Cold Shower vs. Hot Shower: Comparing the Health and Environmental Effects

By Erica Loop in Thinking Sustainably

The idea of taking a cold shower might make you shudder, but some have touted the health and environmental benefits of cold showering.

Is there any truth to these claims? How much does shower temperature affect your body—and your environmental impact?

If you're torn in the cold shower vs. hot shower debate, it helps to understand the health, psychological, and environmental aspects of each option. Before you turn up the heat or crank up the cold, check out the facts regarding each bathing option.

Effects of Shower Temperature on the Body

To turn up the heat or not to turn up the heat, that is the question. When researchers looked at the effects of water temperature on 3,018 people between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five, they found a 29 percent reduction in reported illnesses in those who took cold showers. The study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE, isn't the only research pointing to the pros of cold water use.

A literature review published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that cold-water immersion led to a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure. Likewise, a study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found a positive connection between post-workout cold showers and the ability to hydrate.

While the research on the benefits of hot showers isn't as comprehensive as what you'll find on the cold option, it's possible that warmer water can help to mitigate exercise-related muscle soreness. A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that warm water leg immersion before physical activity might reduce the likelihood of exercise-induced muscle damage.

And if you get sick, Cornell Health suggests taking a hot shower, in combination with other types of treatment, to reduce the upper respiratory symptoms of the common cold.

Woman Stands Under Running Shower Outside

Benefits for the Mind

The physical pros and cons of shower temperature choice are key to your decision-making process. But body benefits aren't the only considerations. Whether you aren't big into workouts, have few physical complaints, or just want to focus on your psychological well-being, the cold shower vs. hot shower debate should also take mental wellness into consideration.

The documented psychological benefits of cold or hot showering aren't abundant; however, a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses found that cold showers could have an antidepressive effect due to the electrical impulses it sends to the brain.

In support of hot showers, a research review published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found a connection between warm water bathing before bed and improved self-rated sleep and a reduction in the time it takes you to fall asleep.

Environmental Impact of Showers

If you're an eco-conscious consumer who wants to help heal the environment, you likely already take steps to upcycle, recycle, and limit household waste. Lowering your water use by taking shorter showers is another simple way to reduce your impact on the Earth.

But what about the environmental effects of shower temperature? While you won't necessarily use more or less water in either types of shower, one will likely use less energy. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), water heating accounts for 18 percent of the average home's energy bills. This is the second largest residential household energy expense, following home heating and cooling costs. Cold showers can cut energy-related use, making this an eco- and budget-friendly option.

What happens if you can't shiver your way through a cold shower, but you still want to ensure your bathroom is energy-efficient? If cold showers just aren't an option for you or your family, consider your water heating delivery system. A tankless, on-demand water heater is between 24 and 34 percent more efficient than the traditional tank types for homes using 41 gallons of water or less, according to the DOE. Homes using larger amounts of hot water daily can still be 8 to 14 percent more energy efficient using a tankless model.

Along with the other lifestyle modifications you may have already made in support of the planet, shower temperature is one choice to reevaluate. No matter where you stand regarding the cold shower vs. hot shower debate, weigh what researchers have found, review the stats, and use your own personal preferences to guide your shower selection and make the most out of your daily routine.


For those on the lookout for other ways to help support the health of the planet, check out the Thinking Sustainably board from @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!

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Why It's Good

Being mindful about your water temperature choice can help you make your showering ritual better for your body, your mood, and the planet!