6 Unexpected Health Benefits of Indulging in a Hot Bath

Jennifer Geer

More than just a leisurely pleasure, taking a bath can improve wellbeing.


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Back in the days when I had more time on my hands, I loved to take a luxurious and steamy bath. But since I have become a mom, the number of times I sat relaxing in the tub have been few. Perhaps it is time for a change.

Baths are a form of self-care that most of us can access. There’s a multitude of health benefits, some proven by science and others anecdotal. But there is the indisputable feeling of inner peace I have when soaking in a hot bath.

I’m not the only one that loves a bath. The ritual of bathing was significant in ancient times.

The history of the bath


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In ancient times, bathing was a ritual, done in public bathhouses where people bathed together and socialized. The oldest discovered bathhouse was found in the Indus Valley, and it dates back to 2500 BC. Anthropologists believe it was also used as a temple because cleanliness was associated with godliness.

The ancient world embraced the benefits of warm waters. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates wrote extensively about the healing nature of water. The Romans constructed numerous private and public bathhouses. Bathing was an activity of relaxation and socialization.

However, the bath as an integral part of relaxation doesn’t fit with our fast-paced world. Today, the shower rules. When Americans renovate their bathrooms, they tend to want walk-in showers over the big, jacuzzi bathtub of the past.

Walk-in showers take up less space, use less water, and are easily accessible. Showers take up less space, use less water, and are easily accessible. Yet, homeowners may want to rethink ditching the bathtub.

6 Health benefits of taking a bath


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  1. It lowers your blood pressure. A study showed soaking in hot water for 60 minutes reduced blood pressure and improved blood flow to and from the heart. Use caution if you have a heart condition. Sudden or prolonged immersion in hot water can stress your heart and medications used for heart problems can make it worse.
  2. You will fall asleep faster. If you toss and turn before you can fall asleep at night, it wouldn’t hurt to give a warm bath before bed a try. Your body temperature rises in the heat of the bath. When you get out, your body temperature decreases. Decreased temperatures cause melatonin levels to rise. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. A meta-analysis of sleep studies showed an improvement of falling asleep faster when participants took a hot bath one to two hours before bedtime.
  3. It can reduce inflammation. Exercise reduces inflammation, and a hot bath may provide some of the same effects. When you exercise, your body increases inflammation briefly and then produces anti-inflammation chemicals. Researchers have found soaking in a hot tub yields similar results to the anti-inflammation benefits of exercise.
  4. It burns calories. Although a bath is not a replacement for being active, you can burn calories merely by lying in a hot tub. Researchers discovered participants burned as many calories in a hot bath as they did on a 30-minute walk. Of course, there are many other benefits to walking that baths don’t replicate. But it can add a little calorie-burning boost to your day.
  5. It regulates blood sugar. Engaging in activities, such as exercise or soaking in a hot tub, causes your body temperature to rise. When you increase your body temperature, your levels of heat shock proteins rise. These molecules are involved in regulating insulin, and they improve levels of blood sugar.
  6. It’s a mood booster. Although there are not a lot of extensive studies on a large scale for this one, there is lots of anecdotal evidence. There is a small study out of Germany that showed regular baths resulted in improved moods from a small group of people suffering from depression. And another study showed that warm water baths caused a decrease in cortisol — the stress hormone.

But what about the environment?

I would be remiss not to mention the debates among environmentalists on taking a bath versus a shower. Everyone has heard that showers are greener than baths. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the standard showerhead uses around 2.5 gallons of water per minute.

This means a 10-minute shower would use about 25 gallons of water. And a standard bath uses about 35 to 50 gallons of water. This all varies, of course. Water-saving showerheads can reduce the water down to less than 2 gallons per minute. And large, soaker bathtubs can hold up to 100 gallons of water.

So are you using more water in the bath than in the shower? It all depends on the length of your shower, the type of showerhead you use, the size of your bathtub, and how high you fill it.

There are a few ways you can conserve water in the bath:

  • Plug the drain as soon as you start filling the tub.
  • Don’t fill it all the way. Use only as much water as you need.
  • Adjust the water temperature as it fills so you won’t need to empty any water and refill.

If you belong to a gym with a sauna or hot tub, you can gain the bath benefits without any extra water usage. If you want to conserve as much water as possible at home, you can take shorter showers daily, and save your bath for a special treat.

Of course, a five-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead will use less water than any bath. But a 20-minute shower with a standard showerhead can use up to 50 gallons, around the same as many bath sizes. So, the question of does a bath use more water than a shower isn’t possible to answer depending on all of the many variables.

Take a bath

Baths are more than just a guilty pleasure. A warm bath is a healthy practice that can be part of your self-care routine. And we all know you have to take care of yourself first to be able to take care of everything else.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL

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