When it's cold outside and your muscles are aching or you're stressed out, there's nothing more soothing than stepping into a hot bath. And although they're great for soothing your mind and your body, hot baths do more than just relax you.
According to Dr. Steve Faulkner, a researcher at Loughborough University, taking a hot bath can be just as effective as exercise when it comes to health benefits.
In Faulkner's study, participants took hour-long baths at 40 °C or rode a bicycle for an hour. The participants were then monitored for blood sugar control and calories burned.
While biking burned more calories than bathing, the researchers noticed that by increasing core body temperature by one degree in the tub, participants burned the same amount of calories as people who take a 30-minute walk.
Faulkner also acknowledged that while blood sugar levels between the participants remained somewhat on par, participants who took hot baths had slightly lower blood sugar peaks after eating compared to those who exercised.
And that's not the only reason you might want to consider ditching the sneakers for some bath salts. The researchers also found that bathing provided a boost to participants' immune systems. "This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes," Faulkner said.
But hot baths aren't safe for everyone. Pregnant women and people with heart conditions should exercise caution when soaking in hot water as it increases your body temperature and puts stress on your heart.