If you’ve ever ditched an hour in the gym in favour of a long, relaxing soak, there’s no need to feel guilty: new research suggests that a hot bath might actually have just as many health benefits as exercise.
Researchers at Loughborough University investigated how ‘passive heating’ (or, raising your core temperature) impacts upon the calories burned by the body and on blood sugar control. A group of 14 people took part in two tasks designed to raise the core body temperature by just one degree, to accurately compare how many calories were burned by each activity. Each participant cycled for one hour, and relaxed in a 40 degree bath for the same amount of time.
Unsurprisingly, cycling was found to burn more calories than lying back in the tub. Bathing was found, however, to burn around 140 calories, research associate Steve Faulkner explains to The Conversation.
‘The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10 percent lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised,’ he adds. Researchers also noticed an anti-inflammatory response similar to that which occurs after exercise, and concluded that repeated passive heating might help to reduce chronic inflammation, which occurs in long-term conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
It’s not the first time that the health benefits of passive heating have been noted. In 2015, research from Finland suggested that regular trips to the sauna can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.
While endless leisurely baths aren’t a substitute for regular exercise and a healthy diet (sigh), it’s certainly reassuring to learn that they’re nothing to feel guilty about…