Do you hate to run? Take a warm bath instead! Research shows that soaking in the bath can mimic many of the health benefits of exercise
- Regular hot baths can mimic the health benefits of exercise, researchers say
- It increases blood flow, body temperature and heart rate in the same way as exercise
- This can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and repair cells
- Researchers from Coventry University say heat therapy can also be an antidepressant
Do you sometimes wish you could leave the run after work and sink into a nice warm bath instead?
Researchers at Coventry University have good news. They found that regular hot baths can in fact mimic many of the health benefits of walking, jogging, and cycling.
It increases blood flow, body temperature and heart rate – the same way exercise does – and can help improve cardiovascular health, promote cell growth and repair, and even act as an antidepressant.
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Researchers at Coventry University found that regular hot bathing can actually mimic many of the health benefits of walking, jogging and cycling (stock)
HOW HEATING EFFECTS HEALTH
Animal studies may have shown how heating affects health.
These studies suggest that one of the main blood sugar regulators may be heat shock proteins.
Heat shock proteins are molecules made by all cells of the human body in response to stress.
Their levels increase after exercise and passive heating.
In the long run, increased levels of these proteins can aid insulin function and improve blood sugar control.
It appears that activities that increase heat shock proteins can help improve blood sugar and provide an alternative to exercise.
These activities – such as soaking in a hot tub or taking a sauna – can have health benefits for people who cannot exercise regularly.
Benefits also include lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and tighter blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, such ‘heat therapies’ cannot help with fat loss or improve muscle mass and bone density.
Nonetheless, the researchers believe that combining exercise with the use of hot baths and saunas can lead to better health, said Charles Steward, one of the authors, who wrote a piece in The conversation.
“The term ‘exercise is medicine’ has rightly been widely publicized,” he said. It’s one of the best ways to stay healthy, but drugs don’t work if you’re not prepared for it.
‘Adherence to therapy is very poor, with many people not wanting to exercise due to lack of time and motivation. And for those who are older or have chronic illnesses, exercise can also cause pain, further limiting exercise for obvious reasons. ‘
Mr. Steward added, “While exercise remains the best way to improve your health, research shows that bathing in a sauna or hot tub are alternative options for those who are unwilling or unable to get enough exercise.”
Globally, about 25 percent of adults do not meet the minimum recommended exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
In the UK, the numbers are even worse: 34 percent of men and 42 percent of women do not participate in the minimum recommendation.
This sedentary behavior is believed to be linked to about one in 10 deaths in the UK every year, researchers claim.
Walking, jogging, and cycling are all considered moderate exercise, while vigorous activity also includes running fast enough to allow you to breathe quickly.
The Coventry University team’s analysis, in which volunteers spent as much time in a hot tub as cycling, found that while exercise is more adept at increasing energy expenditure, there were similar increases in core body temperature and heart rate.
Researchers believe that combining exercise with the use of hot baths and saunas can lead to better health (stock)
Meanwhile, ultrasounds of the arteries showed a similar increase in blood flow.
Researchers have also pondered the use of saunas and hot baths in many cultures around the world, such as Finland, Japan, and South Korea.
In Finland alone, there are about three million saunas in a country with a population of 5.5 million people.
“All of these cultures – and the many other historical and current cultures for which bathing is popular – glorify the health benefits of these practices,” said Steward.
“And we now know they’ve been right all along.”