‘Many cultures swear by the benefits of a hot bath. But only recently has science began to understand how passive heating (as opposed to getting hot and sweaty from exercise) improves health,’ Steve Faulkner, research associate at Loughborough University, wrote for The Conversation.
Researchers at the UK university recruited 14 men to take part in a study – in order to investigate the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control.
The men were either told to have an hour-long soak in a 40 degree bathtub or undertake an hour of cycling.
‘The activities were designed to cause a 1˚C rise in core body temperature over the course of one hour,’ Steve explained.
‘We measured how many calories the men burned in each session. We also measured their blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial.’
Unsurprisingly the men who cycled burned more calories than those having a soak, but bathing resulted in the same number of calories being burned as a 30-minute walk.
That’s around 140 calories.
‘We also showed changes to the inflammatory response similar to that following exercise,’ Steve explained.
‘The anti-inflammatory response to exercise is important as it helps to protect us against infection and illness, but chronic inflammation is associated with a reduced ability to fight off diseases.
‘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.’
It’s not the first time the benefits of heat have been explored.
Previously, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland tracked more than two thousand middle-aged men for an average of 20 years.
The men were users of saunas and spent a different amount in them per week.
The study found that frequent visits to a sauna were associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
‘The cardiovascular effects of sauna have been well documented in the past. It lowers blood pressure, and there is every reason to believe that its effects are good for blood vessels,’ Dr Thomas Lee, a cardiologist and founding editor of the Harvard Heart Letter has said.
Don’t forget to consult your doctor before making any significant lifestyle changes though.
This article originally appeared on New Idea.