Q: "What’s better for muscle recovery after exercise – a cold shower or a warm one?"
Bessie W., NSW
A: Dr Stuart Warmington, lecturer in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University, responds:
“You need to define what you mean by ‘recovery’. When you exercise, your muscles develop tiny micro tears which, when patched up, result in muscles that are less easily damaged when you next exercise. But, in the meantime, this can result in that achy, painful feeling you get after exercise and, unfortunately, nothing can accelerate the repair process. However, there is some evidence to suggest that having a cold shower or bath straight after a workout can help your muscles return to peak performance levels more quickly. When you have a hot shower, the blood vessels in your skin react to the heat by dilating and filling with blood (which is why your skin turns red). This extra blood must come from somewhere, so it’s taken away from other organs – like your muscles. But having a cold shower causes those vessels in the skin to constrict, releasing blood and allowing it to flow to your muscles. This improved blood flow may help your muscles ‘flush out’ performance-inhibiting waste products faster, allowing you to get back to exercising at peak performance levels sooner.”