme tellya. Many, many kudos for this article.

51 Andy Taylor January 20, 2010 at 1:51 am

I tried this morning before my classes, and it was incredible. Regardless of if there is actual proven health benefits I am going to continue doing this. While it does suck a lot (I’ve taken warm showers for all of my life) the invigorating sense of awareness far outweighs those few moments of hell when you get into a freezing shower. Anyway, great post. Keep em coming

52 John Mitchel January 20, 2010 at 8:17 am

A few years ago I had the privelege of touring Costa Rica. We ended up in a resort in Monte Verde that was a little, substandard. Things were broken all over the resort and most notably, my shower had no access to hot water. The water was piped out of the mountain at an astonishing 34 degrees F. I cannot remember being more alert than after a minor icy shower even though I considered it particularly unpleasant.

I decided this morning to give this articles idea a try again and I really did have that extra spring in my step. Thanks for a great idea.

53 Tom January 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Sal is obviously a proponent of conventional medicine. Contrary to the authors assertion however, moderate hypertension or high blood pressure responds well to a healthy cold water ablution. Sal, if you believe that drugs and surgery are the answer to everything, I can assure you as a RN, they are not. Kaiser Permanente is beginning to admit that conventional medicine alone does not work and they are actually teaching Ayurveda as an adjunct to conventional therapies. Listen up and learn something Sal.

54 Christopher Arroyo January 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm

My grandmother actually cured my grandfather from “permanent” sprain he had in his shoulder with cold water. I find that cold water showers actually help lessen my allergy symptoms. I started taking cold showers a couple of years ago because my grandmother advised me to. I live in California so its not too bad year round. But I find it hard to do during the winter.

55 Tim January 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm

You don’t need no stinkin’ disclaimer! What is this, the art of lawyering?Cold showers are good for you and it gets the girl out of the shower first!

56 Uberhack January 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

It’s a pretty common practice for athletes, especially fighters, to take an ice bath after training. Here’s one of Tito Ortiz doing do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52FyAZja5QQ&feature=player_embedded
I’ve found that if I have a night workout, I’m way too pumped up to go to sleep. One of my training partners suggested doing the “James Bond” shower. Seems counter-intuitive, but it worked great for me.

57 Kevin (strongandfit.net) January 21, 2010 at 8:00 pm

The idea of a cold shower or ice bath after training makes a little more sense because it would help bring your core temperature back down and it may be useful for reducing inflammation.

But starting the day off with one just doesn’t make much sense to me (even though I live in a tropical climate).

58 Nicholas January 22, 2010 at 9:57 am

Haha, I did this for years, and recently have “softened up.” I intend to get back into this, maybe during Lent :)

59 Dennard January 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I like taking cold showers. I’ve been doing it periodically for a few months. One interesting thing about this article, in the two James Bond books I’ve read, he takes a purely cold shower.

60 Keith January 22, 2010 at 8:42 pm

For more info. on studies that show the benefits of cold water/showers, check out http://ownyourhealth.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/cold-showers-whats-the-evidence/

61 Michael January 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Wow, I just tried this and I have to say that I almost passed out. It was like my blood stopped and did a 180 degree turn. I feel strangely good though.

62 saeed January 24, 2010 at 10:03 am

Woke up early this morning and took a shower. At the end of my shower i decided to give this a whirl. it took me half a minute of deep breathing and talking myself into actually doing it. i did it and it suuuucked! I did a silent scream cuz i couldnt even make a noise at that point

but i felt so good afterward!

63 Mark January 25, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I have tried this a few times and I find it extremely invigorating. I also have found that my tolerance for it has increased each time I have done it. John Brookfield also advocated Cold Water Dousing for health benefits in a recent edition of Milo. I’m working towards taking just a cold shower and leaving off the hot part.

Great article!

