Recently, we wrote about the exceptional health benefits of an Epsom salt enhanced hot bath. Now, researchers from the internationally renowned U.K. based sports specialist institution, Loughborough University, claim that soaking in a hot bath and relaxing may be as beneficial for your health as a 30-minute walk. This, perhaps startling finding, was recently reported in Newsweek.
According to the story:
Loughborough University scientists tested 14 men by sending them first on a one-hour bicycle ride and then letting them take a one-hour bath in water heated to 40 degrees Celsius. Cycling was found to burn more calories, but relaxing in a bath also shed 130 calories – about the same you can lose on a 30-minute walk – due to the increase in body temperature.
Researchers then tracked the blood sugar of all the participants for 24 hours. What they found was that peak blood sugar was about 10 per cent lower when the bath was taken as opposed to the bike ride.
A New Field of Research
Passive heating for human health is a relatively new field of research, but some exciting results have emerged over the past few years. Research from Finland, published in 2015, suggested that frequent saunas can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke—at least in men.
And the idea that passive heating can improve cardiovascular function received further support when the University of Oregon published a study in 2016 showing that regular hot baths can lower blood pressure. Passive heating raises the levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels – a side effect that can also improve peripheral circulation in people who suffer from type two diabetes.
Heat Shock Proteins
Studies with animals may have identified how heating affects health in other ways. These studies suggest one of the key regulators of blood sugar control may be what is known as heat shock proteins.
Heat shock proteins are molecules that are made by all cells of the human body in response to stresses. Their levels rise following exercise and passive heating. In the long term, raised levels of these proteins may help the function of insulin and improve blood sugar control.
Overall, activities such as soaking in a hot tub or taking a sauna may deliver significant health benefits for people who are unable to exercise regularly.
For us retirees – especially for those finding even moderate levels of exertion stressful – the idea that passive heating can provide an effective substitute for exercise is very good news indeed.