Muscles sore from your HIIT exercise workout or sports massage? Sweat-heavy cycle class or sauna session? We know which one we’d choose after a long day at work…and which one we feel we have to. But what if they produced the same results?
Bath lovers, prepare to rejoice: A new study suggests that taking a hot bath has similar benefits to exercise.
Yep, the next time you get home from a stressful day at work and waver between hitting the treadmill or hopping in the tub, you can guiltlessly grab the bath salts and ditch the sneakers.
Researchers at Loughborough University conducted a study on 14 men who were instructed either to take an hour-long bath or complete an hour of cycling. (Editor’s note: How does one get invited to do a study like this? Asking for a friend …) Scientists then measured the caloric expenditure and blood sugar levels of each participant.
Obviously, the cyclists burned more calories than the bathing beauties—but those who indulged in the hour-long bath ended up burning close to 140 calories, which is about the same as a 30-minute walk. There wasn’t a large disparity in blood sugar levels between the two groups, but “peak blood sugar after eating was about 10% lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised”
OK, so does this mean that you can cancel your gym membership and just invest in some awesome bath salts and candles? Not exactly. An hour-long hot bath can’t replace exercise, but it does seem like a pretty fantastic option for your off days. In the same study, researchers discovered that passive heating (like taking a bath, sitting in a sauna, or enjoying a steam) reduced levels of chronic inflammation.
Exercise naturally causes inflammation—that’s why you feel soreness or tired muscles after a particularly brutal workout—and it seems likely that taking hot baths can quicken recovery time. Plus, if you’re adding Epsom and magnesium salts into your bath, you’ll reduce fatigue and boost recovery even more quickly.