I love working out, but I can't count the number of times I've changed my mind about going to the gym just so I could take an hours-long bath after work.
Of course, there's slight guilt that comes with skipping exercise to soak in a tub, but that shouldn't be the case because a bath could be just as effective as working out.
While it may not transform your body the way regular physical activity would, taking a hot bath may have benefits similar to exercising, including reducing the risk of serious diseases.
According to Dr. Steve Faulkner, a researcher at Loughborough University, the effects of a hot bath on blood sugar and calorie burn were measured in 14 men. They were asked to either take an hour-long soak in a 40˚C bath or do an hour of cycling, both of which should raise their body temperatures by 1˚C by the end.
After monitoring their blood sugar over the 24 hours that followed the trial, Faulkner and his team were able to determine that bathing for 60 minutes burns as many calories (around 140) as a 30-minute walk. However, cycling still results in a higher calorie burn when compared with a hot bath.
Faulker also revealed that the participant's peak blood sugar after eating "was about 10% lower" when they took a hot bath.
Apparently the answer to why hot baths are so effective lies in what is known as heat shock proteins. In a piece published in The Conversation, Faulker explained that these "are molecules that are made by all cells of the human body in response to stresses."
Turns out, heat shock proteins are produced during both exercise and while soaking in the tub, which means that "passive heating" can positively impact health, including reducing inflammation and preventing cardiovascular disease.
"We also showed changes to the inflammatory response similar to that following exercise," Faulker said. "This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes."
These findings could explain why so many cultures swear by the health benefits of hot baths and saunas.
While this information shouldn't encourage you to give up your gym membership, it's definitely helpful to know that taking regular hot baths can make you feel better overall.