Finally, some good news! The restorative, centering, blissful benefits of a long, hot bath have been obvious for centuries.
But did you know that a hot bath can actually burn more calories than a 30-minute walk?
Researchers at Loughborough University in the UK (their conclusions here, research here) put 14 men through an hour of cycling and a one-hour bath at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Although cycling for an hour did burn more calories, the calories burned during the bath were equivalent to those burned during a 30-minute walk.
The key here is that during a bath, as in exercise, the body temperature rises: turns out this passive heating is nearly as beneficial as the heating caused during exercise.
In addition to calories burned, the Loughborough researchers tested blood sugar levels—blood sugar control is a key indicator of metabolic health—for 24 hours following both activities. And guess what? Blood sugar levels were ten percent lower in participants who took a hot bath.
Additionally, the anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise are a key way we fight off infection and illness. This study showed that a hot bath stimulates a similar anti-inflammatory response.
Similar studies have been popping up all the over the place: Finland, famous for saunas, hosted a study that linked a reduced risk of heart attack or stroke with consistent sauna use. A study at the University of Oregon linked lower blood pressure to regular hot baths.
We clearly don’t recommend giving up exercise (it has its own anti-aging and health benefits) and we wish more studies would measure health benefits in women. But we’re definitely not thinking of bathing as a guilty pleasure anymore: it’s a tool for improving health!
Can we test the infrared sauna next, please?
Image: Margot Robbie in The Big Short
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