The idea of a hot bath at the end of a long day is often a welcome one, and for good reason. There are science-backed benefits of a hot bath.
Hot baths can be soothing and calming for both body and mind. But that does not mean they necessarily need to be a part of your everyday routine to be effective.
Consider making a hot bath part of a weekly self-care routine, or soak after a 2X wkly intense exercise class. If you’re incorporating hot baths into your routine for a specific purpose, you may need to soak more or less, or for a longer or shorter time, depending on your purpose.
Hot bath benefits backed by science are as follows:
- 1. Baths can improve brain function. The improvements in blood circulation aren’t just great for aches and pains, it can also help get things pumping in your head. Research shows neck-depth immersion may enhance brain blood flow that may improve brain functions, including cognition and memory.
- 2. Baths lower blood sugar and burn calories. Forget the gym, take a bath. Well, maybe not all the time. But, if you’re ever sick, injured, or not feeling up to your usual workout, it turns out a bath can help lower blood sugar and burn calories similar to moderate exercise. In a small study conducted in 2017, researchers recruited 14 men (both lean and overweight) and had them either exercise or soak in a hot bath for an hour. They then compared how many calories were burned in each session, as well as measured their blood sugar for 24 hrs and found both conditions lead to similar results.
- 3. Baths can lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that lifelong sauna use can improve heart health, but could hot baths have the same effect? The short answer: yes. Researchers investigated the effects of 8 wks of repeated hot water immersion on heart health in young, sedentary humans. Among other things, heat therapy improved arterial stiffness and lowered blood pressure, indicating improved cardiovascular health. The changes were similar to or even greater than what is typically observed in sedentary subjects with exercise.
- 4. Baths help people fall asleep faster and sleep better. We all know how relaxing a hot bath can be, so it is probably no surprise that it can help improve sleep. Researchers refer to it as “passive body heating” and it works because our body temperature and sleep are interrelated processes. Among other things, changes in temperature may trigger relevant brain areas to initiate sleep. In a small study conducted in France, women who soaked in warm baths for 90 mins before bed had significant increases in: sleepiness at bed-time, slow-wave sleep, and stage 4 deep sleep. Another study found that participants fell asleep faster after taking a bath.
- 5. Taking a hot bath improves mood. Back to those relaxing effects, a study found that a daily bath improved general psychological wellness with a significant drop in feelings of pessimism about the future and increases in internal feelings of pleasure.
- 6. Baths can soothe aches and pains. Warm water therapy has been used for millennia for all kinds of musculoskeletal conditions. It turns out circulation to deep muscle structures increases significantly in water immersion, improving oxygen flow to tissues and potentially facilitating healing of muscle, bone and joint injuries.
It can also help get things pumping in your head. Research shows neck-depth immersion may enhance brain blood flow that may improve brain functions, including cognition and memory.
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