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Why a blast of cold water has health benefits

Scientists are finding increasing health benefits from having a quick blast of cold water, the Daily Mail reported. Among other perks, the cold water has been found to help boost the immune system.

Last week, 64-year-old comic Ruby Wax revealed she has a cold shower or bath every day to give herself a “youthful complexion” and ward off wrinkles, the Mail reported.

The best results come not from a cold shower or bath but alternating between hot and cold water, the story said.

This technique, known as contrast water therapy, involves showering for about 20 minutes, using hotter water for three to four minutes before suddenly switching to cold for one minute and then back again.

Standing under, or sitting in, hot water for several minutes opens up blood vessels in the skin and muscles, improving the flow of oxygen-rich blood. Switching to cold water for one minute makes the same blood vessels instantly constrict, reducing the flow of blood.

During strenuous exercise oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the muscles to match the rate at which oxygen is used, the Mail said. In response, muscles release a substance called lactic acid which causes a painful burning sensation and can delay recovery after exercise.

A study published last year by the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam found taking a ‘hot-to-cold’ shower every day slashed absences from work due to sickness by almost 30 percent.

The researchers studied 3,000 men and women aged 18 to 65 who were told to turn the shower to cold for up to 90 seconds at a time in the morning, according to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The British Association of Dermatologists says there is no research to confirm that contrast water therapy prevents skin aging.

However, Georgios Tzenichristos, a sports scientist who specialises in skin care at The Hale Clinic, London, says contrast water therapy may help increase blood flow to the tiny capillaries that lie near the surface of the skin and provide it with the nutrients needed to keep it elastic and taut.

“Hot and cold showers improve circulation and skin ageing is mostly a problem of poor circulation,” he told the Mail. “Better circulation improves the function of fibroblasts, the cells which produce collagen — the main structural protein in skin.”

By: David Beasley, Staff Writer

Source: Daily Mail

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