A warm bath is one of the best ways to relax after a long day. Any activity that soothes you on a regular basis will have a beneficial effect on your mental health, and hot baths are no exception. However, research has also demonstrated that hot baths can have a positive effect on your physical health too. Read on to discover how they can encourage your body to burn calories, balance your blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and detoxify itself.
Stay in the bath longer and burn some calories
Research by physiologist Steve Faulkner suggests that increasing your body temperature could increase number of calories burned. Volunteers taking part in his research first sat in a bath for an hour until their body temperature hit an average of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. They then completed an hour-long workout on an exercise bike.
Surprisingly, just sitting in a hot bath for an hour burned 140 calories. Although this is significantly lower than the 630 burned on the exercise bike, the findings demonstrated that the bath used as many calories as a half-hour walk.
How a bath can balance your blood sugar
Faulkner’s research also examined the effect of a hot bath and exercise on blood sugar and glucose release following a meal. Participants in his study ate the same meal first after a hot bath and secondly after an hour-long session of exercise. Lower levels of circulating blood sugar should be taken as an encouraging sign, because this suggests better insulin sensitivity, which in turn indicates a lower risk of diabetes.
Faulkner found, to his surprise, that blood glucose levels in the volunteers were lower after the bath condition. This means that a hot bath may actually have a more positive effect on blood sugar regulation than exercise. He has proposed that the reason for this may lie in Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) released by the body during times of exposure to high temperatures. Physical stress such as inflammation and shock can trigger the release of HSPs, which cause glucose to be transported from the bloodstream to muscle tissue, thus lowering overall blood glucose levels.
HSPs, insulin sensitivity, and diabetes prevention
Other research has demonstrated that HSPs could be beneficial in enhancing insulin sensitivity and therefore lowering the risk of diabetes. Back in 1985, researchers from the University of Kansas used an animal model to demonstrate that they act quickly on glucose and skeletal muscle, therefore lowering overall blood sugar levels.
More recently, scientists have identified that it is a specific HSP known as HSP72 that is responsible for triggering these effects. Therefore, taking regular baths or saunas may help you regulate your blood sugar levels and increase your sensitivity to insulin.
The health benefits of sweating
A hot bath will make you sweat, which comes with its own health benefits. Sweating is a natural detoxification mechanism by which toxins are released through the surface of the skin. Mercury, lead and arsenic are just three substances that can be released through sweating, according to research. Therefore, if you cannot exercise, taking a hot bath or sauna can provide the same detoxification benefits.
It is important, however, to take precautions when using hot baths for health purposes. Remember that prolonged exposure to high temperatures can result in heatstroke or dehydration. Drink water before and after your bath to ensure that your fluid levels remain adequate. You should also take care not to scald your skin. Another risk is headaches. Some people experience this symptom after taking a long, hot bath. Applying a piece of material soaked in cool water to the forehead can encourage more rapid cooling, thus eliminating the pain.