Candles, bubbles, and a glass of wine. Three things that we don’t usually associate with exercise. But recently experts have delved deeper into the impacts of a hot bath, and how they compare to our workouts. And the results have proved pretty promising, with evidence of similar physiological effects between the two emerging.
But let us break it down completely for you, here’s what the latest evidence found, and whether that means you can swap out your weekly run for a bubble bath instead.
Researchers at Coventry University compared passive heating (the less glamourous name for a hot bath) to exercise by having participants sit in a hot tub, and do some moderate intensity cycling, both for the same amount of time.1
In terms of calorie burn or energy expenditure, as you might expect, exercise comes out on top and is much more efficient. However, for things like increased body temperature and heart rate, the two are definitely comparable.1
On top of this, after doing ultrasound scans of the participants’ arteries, researchers found similar increases in another key benefits of exercise: blood flow.1
As part of their investigation, the researchers from Coventry University also reviewed past studies into the effects of “passive heating”2. In particular, an investigation in 2015 which discovered that increasing “sauna bathing” resulted in decreased risk of several cardiac diseases and general mortality.2 Although sauna bathing (spending time in a humid sauna as opposed to a dry one) is slightly different to having a normal bath, the effects that reduce the risk are the same, namely increased heart rate and sweating.
This 2015 study did say that more research is needed into the exact mechanism that reduces the risk of heart diseases, but the results were conclusive that increased sauna bathing decreases risk.2
So, yes, having a hot bath several times a week definitely has its benefits. It’ll get your heart rate up, make you sweat, and with regular bathing, should have positive effects on your heart health.1 However, the researchers from Coventry stress that your weekly bath shouldn’t replace your gym membership, as not all of the positive effects of exercise can be replicated by a bath.1
For example, you won’t be able to build muscle or lose fat by increasing your bathing schedule, but, having a couple of hot baths every week can definitely promote heart health, and in turn, potentially help you get more out of your workouts.
Take Home Message
It looks like there’s definitely more research to come on this topic, but the results we do have are promising. Having a hot bath, a couple of times a week, not only helps you unwind after a busy day but it also promotes heart-health.
So, don’t ditch your usual gym schedule, but it’s definitely worth considering adding a couple of baths a week into your schedule.