With ever busy schedules, deadlines to meet and goals to achieve, it can be hard to fit in your daily dose of necessary exercise. For those who do, you are engaging in one of the best habits for improving your health and vitality, though, your post-exercise routine is also incredibly important for your longevity and probably your sex life too!
This post will address whether you REALLY need to shower post-workout and the potential risks that you expose yourself to if you choose not to. Furthermore, we will expand the discussion into the type of shower you should be taking post-workout and the benefits of choosing hotor cold.
Bacteria and cleanliness
After any session of moderate to intense exercise, your body will produce sweat from your glands in order to ensure that your body stays cool throughout. The bacteria already present on your skin, will feed on the extra available nutrients from your sweat and multiply rapidly, leading to terrible body odor and worse, the potential to develop serious infections.
As you would expect, the areas that produce the most bodily odor are, in fact, the areas that are most prevalent for bacteria growth. This includes the groin, feet, and underarms. Therefore, it is especially important that you wash these areas well post-exercise and ideally within 2 hours of your workout. Additionally, you should ensure that you change your undergarments and out of your sweaty workout clothes to make sure that the bacteria doesn’t continue to spread.
Acne and rashes
If you are sensitive to developing acne, then it is particularly important that your post-workout hygiene routine is on point! Whilst the production of sweat itself does not make you more likely to develop acne, the interaction of sweat and some strains of bacteria present on our skin can cause inflammation of hair follicles, appearing as lesions similar to acne on our face and even our backs.
Worse than acne (yes it’s possible) is that allowing the bacteria on your skin to proliferate can lead to developing skin rashes and other unpleasant conditions!
Even if you cannot quite manage a full shower after working out, it is crucial that if you do have a proclivity for developing acnethat you at least wash your face well with water. Of course, a full facial wash is ideal.
Perhaps the most important reason to shower after exercising is that gyms are a hive for disease and illness. On every yoga mat, treadmill and machine, there is a playground for bacteria that you come into contact with every time you work out.
At the very least you should ensure that after using any equipment that you wash your hands thoroughly and make an effort to leave equipment clean for the next person. Unfortunately, such gym etiquette is not common even in the fancier establishments and, therefore, you should look after yourself.
DO NOT eat after using gym equipment without washing your hands first!
This point will be expanded on further, however, showering after exercise has been proven to reduce inflammation in muscles, soothe soreness and promote rapid recovery. For anyone on a bodybuilding or other workout regime, the importance of fast recovery cannot be overstated as it impacts how often you can train as well as your overall progression.
Showers can also be part of your ‘cooling down’ routine, which is incredibly important to prevent injury and to stop blood pooling in your muscles.
The alternative routine
It is important for you to shower after exercising. Though, if you are in a position where you do not have access to shower facilities, as an emergency alternative, you can get away with occasionally wiping off excess sweat with a towel, changing into clean clothes and applying baby powder on your most bacteria sensitive areas (i.e. groin, feet, and underarms.)
You will find that your body odor is manageable for the rest of the day, though, this should only be used as a temporary measure until you have access to a shower. You are still largely at risk for all of the mentioned hazards if you avoid showering.
Hot or Cold?
There is plenty of evidence that suggests that not only is it good to shower after exercise but it has a massive impact on your health and hygiene. Now, to answer another question: should you shower with cold or warm water after exercising? The answer depends on your goals and the type of exercise you’ve engaged in.
Hot water therapy
Hot water will be the natural go-to for most people and this is because it is so enjoyable. Warm water causes your blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow near the skin and away from your tired muscles. This allows your muscles to relax and, therefore, recovery is accelerated.
Cold water therapy
Those engaging in endurance activity (think marathons) might want to opt for cold water therapy instead. Cold showers increase blood flow to the vital organs as your body needs them to stay at the same temperature. Your body will also activate stores of ‘brown fat’, which can be used to start the process of ‘thermogenesis’ or simply heat production.
The movement of blood and lactic acid from your muscles will reduce inflammation and provide the conditions for rapid, accelerated recovery. Though, if you are bodybuilding, you will want to avoid cold showers too soon post-workout as it can reduce muscle tears, hence, impairing the stimulus for hypertrophy (muscle growth.)
This involves switching from hot and cold water in order to promote blood flow throughout the body, stimulate the weight loss effects from thermogenesis and combine the benefits of both hot and cold water therapy. It is advised that you begin at a comfortable temperature, before switching back and forth from cold to hot water every 3 minutes to maximize the benefits.