, Volume 93, Issue 5-6, pp 624-629
Date: 25 Nov 2004

Repeated cold showers as a method of habituating humans to the initial responses to cold water immersion

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Abstract

The hypothesis that the initial responses to cold water immersion could be attenuated by repeated cold showers was tested. Eighteen (13 men, 5 women) non-habituated subjects undertook two 3-min head-out seated immersions into stirred water at 10°C wearing swim wear. The immersions were separated by 4 days during which time they took six cold showers. The subjects were randomly split into three groups with different showering regimes: 3 min at 10°C on the back (10B); 3 min at 15°C on the back (15B); and 30 s at 10°C on the back followed by 30 s on the front (10BF). Over the first 30 s of immersion respiratory frequency ( f R) was reduced by 21% in groups 10B and 10BF from 54 (14) to 44 (16) breaths.min−1 ( P <0.05), and 33 (8) to 26 (10) breaths.min−1 ( P <0.05) respectively, following repeated showers. Group 15B showed no change in f R. The tachycardia induced on immersion in water at 10°C was not reduced by repeated showers except in group 15B during the last 150 s [from 119 (23) to 105 (25) beats.min−1, P <0.05]. Repeated showering in water at 10°C reduced the respiratory drive (as measured by f R) during head-out immersion in water at the same temperature. No such habituation was observed with repeated showers in warmer water (15°C). It is concluded that when the body surface area cooled is the same, the rate of change of skin temperature is an important factor in determining the degree of habituation produced.