The temperature of your shower can affect your heart rate, which in turn, can affect your workout performance. It can prepare you physically and mentally for the rigors of intense exercise. Showering in warm water can also open your pores, encouraging your body to sweat and eliminate wastes. Mentally, it can wash away the pressures of the day, allowing you to approach your workout with a renewed state of mind.
Showering affects your heart through its effect on blood vessels. The warm water causes blood vessels to dilate and relax, explains the American Heart Association. The result is increased circulation. The warmth of the water will also trigger biological mechanisms to lower your body temperature. It will do this by directing more blood flow to your extremities and opening your pores.
Showering before a workout can prepare your body for activity. Warm water will release tension in your muscles, allowing you to relax. The relaxation effect could help prevent injuries as well as exert a positive impact on you psychologically. Warm water will also benefit your respiratory system, opening bronchial tubes and allowing for easier breathing.
While warm water will open up your pores, you can also go back and forth from warm to cold water to increase your circulation. When exposed to cold water, your body will direct blood flow toward your core, helping to protect and warm your internal organs. Some people may find this effect invigorating and a good way to approach a workout. A 2008 study published in the journal "Medical Hypotheses" found that a cold shower could improve your mood. The cold water acts on a part of the brain, triggering a response not unlike a stress-induced analgesic effect.
The warm environment of the shower represents an ideal setting for further enhancing the effects using aromatherapy. Bath soaps with scents such as peppermint can help your performance. A 2008 study in the "International Journal of Neuroscience" found that peppermint essential oil increased mental alertness in participants exposed to this scent. It also enhanced memory. Showering before a workout can act as a kind of therapy, setting the physical and mental stage for exercise.
While there may be benefits to a hot shower, there are also risks. Individuals with a heart condition or high blood pressure should exercise caution before showering in very warm water because of the effects on heart rate, warns the American Heart Association. If you have heart or blood pressure problems you should also avoid alternating between cold and warm water for the same reason. However, if you are healthy, showering can be a welcome start to your workout.
- American Heart Association: Hot Tub and Sauna Use and High Blood Pressure
- "Principles of Anatomy and Physiology"; G. Tortora, et al; 2005
- "Int. J. Neurosci": Modulation of Cognitive Performance and Mood by Aromas of Peppermint and Ylang-Ylang; M Moss, et al.; Jan. 2008