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Cold water also appears to activate the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that governs the fight-or-flight’ response (an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as dangerous, stressful or frightening).


Cold water also appears to activate the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that governs the fight-or-flight’ response (an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as dangerous, stressful or frightening). When this is activated, such as during a cold shower, you get an increase in the hormone noradrenaline. This is what most likely causes the increase in heart rate and blood pressure observed when people are immersed in cold water, and is linked to the suggested health improvements.

 Cold water immersion has also been shown to improve circulation. When exposed to cold water, there is decreased blood flow to the skin. When the cold water stops, the body has to warm itself up, so there is an increase in blood flow to the surface of the skin. Some scientists think that this could improve circulation. A study that looked at cold-water immersion after exercise found that, after four weeks, blood flow to and from muscles had improved.

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