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

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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 Flemming 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

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.

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 u201Cblue spotu201D
– 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.

Read
the rest of the article

May
15, 2010

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