64 warriorpoet912 January 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Read the article and was excited to try it since I work out in martial arts and with weights and am always looking for new ways to recover. Well, recently my body had betrayed me with aches and pains here and there and it got to me mentally and started to get into my head, and my work. I’m a writer and discipline and focus is key. Needless to say, some twinge of depression started to creep in that I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve always done with my body. Well, I came across the article and thought why not. I had just finished a rough workout session and jumped in the shower; warm to lather and clean, then I gave myself a countdown and “turned the knob.” Instantly, my body’s internal alarms went off, but surprisingly not in a bad way. My surroundings felt new and even though I had a hard time breathing, I found it meditative since I had to focus to catch my breath and endure the experience. I stepped out of the shower and was ready for a whole ‘nother workout and have finished all my showers as such ever since. As for those who question the scientific evidence, I say grow a pair and turn the knob!

65 Allen January 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I will try this tomorrow.

A comment about the Pinaud shampoo. You are kind of SOL on that one; they don’t make it any more, unfortunately, and don’t plan on doing so. The only place that carried it was a place called the Dutch Shaving Shop in the Netherlands; they don’t have any more, as their stock was old, and sold out quickly once someone advertised it on another website.

66 Michael Bruce January 29, 2010 at 3:22 am

The cold shower most definitely does increase vitality. Don’t be a naysayer, instead just try it. Personal experience far outweighs something printed in a journal. Annoying how intuition and common sense are scoffed at so often these days.

67 Daniel January 29, 2010 at 5:28 am

my grandma is 84 does this every morning and says to stay healthy you need just two things:
cold shower and 1 hour of fresh oxygen every day. and dont eat all the shit.. :-)

she is superfit for her age

68 Frimpo January 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I remember studying something like this in my Roman architecture class. The Roman baths were heated, but they also had a plunge pool, called the frigidarium, in which after bathing in hot water you would plunge yourself into cold water. Romans would first bathe in a caldarium (hot bath) and tepidarium (warm) to open their pores, then the plunge into the frigidarium would close the pores and finish the bathing session.

69 Jitensky January 30, 2010 at 2:23 am

You forgot to mention one further benefit. By making a portion of your morning shower a cold one, you save that much energy in heating water and consequently, you save that much money in your monthly hot water bill. Saving money in order to plan for the future, such as paying for your future progeny’s college education, is one of the manliness things a man can do for his family.

70 BillM January 31, 2010 at 1:45 pm

“When they did take baths (which was, like, once a year) they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for ass kicking.”

To be fair to our manliest of forbears, while they weren’t bathing outright, they did swim regularly (daily while in the agoge). They also bathed before a battle, usually in full view of the enemy!

71 Rob Cavanaugh February 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

At what point do you wash your body? :P

72 Peter February 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

Finns aren’t Scandinavians, they’re Balts.

73 J February 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

I am so glad to read this article. I too was inspired by James Bond to spend the last rinse of my showers under the icy cold.
I have also found that it helps keep your pores shrunken and thus leads to a healthier complection. Overall, the cold dose works very well, I’ve only been rocking it for a couple years, and sometimes I stop doing it, but I always come back to it and I’m always glad I did.

74 Hoot Harrington February 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Anyone else notice in that picture Bond is carrying a pellet gun?

75 PMoney February 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I’ve done this type of shower for a long time. It’s great! It also keeps a shower beer a lot colder than a hot shower, and who doesn’t enjoy a nice beer in the shower?

76 G. Alphonse Menard February 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Damn, this is brutal the first few times you do it. It gets progressively easier with time though. I was glad to add another immune system booster into my day. Solid post.

77 Tristan February 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I’ve been ending my showers cold (though not like in the article, I finish cleaning up, then turn the heat off, wait for my body to say “Ah! Jeez that’s cold!” and shut the water off) since I saw Wanderlei Silva jump in a garbage can full of ice water after a workout.

78 Isshin68 February 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Hello,
That’s a Walther LP53 pellet pistol James Bond is holding without the barrel weight.
I have one my Father got in Germany about 1961.
TW TX

79 Tew February 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm

First thing tomorrow morning:
taking a James Bond shower
second thing:
drink a dry martiny and kill some hitmans!

