How many calories are burned from a cold shower?

Taking a cold shower has become an increasingly popular way to boost health and burn calories. But just how many calories does a cold shower actually burn? Here we’ll break down the science behind cold exposure and calorie burn.

What is a cold shower?

A cold shower generally refers to showering or bathing in water that is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. This is considerably cooler than the average comfortable shower temperature of 105 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

Exposing your body to water temperatures this low triggers a reflex known as cold thermogenesis. This causes your blood vessels to constrict to prevent heat loss. Your body responds by burning more calories in an attempt to warm itself up.

How many calories are burned during a cold shower?

Research has found that your body can burn anywhere from 20 to 80 calories during a 10 minute cold shower. The exact amount depends on several factors:

  • Water temperature – Colder water results in more calories burned.
  • Length of exposure – Longer showers lead to more calorie burn.
  • Body composition – People with more muscle mass tend to burn more calories.
  • Brown adipose tissue – Also known as brown fat, this metabolically active tissue burns calories to generate heat.

Calories burned based on water temperature

Studies show that colder shower temperatures increase metabolism and calorie burn. Here’s an overview of how many calories may be burned per 10 minutes at different water temperatures:

Water Temperature Calories Burned
100°F 20 calories
90°F 30 calories
80°F 40 calories
70°F 50 calories
60°F 60 calories
50°F 70 calories

As you can see, colder shower temperatures lead to greater calorie burn. So a 50°F shower may burn up to 70% more calories than a relatively warm 100°F shower.

Calories burned by shower length

In addition to water temperature, the duration of your cold shower also impacts calories burned. Generally, the longer you’re exposed to cold water, the more calories your body will burn while trying to warm itself back up.

Here’s a look at the estimated calories burned during different cold shower lengths:

Shower Length Calories Burned
2 minutes 10 calories
5 minutes 25 calories
10 minutes 50 calories
15 minutes 75 calories
20 minutes 100 calories

Doubling your cold shower time from 5 to 10 minutes may result in approximately twice as many calories burned. However, there are likely diminishing returns beyond 10-15 minutes.

Impact of muscle mass and brown fat

The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns at rest and during activity. This also applies to cold thermogenesis – people with higher muscle mass tend to burn more calories in a cold shower.

Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, is another factor. This type of fat helps generate body heat by burning calories. Those with higher levels of active brown fat may experience greater calorie burn from cold exposure.

Health benefits of cold showers

Beyond temporarily increased calorie burn,cold showers offer many other benefits:

  • Improved circulation
  • Reduced muscle soreness and recovery after exercise
  • Boosted immunity
  • Increased alertness and focus
  • Enhanced mood through release of endorphins and noradrenaline
  • Better skin and hair health

These benefits arise largely due to changes in blood circulation and hormone levels caused by cold thermogenesis.

Cold shower precautions

While generally safe for most healthy adults, cold showers do come with some precautions:

  • May be risky for those with heart conditions or high blood pressure
  • Can exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma or breathing issues
  • Not recommended for children or elderly due to greater heat loss
  • Can cause hypothermia if water is too cold and exposure is too long

It’s best to start with short, mild cold showers first if you aren’t used to them. And consider talking to your doctor first if you have any medical conditions.

Maximizing calorie burn and other benefits

Here are some tips to help maximize the calorie burn and health benefits from your cold shower:

  • Gradually decrease water temperature over several weeks to acclimate
  • Aim for 50-60°F water if tolerated
  • Start with short 2-3 minute cold showers and increase duration over time
  • Take a deep breath and relax muscles to minimize discomfort
  • Try alternating between hot and cold water
  • End your shower with 30-60 seconds of pure cold water
  • Exercise before a cold shower to boost calorie burn even more

The bottom line

Cold showers temporarily increase metabolism and calorie burn. Research shows you may burn 20-80 calories for a 10 minute cold shower depending on the water temperature. Colder water and longer showers result in more calories burned.

While the calorie burn is modest and temporary, cold showers provide other noteworthy health benefits. With proper precautions, they can be a helpful addition to your wellness routine.

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