As a working parent with little free time, I often feel guilty when I sneak away for a nice, long soak in the tub or hot shower. Perhaps it is the impatient kid knocking on the other side of the locked door asking for dinner. Or maybe it's because I recently installed an electric instant water heater that allows endless hot water for my achy body. (#parentingwin) Regardless of the reason, I was glad to find out that there is solid medical research proving that taking hot baths does in fact have provide benefits for our minds, bodies, and skin.
Here are 10 reasons to ignore the impatient kid, pour yourself a glass of wine, buy an electric instant water heater, and take a long hot bath or shower:
- Lowers blood sugar. Forget walking. A hot bath may be just what you need to lower your blood sugar and burn calories. In a recent study done by Loughborough University, scientists investigated the effect a hot bath has on blood sugar control (an important measure of metabolic fitness) and on energy expended (number of calories burned). They recruited 14 men to take part in the study, who each soaked in a hot bath for one hour. They then compared how many calories were burned in each sessions, as well as measured their blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial. Bathing resulted in about as many calories being burned as a half-hour walk (around 140 calories). The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar. Goodbye, gym.
- Fall asleep faster. Hot water relaxes the body and better prepares us for falling asleep. When a tense body enters a warm bath, the hot water increases the body temperature and relaxes the muscles. Relaxing the muscles not only soothes us physically but also mentally. That being said, only 20 minutes is needed and be careful not to fall asleep in the bath!
- Lowers blood pressure. Studies have shown that soaking in a hot bath can lower your blood pressure. This is a great system for those with heart conditions and even those who don’t. But first, consult your doctor if you do have a heart condition because a hot bath will also raise the rate of your heartbeat. If the doc says it’s OK, then it's a great way of bringing down your blood pressure.
- Relieves muscle tension. Hot showers can relieve tension and soothe stiff muscles. If you have a powerful shower head, even better! Let the hot water work like a mini massage on your shoulders, neck, and back.
- Have cleaner, healthier skin. A good soak in hot water, be it a bath or shower, can open up the pores in our skin. And if the water is clean then it can wash some of the dirt and toxins from our skin. The result is fresher and cleaner skin.
- Moisturizes our skin. We may not like the wrinkled skin we get after a hot bath, but it actually has a good effect on it. The warm water leaves the skin moist for longer and prevents it from drying up and getting those little cracks that often appear when it's dry.
- Improves blood circulation. Dipping the body in hot water to the neck is kind of an exercise for your blood vessels. This is because water creates physical pressure on the body and so it increases the capacity of our heart. In other words, when we're inside the water, the heart works faster and stronger. Consider this more like a light exercise and just a few dips a week is an excellent work out for your heart.
- Helps relieve cold/flu symptoms. A hot shower also acts as a natural decongestant to relieve cold symptoms, since the hot steam moisturizes nasal passages. Taking a 10-15 minute hot-soak-break can also really help you feel better while your body is trying to get better.
- Reduces headaches. Most types of headaches are caused by the narrowing of blood vessels in the head. The positive effect of the hot water on our blood vessels can be used to alleviate the pressure on those blood vessels and cure our headache.
- Helps us feel better about ourselves. After a stressful day, take a nice warm shower and try to relax, as it's known that when we feel better physically, we get more confident in ourselves, the more convinced we are up to the challenges ahead. A hot bath is also a great way to reduce daily anxiety as well and make us feel good all around.