The benefits of a hot bath

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warm-bath-cold-day-bad-heart-1324345452For those looking for an excuse to take a long hot soak, well science has provided one: it helps improve health. Spending an hour taking a hot bath could help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and it has also been found to have the same benefits as those produced while engaging in physical activities.

“At Loughborough University we investigated the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control, an important measure of metabolic fitness and on energy expended- the number of calories burnt. We found that the repeated passive heating of a hot bath may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes,” said Steve Faulkner, a Research Associate at the university and the study lead author.

In the study, the researchers observed 14 men who were assigned to an hour-long soak in a hot bath that was 40˚C or an hour of cycling. The activities were designed to cause a 1˚C rise in core body temperature over the course of one hour.

They then measured how many calories the men burned in each session and their blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial. They found that cycling resulted in more calories being burned compared with a hot bath however bathing resulted in about as many calories being burned as a half-hour walk, which is approximately 140 calories.

“The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10 per cent lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised. We also found that there was an inflammatory response similar to that following exercise. The anti-inflammatory response to exercise is important as it helps to protect us against infection and illness, but chronic inflammation is associated with a reduced ability to fight off diseases. This suggests that repeated passive heating during a hot bath may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.”

Furthermore, taking hot baths regularly has also been found to reduce cardiovascular-related diseases because the passive heating increased flow-mediated dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, reduced mean arterial and lowers blood pressure.

“The majority of cardiovascular diseases are characterized by disorders of the arteries, predominantly caused by endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffening. Passive heating results in elevations in core temperature and changes in cardiovascular haemodynamics, such as cardiac output and vascular shear stress, that are similar to exercise, and thus may provide an alternative means of improving health which could be utilized by patients with low exercise tolerance and/or capabilities,” according to a study by the Univeristy of Oregon.

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