We all know it feels good, but can a hot bath or shower actually have health benefits too? In our article, we list the top benefits from having a long soak or steamy wash that will make you want to jump into your bath or shower straight away.
As the chill of winter sets in and with many of us feeling the cold, there is no better way to relax, unwind and warm up than a hot bath or shower. The comforting, cosiness you feel afterwards stays with you for hours. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out that something that felt so good is also a healthy choice for us too? Well, we’re about to give you some good news. Luxuriating in a steamy shower or a long hot bath actually has medicinal benefits.
For centuries, people have used hot water therapies within a range of cultures. Ranging from the Roman Bathhouses through to hydrotherapy and onsen – the Japanese tradition of bathing, we have long felt the benefits of bathing across the world. It is only in more recent years, however, that we can put scientific research behind the reasoning.
In this article, we’ve taken a deep dive into the science to bring you the top 10 reasons to pop on some candles, put your favourite towel on the radiator and take a long hot bath or shower tonight;
- Lowers blood pressure
Whether you have hypertension or not, looking after your heart health is always wise. Studies have found that heat therapy, including hot baths or showers, can improve your circulation and vascular function.
The heat from the water encourages the heart to work harder and faster, creating pressure on the body and in turn increasing its strength and capacity. This may reduce any stiffening of blood vessels and improve blood pressure. Whilst this sounds rigorous, it works more like light exercise. See a dip into hot water as a great mini workout for your heart!
- Improves sleep quality
Having a hot bath or shower before bed is a common practice in many households, but have you ever wondered why it works so well? There’s a vast library of research that shows long showers or baths improve sleep quality, in other words, a warm bath leads to more time spent staying asleep rather than tossing and turning and trying to fall asleep. Counterintuitively, it works by actually cooling your core temperature!
The body brings a large amount of blood flow to the surface of your body and through the skin when you are immersed in heat, especially hands and feet. This blood flow brings the heat from the core to the surface, causing a drop in body temperature, which is needed to initiate a good night’s sleep.
- Reduces blood sugar
Blood sugar dysregulation affects many people with conditions ranging from diabetes, hormone imbalances and even dementia. However, researchers are now finding that a hot bath can help to control blood sugar and even reduce inflammation.
In a recent study by Loughborough University, scientists discovered that bathing burned about as many calories as a half-hour walk. This improved the overall blood sugar response in the participants. The study also indicated that people who have diabetes and soak in a hot bathtub regularly are able to reduce their levels of sugar and glucose in the blood. The spike in body temperature increases the production of nitric oxide. This substance in your blood helps to improve blood flow and therefore transport glucose throughout your body more effectively.
- Combats colds and flu
We are all hyper-aware of keeping our immune systems in check of late, and winter is renowned for being the cold and flu season. Whilst we are all taking more precautions to avoid catching viruses and colds, sometimes even our best safeguarding can end with us sneezing and coughing into a tissue. However, a hot bath or shower can sometimes be a fantastic remedy for this. The steam of a bath or shower can help to dry out any mucus in our nose, throat, chest and sinuses.
Furthermore, the combination of warm water and water pressure encourages your heart to beat faster, which increases oxygen intake within the body. This supports your lung capacity and aids your immune system in moving immune cells effectively around your circulation. A great addition to increase the effectiveness of a hot bath or shower in particular to improve your breathing can be using essential oils such as eucalyptus. Pop a few drops into your bath water or into the base of your shower unit and allow the fresh scent to open your airways as you breathe in the steam.
- Releases muscle tension
Are you feeling tense? Whether you have increased backache using your laptop whilst working from home or your joints are affected by the cold weather, a hot bath or shower can be a great way to help to bring some relief. Quite simply, when your tense body slips into warmth, the hot water increases the body temperature and relaxes the muscles. This sensation not only helps to soothe our aches and pains but also relaxes us mentally, relieving pain and giving us peace of mind at the end of the day. Many people also claim that using Epsom salts in a bath can further alleviate tension as the magnesium contained within the salt is a traditional muscle relaxant.
- Keeps your skin supple
If you spend too long in the bath, you may be tricked into thinking your wrinkled skin is a negative side effect. However, the opposite is often true! The warm water from a hot shower or bath leaves the skin moist for longer, which in turn, prevents dryness. Temperature is essential; however, as a scalding bath can make your skin more irritated.
A warm bath, on the other hand, primarily when used in combination with oils like coconut or olive, can better hydrate and heal dry or irritated skin. Additionally, hot water speeds up the healing process in the skin, so there’s no need to cover up any small wounds when taking a bath or shower. This is due to the hot water acting as an antibiotic for your skin.
- Relieves stress
Stress relief is possibly one of the most well-known reasons for running a hot bath or shower. You’ve had a long, hard day and your body needs to unwind. A bath is a fantastic choice, as being submerged in water calms your nervous system.
The effects of stress on our body and levels of anxiety are significantly reduced, which plays a vital role in improving your mood. Stress causes the muscles of the body to contract, therefore allowing muscles to loosen in the warm water can also relieve those symptoms. You can enhance this further by making the bath experience more luxurious; adding bath salts, calming music and candles.
- Aids good digestion
You may not initially place a bath or shower in the ‘helps with digestion’ category; however, studies have shown that a warm bath can aid in alleviating constipation. Constipation is a common issue for many of us as we grow older. Our gastrointestinal health is closely linked with our nervous system.
When our stress hormones are elevated, muscle spasms can often occur in the digestive tract preventing waste from moving through efficiently. The warmth from a bath or shower is both comforting and relaxing, which reduces stress hormones and spasms, to help you stay regular.
- Relieves headaches
The causes of headaches range vastly, but the majority of them are caused by tension or narrowing of blood vessels in the head. The releasing effect of the hot water on our blood vessels can be used to alleviate the pressure on those blood vessels and alleviate your headache. The Mayo Clinic also lists baths or gentle showers as a non-medical remedy to stop migraines before they start.
- Combats inflammation
Inflammation has been the buzzword in health and wellness spaces for the past few years due to the vast range of inflammation-driven conditions affecting many people across the world. Low-grade chronic inflammation may contribute to a number of health conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Scientists have researched many solutions to this from nutrition through to exercise, but within these findings, they discovered that raising body temperatures can also influence the body’s inflammatory response. Participants within a two-week trial who sat for an hour in an immersion bath had improved results in their levels of inflammation as well as lowered fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. The results of this study indicate that hot-water baths could be particularly beneficial for people who are sedentary or unable to exercise.