Exercise has a long list of benefits but people also have a long list of excuses not to do it. Here's great news for the lazy folks who still want to get those benefits: new research finds that a hot bath shares similar benefits with exercise!
During vigorous exercise, the body gets hot. The same thing happens when people take a hot bath. Loughborough University's Steve Faulkner has conducted several studies on the topic. He highlighted one study in Finland last year wherein researchers found that increased sauna use was linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease deaths.
In this study, the research team followed 2,300 middle-aged male participants for 20 years on average. Among the men who visited the sauna once a week, half died within the time period. On the other hand, among the men who visited the sauna two to three times weekly, only 38 percent died.
These findings suggested that increased sauna usage reduced the risk of death from stroke or heart attack. This could be because of the increased blood flow and reduced blood pressure that people get when going to a sauna. However, these studies also have limitations. For instance, it could be that the people who frequently visit saunas are wealthier, healthier or more health conscious.
In a new study, Faulkner recruited a group of volunteers to test the effects of a hot bath. The participants were fitted with monitors that recorded levels of blood sugar continuously as well as a rectal thermometer to help measure the body's internal core temperature. One of metabolic fitness' important measures is the body's ability to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.
The experiment's first part involved taking an hour-long hot bath wherein the waters were maintained at 40 degrees Celsius. The participants were given a light meal after the bath. The second part of the experiment involved an hour-long cycling session to see how the hot bath's effects fared with exercise.
Findings showed that taking a long, hot bath burned a lot of calories, 140 to be exact, which is equivalent to a 30-minute brisk walk. Cycling, on the other hand, burned 630 calories on average. While a hot bath does not burn as many calories as exercise, the experiment showed that it can burn a lot of energy as well.
"What we found was that peak glucose was actually quite a bit lower after the bath, around 10 per cent lower compared to exercise," said Faulkner in terms of the measurement of blood sugar levels in the participants.
Faulkner believes this could be partly because of the heat shock proteins release. These proteins are released by the body in response to heat, though the discharge can also be triggered by other stressors such as exercise, inflammation and infection.
These proteins help in damage protection and studies conducted on animals showed they can also move sugar from the bloodstream into the muscles. This is particularly important as recurring high levels of blood sugar can damage the nerves and arteries.
Photo: Sarah Iddings | Flickr