Having a hot, steamy bath may be just as good for some aspects of your health as exercise. Research from the UK’s Loughborough University found that the passive heating from a long soak burns calories, reduces inflammation and improves blood sugar control in a similar manner to getting all hot and sweaty from a workout.
The small study compared results from men assigned to an hour-long soak in a 40°C bath to men assigned an hour-long cycle workout. Both activities were designed to raise their body temperatures by 1°C.
While calories burnt were higher in the cyclists, the soakers still burned as many calories as a half-hour walk, averaging at 140cal. Blood sugar response, which is an important measure of metabolic fitness, was similar in both groups, but peak blood sugar was 10% lower after eating with the soakers.
The anti-inflammatory response to exercise was also similar after a hot bath.
This research backs up previous studies showing that passive heating from hot baths, saunas and steam rooms can improve your health. A Finnish study from 2015 suggests that frequent saunas improved cardiovascular function in men, reducing the incidence of heart attack and stroke, which correlated with a University of Oregon study showing that hot baths can lower blood pressure.
The University of Oregon study explained that passive heating raises levels of nitric oxide in the body, which dilates blood vessels, resulting in lowered blood pressure.
So run a bath, lock the door, turn up the chill out tunes and settle in for a soak — it’s good for you!