Experts say a proper shower boosts regeneration after sports

16. September 2018

Everybody agrees on one thing: there’s nothing more refreshing than taking a shower after an intense workout. Perspiration and fatigue are simply washed away, we feel fresh and re-energised. But what is the best way to shower after vigorous physical activity to help the body regenerate?

Showering properly after engaging in sporting activities plays an important role as it can prevent inflammation and sore muscles. But before jumping in the shower right after a workout, we should give our exhausted bodies some time to cool down. The body needs about five minutes to wind down and reduce sweating. After a short break, it is advisable to shower off with cold water.

Experts now say the reason is that when we exercise, not only do our pores open, but our blood vessels dilate as well. Showering with cold water causes them to contract again. That’s why it is advisable, even for people who prefer warm or hot showers, to at least shower the legs briefly with cold water. This improves vascular muscle tone while protecting the skin against spider veins and varicose veins. In addition, so-called contrast showers, which alternate hot and cold water, help strengthen connective tissue.

Taking showers that are too hot or too long dries out our skin because water strips it of its natural protection by removing the protective oils in the skin barrier. As a general rule, the drier the skin, the cooler the water temperature and the shorter the shower should be.

Taking a bath in an ice tub is an alternative for those who are tough enough to take it and don’t think much of warm showers. Full-body ice baths have become a fixture in professional sports. If there is no ice available, all you need to do is run cold water into a tub. The temperature should be between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.

Taking an ice-cold bath can help the body regenerate and has two positive effects. Firstly, mechanical stress causes micro tears in the cell membrane, which can lead to local inflammation. This risk of inflammation can be reduced by cooling, for example, with cold water. Secondly, the hydrostatic water pressure present in somewhat deeper ice tubs acts like compression stockings and can relieve swelling. In any case, a bath in ice cold water is definitely refreshing, soothes the pain we feel after engaging in prolonged sporting activities and reduces signs of fatigue.

Anyone who cringes at the mere thought of ice-cold water and cold showers can of course take a warm shower. A warm shower – much like a sauna – stimulates blood flow, thus triggering the body’s regeneration. So, if you are not aiming for peak performance, you can safely go ahead and take a warm shower.

But whatever kind of shower you ultimately decide on: you should choose the shower that you are most comfortable with. After all, showering should always provide relaxation – something we all need after a strenuous workout.

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