Can Baths Provide the Same Benefits as Exercise?

Many adults take a relaxing bath after an emotional day or to soothe sore muscles with hot water, but few seem to realize that frequent tub time may also mimic the effects of exercise. Researchers have identified a link between hot baths and healthy vascular function via a 2016 study. The study revealed that aquatic heat therapy’s benefits rival those of exercise training for sedentary participants, which means hot baths may improve the well-being of adults with limited fitness capabilities.

So a hot bath does much more than relieve aches and stabilize emotions; it may also improve your cardiovascular health. So crank up the faucet for a satisfying soak that helps burn calories and promotes cardiovascular health. Here are the benefits:


Farewell, Ache-Inducing Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when the body thinks its cells are under attack. This can happen after an injury or illness but may also occur from emotional stress or a disease, such as obesity. When the body identifies a potential threat, regardless of the trigger, it releases proteins and antibodies designed to protect the immune system. Unfortunately, these substances often result in painful inflammation and as a result, left untreated, organs and tissue may become damaged.

Just 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise is often enough to reduce inflammation, but finding the motivation to hit the gym can be difficult when your body aches. Fortunately, soaking in a tub of warm water also helps fight inflammation. When inflammation decreases, some may notice pain reduction from conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.


Burn Calories

Working up a sweat helps burn calories, but what if that sweat comes from warm water rather than the treadmill or bicycle? Good news: we can melt away calories at the gym or in the tub. An hour-long soak in 104-degree water burns approximately as many calories as a 30-minute walk, experts say.

Don’t cancel that gym membership just yet, though. Those who are safely able to exercise may experience other benefits from regular workouts, such as toned muscles or reduced body fat. So it may be helpful to incorporate hot baths into that fitness routine, rather than replacing exercise with tub time.


Improve Vascular Function

Vascular health plays a role in several body functions, including blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. When vascular health is effectively managed, we may reduce the risk of developing high blood sugar or hypertension. But the great news is that though exercising regularly helps improve vascular function, research indicates that bathing in warm water may also promote vascular well-being.

In the study mentioned above, researchers monitored participants for 8 weeks to see how hot water immersion affected their health. The results? Arterial stiffness decreased, along with blood pressure and carotid intima-media thickness. Flow-mediated dilatation increased due to the release of nitric oxide by endothelial cells, which can be helpful for people struggling to manage blood sugar levels.

Okay though, hot baths aren’t a substitute for exercise, but they do have similar benefits. So it may be worth it to take time out and have a good soak. Consider that baths also help with stress reduction and are a form of self-care for many. Don’t abandon that fitness routine unless a doctor recommends it, but do consider adding more tub time to the schedule for a soothing way to enhance health.

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10/21/2019 7:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
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