- Regular hot baths could provide many of the same benefits as exercise, a study suggests.
- Researchers compared hot baths and saunas with moderate cycling, and found similar physiological responses.
- However, baths won’t lead to fat loss, muscle gain, or improved stamina.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A hot bath could provide many of the same benefits as low-intensity aerobic exercise, researchers have found.
Regular baths have previously been linked to a lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, as Insider’s Samantha Crozier reported. A new mini-review by the University of Coventry suggests they provide further benefits of moderate exercise, too.
After a few minutes in a hot bath or sauna, you feel a pleasant relaxing sensation, then your heart rate rises and you feel hot and sweaty — similar sensations to those when walking, jogging, or cycling.
Researchers compared the physiological responses between spending equal amounts of time in a hot tub and moderate intensity cycling.
They assessed 50 studies, both epidemiological (which have large numbers of people, looking for patterns) and laboratory-based (which look at detailed physiology).
Study author Tom Cullen told Insider that all existing laboratory studies for heat therapy are small, and there were very few studies directly comparing exercise and use of hot tubs, baths, and saunas. “We are really quite early on in the phase of research with really only a proof of concept and no large scale clinical trials,” Cullen said.
However, he said there was enough for them to draw some conclusions.
They found that core body temperature and heart rate increases were comparable for both groups, and ultrasound scans of the arteries found similar improvements in blood flow, blood pressure, and glucose levels.
The cycling, however, did also lead to more energy expenditure (or, calorie-burning), while the bath did not.
Baths won’t help you lose fat or build muscle
Despite the study’s findings, baths don’t provide the countless benefits of exercise, and it’s worth noting that you may need to sit in a hot tub at around 40C (104F) for an hour to experience the results of the study, which could lead to dizziness and dehydration.
Hot bathing won’t help you change your body composition by building muscle and burning fat, it won’t boost your bone density, and it won’t lead to improvements in endurance, strength, or mobility.
“Using hot baths or saunas shouldn’t be considered as a substitute for exercise,” Cullen’s fellow study author Amy Harwood wrote for The Conversation. “But it can mimic some of the health benefits — and we think that when used in conjunction with exercise, it can give rise to greater health.”
Hot baths can be beneficial complements to a healthy exercise regime by reducing inflammation and helping muscles recover Harwood said.
Doing both regular exercise and frequent bathing is the best option, Harwood said.
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