No one will argue the benefits of a long, hot bath for lowering stress and improving mood. But how about for your physical health? New science suggests that indulging in a relaxing bath may be as good for your body as a 30-minute walk. And we’re not talking water aerobics here – simply soaking seems to do the trick.
Research out of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom found a positive correlation between hot baths and burning calories. The study focused on a group of participants undergoing two tests: a one-hour bicycle ride and a one-hour bath in 104-degree-Fahrenheit water. Behind the two “exercises” was the same goal – to raise core body temperature by one degree and burn calories.
There was no surprise that the cycling resulted in substantial calorie burn off. What was surprising was that while relaxing in the hot bath, each participant actually burned about 130 calories. This net loss is in line with the amount of calories we burn during a half-hour walk.
Scientists also monitored other health data during the study. For instance, blood sugar levels for all participants were tracked for 24 hours after the exercises. Researchers noted that peak blood sugar came in around 10 percent lower when a bath was taken in place of the cycling. When they looked at anti-inflammatory responses post-exercise for each of the participants, the scientists found the bath and the cycling both had the same beneficial result.
Underlying the study is the theory that activities involving passive heating, like relaxing in a hot bath, are good for our health. In particular, this study showed that passive heating helps reduce inflammation. Another study from 2015 suggests that spending time in saunas – another mode for passive heating – may help ward off cardiovascular diseases.
So, while it may not be time to trade in your running shoes for bath bombs, the benefits of taking a hot bath abound – from boosting your mood to benefiting your overall health. After all, no one’s ever too old for a bubble bath.