Soak Your Way to Good Health

There’s no doubt that a good, long soak in a hot bath has its benefits. Enjoying the warm water as it languidly washes over your skin and letting go of the drama of the day can be advantageous for anyone. However, it is only recently that scientists have discovered a new reason to draw a bath and relax: lowered blood pressure and blood sugar.

A recent study out of Loughborough University in the UK revealed that an hour-long soak in a hot bath burns about 140 calories—roughly the same amount as a half-hour walk. Passive heating is a term that describes the raising of your body temperature—outside of exercise—be it through a soak in the tub or a session in the sauna. As your body temperature rises, there is a rise in nitric oxide—a molecule responsible for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. Through the rise in nitric oxide, along with the creation of “heat shock molecules”—molecules created by the cells in the body in response to the stresses of increased heat—a rise in body temperature actually mimics the effect of exercise on the body.

This blood-sugar-lowering alternative to exercise can help diabetics—or those with high blood pressure—who are unable to maintain the physical activitybneeded to raise the body temperature through moderate exercise.

This UK study proved that the increase in body temperature that comes from exercise is, in itself, one of the reasons why exercise is so good at lowering blood pressure, burning calories, and maintaining blood sugar levels. But before you hang up your running shoes and cancel your gym membership, it should be noted that taking a hot bath cannot replace the plethora of health benefits that come from regular exercise—but it also certainly won’t hurt.

by Pax Ansley