For years, heat has been used as a method of relaxation. Whether it is through taking a bath, sitting in a sauna, or hanging out in a hot tub, many people throughout the ages have taken a bath to feel relaxed. While these activities have mostly been used as a way to decompress, doctors and researchers have actually found evidence that these heat therapy practices can actually bring a host of health benefits.
This discovery all started with a study at the Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. Researchers there looked at how bathing in hot water affects blood sugar levels and the calories burned during the bathing process. Even though the study included only 14 men, the researchers found that sitting in an increased temperature for extended periods brought similar benefits as aerobic exercise.
For the experiment, the 14 men were split into two groups. One group spent an hour sitting in a bath for an hour and the other group cycled for an hour. As a result, both groups raised their body temperature by 1 degree Celsius. While the cyclists burned more calories, those who took a bath had a 10% lower blood sugar level after eating a balanced meal.
Despite the control group being so small, this Loughborough University study provides more evidence that there are genuine medical benefits to heat therapy. This study is only one of the many studies that have looked at the advantages of heat on the body — one study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that bathing in hot water has the ability to improve cardiovascular function via dilating blood vessels, which in return lowers blood pressure.
These experiments all show that it doesn’t matter how the person goes about their heat therapy, but the typical hot tub can last up to 20 years or more. For decades, athletes have soaked in hot tubs to ease muscle aches, and now many homeowners are enjoying heat therapy at home, too.
Hot tubs aren’t the only form of heat therapy making headlines, however. Infrared saunas, which heat the body by shaking water molecules in the skin and fat with long-wavelength infrared light beams, are becoming more popular as a method of weight loss. Since the sauna basically works like a microwave to heat the body, many people are experiencing dramatic water weight loss after spending only a few hours basking in the heat.
Of course, heat therapy shouldn’t replace physical activity. But if heat therapy works to ease those aches and pains, then science indicates it’s safe to get your soak on.
So, if you needed an extra incentive to enjoy a nice warm bath, now you have it.