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31 March 2017

Can a Hot Bath be as Beneficial as Exercise?

A hot bath is bliss for many. Get the candles out, grab a book and use an excessive amount of bubble-bath for the ultimate relaxation bath. If you’re feeling adventurous, even go for a bath bomb. Soothing on the muscles and the steam great for your skin to open your pores, a hot bath is a great way to wind down.

We’ve already covered the health effects of hot and cold showers, but a new study has brought attention to health benefits of hot baths – comparing them to benefits of exercise even. The research comes from Loughborough University, which looked at the effects of a hot bath on blood sugar control and calories burnt.

The study was a small one with just 14 men taking part, with some being lucky enough to be assigned the job of taking an hour-long, hot bath at 40°C, and others being dealt the short straw, having to endure an hour of physical exercise in the form of cycling. Both hourly activities were designed to raise core body temperature of participants by 1°C.

Calories burnt, and blood sugar levels were assessed both during the experiment, and 24 hours after.

While, as expected, the cycling participants burned a lot more calories than those who had the hot bath, the calories burnt by bathers were approximately the same as those which would be burnt in a half-hour walk – around 140 calories. Skip the walk in the cold, chill out in the bath instead – I know what I’d rather do.

The blood sugar level results across the two groups were similar. Blood sugars measure metabolic fitness, in which how fast or slow your body processes nutrients. The overall blood response between those who took the hot bath and those who cycled were pretty similar, taking into consideration that metabolism varies from person to person. At their peaks, blood sugar levels were found to be 10 per cent lower in those who bathed, than the cyclists.

Anti-inflammatory response, in which the body protects against infection and illness, was similar in after both exercises, again being telling on the health effects of the mere bath. The Independent notes that this revelation suggests that “repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diseases.”

So, from the study, the most telling result is how taking an hour long bath can burn the same amount of calories as a thirty-minute walk. It’s important to recognise that the participants were all male, and that women’s bodies are likely to react differently.

For more information on the research, check out The Conversation.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.