80 Mike February 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I do this all the time, I never new anything about the scottish tradition it was just something I tried a liked. It’s invigorating and really wakes you up in the morning!

81 Kenzie February 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Does jumping out of a hot tub into an unheated pool produce results similar to avantouinti? :)

82 v March 5, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I do alternating hot and cold shower everyday now and I love it. Before showering I dry skin brush. I usually start with hot water as hot as I can stand to shampoo, soap up, and rinse off. I then switch to cold standing under the water for several minutes. I repeat the process finishing with cold. When I first tried this I was gasping for breath and thought that there was no way that I could do this everyday but amazingly my body has quickly gotten use to the cold water and I can feel the blood rushing to the surface of my skin and warming me up quickly. It is very enjoyable to me now and I can stand under the cold water indefinitely. I believe that I feel less aches, pains, and muscle soreness after these showers. I feel more awake and ready to do whatever task I have in store. My skin is very pink and red after the shower which makes me feel that I have increased circulation.

I think that it’s much more natural to shower in cool to cold waters as our ancestors would have in streams and other natural bodies of water. If it’s too much for you don’t be afraid to adjust the temperatures of the water. Some people may need to start with cool water rather than cold. Believe me though your body will adjust quickly, it’s rather amazing how your circulation figures out what to do once you have exposed it to this routine a few times.

83 Vijay Pallod March 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I have been taking cold shower for past 2 years. I always feel enerzied after cold shower.
I am a strong believer in saving energy. Cold shower also saves energy bill.

84 Keith Brawner March 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

Benjamin Franklin had somewhat to say upon the subject.

85 Tonko Mulder March 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

definitely something I’m going to try again :)

86 tgz March 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

Another health disclaimer: if you have low blood pressure, you should avoid hot water baths and showers (danger of passing out in the bath/shower and hitting your head). If that’s your case, shower with warm water (body temperature) and end with colder.

And another one, but for women (I am a woman who reads TAOM, as there is no TAO Womanliness for me to read….): pregnant women should bathe in tempered/lukewarm water. Not hot nor cold.

I have eczema, and I cannot bathe with either really hot or really cold water. So, I wash myself with warm water, and rinse with cooler (but not ice-cold) water. This closes the pores and helps the skin not to dehydrate on baths. Also, a final rinse of the hair with cooler water makes it shinier.

I can also vouch for alternate immersion on hot and cold water as a means to help circulation in the extremities. I usually have very cold hands and feet, and this warms them up better than just hot water. I really have no idea if cold water has any long-term health benefits, but these effects I mentioned are easy to verify and very common-sense.

87 Keith Brawner March 25, 2010 at 7:12 am

Cold Air Baths
To Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg

London, July 28, 1768.

I greatly approve the epithet, which you give in your letter of the 8th of June, to the new method of treating the small-pox, which you call the tonic or bracing method. I will take occasion from it, to mention a practice to which I have accustomed myself. You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic; but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent: and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution, to bathe in another element, I mean, cold air. With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable; and if I return to bed afterwards, before I dress myself, as sometimes happens, I make a supplement to my night’s rest, of one or two hours of the most pleasing sleep that can be imagined. I find no ill consequences whatever resulting from it, and that at least it does not injure my health, if it does not in fact contribute much to its preservation. I shall therefore call it for the future a bracing or tonic bath.

(at time of writing, Mr. Franklin is 62)

88 Alex March 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I moved to South American when I was 18 and took cold showers for a year due to the heat. I grew an inch that year.

89 Eric April 1, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I just had a James Bond shower the other morning and paired it with the AoM “cold water shave” that I had read about recently as well and WOW what a way to start the day off. If these don’t wake you up in the morning, you should check your pulse.

