There’s something to be said for the mental health benefits of a nice hot bath. Whether you’re feeling stressed, down in the dumps or just in desperate need of some “me time,” you know you’ll feel better if you pull out the bath salts, light some candles and indulge in a 15 to 30 minute soak.
However, if you only fill up your bathtub when you’re feeling extra stressed, you may be missing out on some of bathing’s best benefits. Because, the fact is, the benefits of a hot bath extend far beyond relaxation — and there’s proof…
According to the latest study from researchers at Loughborough University in the UK, baths may even give exercise a run for its money when it comes to lowering blood sugar, weight and improving your overall metabolic health…
The metabolic benefits of a bath
In a study that included 14 men, researchers from Loughborough University compared the metabolic benefits of cycling to the metabolic benefits of bathing. And here’s what they found…
Men who exercised didn’t necessarily come out better metabolically from those who just enjoyed a nice long soak in the tub…
In fact, the men who took a bath not only burned 140 calories from just sitting in the bath for an hour, they also lowered their post-meal peak blood sugar by 10 percent more than the men who cycled for an hour!
Why was bathing so metabolically beneficial?
Well, it all comes down to something called passive heating. Passive heating is an up-and-coming area of health research that relates to how increasing your body’s temperature through external means impacts your health.
The theory behind passive heating relates to how it increases your body’s production of “health shock proteins.” These are a family of proteins your cells release during stressful situations. Your cells also release these proteins during exercise. Scientists believe these proteins play a role in improving insulin and blood sugar levels, which is why exercise and passive heating both seem to have an impact on these levels.
But there’s something to consider when debating the benefits of baths versus exercise…
While it’s pretty amazing that you can burn 140 calories from just sitting in the bath, an hour of cycling is still going to burn substantially more… you can burn between 300 and 600 calories per hour on your bike.
There’s also been tons of research on the health benefits of exercise, including rigorous clinical trials. The same can’t be said for passive heating… at least not yet.
Make baths part of the puzzle
So it’s probably not a wise idea to completely eschew exercise in favor of baths if you want to improve your metabolic health. But it’s definitely a wise idea to start taking more baths in addition to a regular exercise routine. For the best bath possible, try:
- Running your bath at the optimum temperature (this varies depending on preference and heat tolerance, but it generally shouldn’t exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit… which is the highest temperature you’ll find in a hot tub).
- Adding bath salts, Epsom salt, essential oils or bentonite clay to your bath
- Lighting candles
- Reading a good magazine or book
- Doing some deep breathing
- Giving yourself a massage or acupressure
- Keeping a cold washcloth on-hand in case you feel too hot. If you feel light headed, drain the tub and cool down before standing to step out.
You can also try other passive heating methods to improve your health, like spending time in a sauna… which can lower your dementia risk too. And, though it’s not heat related, if you need yet another simple trick to lower blood sugar, don’t forget about apple cider vinegar.
Editor’s note: One more piece of advice on improving your metabolic health… Read The Insulin Factor. Dr. Michael Cutler reveals compelling facts on how your master hormone, insulin, plays such a critical role in your overall health — including chronic conditions, a surprising cancer threat and more your doctor won’t even discuss with you outside of diabetes.
Does A Hot Bath Really Burn As Many Calories As Exercise? — Women’s Health. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
H. Faulkner, et al. “The effect of passive heating on heat shock protein 70 and interleukin-6: A possible treatment tool for metabolic diseases?” — Temperature, 2017
Best temperatures for these tasks — CNN.com. Retrieved April 12, 2017.