Slipping into a hot bath to relax can feel like one of the finer things in life, something decadent and delicious, like we're doing something wonderful for ourselves — especially when the cell phone gets switched off and left in another room. The warmth of the water and the silence of the bathroom can be so enjoyable.
And there's good reason. Soaking a hot bath is more than a chance to escape. There are actually health benefits to this self-care practice. Research has found that this practice can benefit health by improving sleep, reducing inflammation, regulating blood sugar, decreasing muscle pain and improving heart health. Check out these great reasons to get into a hot bath.
The hot water of a bath has an interesting effect on the body. Sliding into the tub actually triggers a reaction in the body that lowers the core body temperature. One thing this lower temperature does is signal that it is time to go to sleep. That’s why this self-care habit can make it easier to doze off at night. The researchers who observed this effect published a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews noted that those who bathed for roughly 90 minutes in water that was between 104 and 109 degrees slept best. That may seem like a long bath, but that time can really fly if there's a great book.
In 2018, The Journal of Applied Physiology published the results of a study that examined the potential effect of a hot bath on inflammation. Similar to working out, body temperature elevations that happen due to immersion in hot water were found to help improve inflammation.
For those who experience pain or muscle tension because of the work they do or time spent exercising, a bath can provide relief. According to WebMD, this practice not only soothes sore muscles, but a good soak can also help joints that are sore or stiff.
Although not intended to replace exercise, the practice of bathing regularly could be used as a supplement to a workout routine.
Diabetics may uniquely benefit from taking hot baths. The 2018 study also found that hot baths were linked to improved insulin sensitivity. The study’s participants, which consisted of 10 overweight males, immersed in hot water 10 times over the course of two weeks. There were improvements in their fasting glucose and insulin levels, leading researchers to believe that hot water immersion helps improve glucose metabolism.
Better Heart Health
Researchers at the University of Oregon took a close look at how a bath could improve heart health. In 2017, The Journal of Physiology shared their results, noting that hot water immersion could have a positive effect on cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and reducing the thickness of artery walls.
For individuals interested in the health benefits of bathing, it's worth noting that longer baths at temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit appear to be the key. If an excuse were needed to indulge in this healthy practice, there are plenty of reasons to leave the cell phone behind, light a few candles, bring along a good book and make enjoying a nice hot bath a priority more often.