When was the last time you took a bath, like actually sitting down in the tub after the water warmed up to that perfect, hot-but-not too-hot temperature?
It’s one of those things I always say I’m going to do but keep putting off. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it’s because baths require a bigger time commitment than a quick shower. It might also have something to do with the fact that taking a bath feels like an extravagance — an opportunity to truly relax and unwind — and I just never feel like I have space for that in my life.
Of course, this is all the more reason for me (and you, too!) to carve out a half hour some time soon to luxuriate in a long, lovely bath. And it turns out taking a bath isn’t just an indulgence: there are actual health benefits — for the mind and body — that happen when people immerse themselves in a nice tub of warm water.
1. Baths Have Effects Similar To A Light Workout
No one is saying you should replace bathing with working out, but studies show that hot water immersion can reduce inflammation and keep blood sugars in check much like a gentle workout would. Other studies point to bathing as a way to burn calories. For example, a study from researchers at UK’s Loughborough University found that an hour-long bath burns about 130 calories, similar to what you’d burn if you took a 30-minute walk.
2. Baths Can Improve Heart Health, And May Help You Live Longer
Water and heat immersion have a number of health benefits, but cardiovascular health is one of the most prominent and well-studied. A 2018 study out of Japan looked at the effects of bathing five times a week, and discovered that baths “significantly lower markers of atherosclerosis and cardiac loading,” as Medical News Today described it.
Another study, this one published in The Journal of Physiology, pointed to heat therapy as a protection against cardiovascular-related issues such as high blood pressure and arterial stiffness. The study authors also concluded that bathing could play a part in reducing overall cardiovascular disease and increasing longevity.
3. Baths Set the Stage For A Good Night’s Sleep
Many people swear by a hot bath as a way to ease into slumber. But baths don’t just help with getting to sleep: they can help you sleep better and more restfully. For example, a study published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology found that, among older adults, bathing for two consecutive days before bed increased sleep continuity and contributed to a deeper and more restful night’s sleep. Much of this correlation has to do with the fact that an increase in temperature before bed has been shown to set the stage for better sleep.
4. Baths Reduce Stress And Contribute To Mental Well Being
It’s well known that bathing is a great way to relax and unwind. But it’s not just a theory; science backs this up, too. Case in point: a 2018 study, published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, determined that people who regularly bathe in hot water sleep better, have lower levels of stress and are just happier overall.
5. Baths Can Boost Your Immune System And Help With Chronic Illness
Besides heart health, bathing has been shown to heal and protect the body in numerous and highly beneficial ways. Taking a bath can give your immune system a boost, and it can help regulate Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, it reduces symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, asthma, fatigue, anxiety, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, and hyperthermia. Water immersion during labor can ease pain and discomfort and increase the chances of a medication-free birth.
Concerned about the environmental ramifications of bathing as opposed to showering? There’s no clear-cut answer as to what is best in terms of water conservation. Taking a quick shower with a water-efficient shower head certainly uses less water than taking a bath. But it also depends on factors such as how big your bathtub is, and how frequently you bathe. You can also “recycle” your bathwater, using it to water your plants, wash your car, etc.
Taking the occasional hot bath is probably just fine, and all of us could use a break, couldn’t we? While I also love a nice hot shower, there is something to be said for immersing myself in a bath, preferably with some essential oils, scented candles and a good book.
Oh, and throw some bubble bath in there for good measure. Ahhhh…I’m feeling more relaxed just thinking about it.
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