90 Stephen J April 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Marvellous idea sirs!

I am already engaging with icy waters in my ‘cold water shaving’ regimen. I look forward to this ‘character forming’ ritual once my weight lifting is completed or indeed my early morning routine is concluded.

91 kelly April 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm

About 8 years ago I had fallen on hard times and owed the gas company. I went a year and a half w/o hot water. I endured and eventually enjoyed cold showers especially in the summertime. I find I sleep better in the summer if I take a cold shower before bed. Well times got better and I paid off the gas company and went back to hot showers. My skin now itches in the wintertime and my allergies have gotten worse. I have gone to the cold shave and think I get a better shave. I’m going to man up and go to ful on cold showers w/ no hot water what ever.

92 Laurence Durr April 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Great Article. It’s pretty amazing how much resistance you get when you say anything that is slightly against or different from what Pharma has taught us in regards to health. The Native American People were extremely healthy, and they had ne’er an unnatural drug with them. Definitely not against medicinal strides, but let’s not make it a debate on this advice. Take what you can, and use what you will.

93 ROS April 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

cool site! I found it looking for benefits on cold showers >:D
Well I used to take cold showers now and then when it’s really hot here where I live.
But it was so awesome that I decided to keep on it, even when It’s cold, and it’s been a month already I’m taking only cold showers. wow it makes me feel so well and powerful, it’s like my religion now Xd

94 mitjak May 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

As a hardcore Russian sauna goer, I must underline the absolute joy of jumping into an ice cold pool of water right after a nice prolonged steam room session along with veniks.

95 Anne Nonymous May 15, 2010 at 5:25 am

Why do you guys admire James Bond? He was an amoral murderer and a fornicator. He seemed to exhibit no remorse whatsoever when his girlfriends dropped dead beside him after the bad guys poisoned them to death.

That’s not normal. It’s sick. Gee whiz guys, can’t you come up with a better role model than this guy?

96 Lloyd May 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Easiest way to take a cold shower: try to shower after my sister has taken hers. Invigorating, perhaps. Curative? Not a chance.

97 Toni May 16, 2010 at 9:57 am

When I was a little girl, my mom would help me wash my hair in the sink after I took a bath, or days I didn’t take a bath. She always finished my hair with a cold water rinse. I had forgotten this until I read this article. Don’t know if it helped me, but I was a VERY healthy child. I’m going to try this shower if only for the invigorating effects it is bound to have. Thanks!

98 David S May 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I’ve been doing this for over 25 years based on the recommendations of a spiritual teacher. I know a Naturopathic physician who also recommends it. No tapering on the temps, just slam the hot off and the cold on in one quick motion. I stay under the shower until my entire body has been cooled down. The water is certainly colder during the winter than the summer, but the effects are even better. When you go outside during the winter, your body is already prepared for the colder temperatures, rather than a chill setting in. During summer, its always nice to start the day off cooler.

Don’t know if its laying the foundation for longevity, but I couldn’t imagine starting the day off any other way.

99 Tim May 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Ever since i can remember i took piping hot showers however i just got tired of having dried skin and hair and really low energy levels (and i mean really low) so now for the past 1 week and a half (yes its only been that long) i’ve been taking coldest showers possible, it was a shock the 1st day but ever since i couldnt enjoy it more. Personally i feel that my skin is tighter and my hair/scalp is healthier but what i love the most is my energy levels and how they increased. I should also mention that i feel like my metabolism has gone up a bit too. Old habbits die hard but now im definitly going to take cold showers for the rest of my life.

100 Ryan May 23, 2010 at 5:48 am

I’ve been taking totally cold showers for the past 18 months. I have no hot water (my gas isn’t on). This was the best thing I ever did! It teaches you self discipline and makes you realize that all the limits we put on ourselves are nothing but illusions. Humans were bathing in cold water for millions of years before we invented heated water.
Winter is fun and challenging. Your head feels like an icecube at the end! I don’t plan on ever having a hot shower again… Hot showers are for wimps. ;)

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