It’s no secret that a long, hot bath is the key to mental well-being, but more and more studies are suggesting that it could also have significant physical benefits. Even better? These physical benefits are akin to what you’d get from exercising: burning calories, lowering blood sugar, reducing inflammation and boosting cardiovascular health.
Dr. Steve Faulkner, a researcher at Loughborough University, explains to The Conversation, that the mechanism for triggering these health benefits through heating the body passively. In a new study, 14 men were assigned either to sit in a hot bath for an hour or cycle for the same time. Both activities were designed to cause the body temperature to rise by one degree. Following the activity, researchers measured how many calories were burned and the participants’ blood sugar levels for 24 hours after each trial.
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While researchers did find that more calories were burned cycling for an hour compared to sitting in the bath, test results showed that the peak blood sugar level (a sign of metabolic health) was about 10 percent lower in those who took the bath. The study also found that the bath-takers burned around 140 calories that hour (roughly half an hour of moderate cardio). Previous research conducted by the NIH also corroborated the health effects of passive body heating through saunas and baths, showing that regular use can help lower blood pressure, improve circulation and boost metabolism.
The takeaway? While the early studies are promising, it’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that you can completely ditch your exercise routine and still reap every benefit. But taking a relaxing bath after your fitness class might be an even better idea than you originally thought.