Hot baths have been credited with curing a multitude of woes, and with good reason. A long soak in the suds has the capacity to soothe tired muscles, calm the skin and contribute to your overall well-being.
And now scientists say that a hot bath can actually provide some of the health benefits you would normally associate with exercise.
Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK say that having a hot bath could even be better at lowering blood sugar than exercising.
The researchers experimented on 10 sedentary males, who all soaked in a 40˚C bath, while wearing a glucose monitor to record changes in their blood sugar.
On a different day, the participants were asked to cycle for an hour at an intensity that raised their body temperate by 1˚C (matching their body temperature in the bath.)
The results were surprising; when the participants bathed they had (on average) 10 per cent lower peak glucose levels in comparison to when they exercised.
Dr Steve Faulkner, who led the study, says that this is a good development for research into type 2 diabetes.
“The amount our blood sugar rises after a meal is one of the risk markers for things like developing type 2 diabetes, so keeping it down can be good for our health.
“We think the reason is that the bath may encourage the release of heat shock proteins, which may help lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin controlled glucose uptake,” he explains.
In addition to improving blood sugar levels, the study also found that having a long, hot bath could increase calorie burning by 80%.
During the study, the male participants who bathed for an hour burned 126 calories, which is comparable to a 30-minute walk.
Of course, while this is great news for bath lovers, Dr Faulkner says that baths can never take the place of exercise.
“Although these findings are interesting, we would always encourage increased physical activity and exercise as the best way to maintain good health,” he says.
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