I admire people who can motivate themselves to exercise every day. I always thought that one day, when I was all grown up, an urge to move my body for an hour three to four times a week would suddenly strike me. But I'm in my mid-20s and still waiting for that day to arrive. What can I say? I love sitting still.
Fortunately, a new study from the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine at the UK's Loughborough University says that taking an hour-long hot bath can boost your metabolism and have the same anti-inflammatory effects as exercise. And what activity is more sedentary than taking a bath? This, my friends, is very good news.
According to Steve Faulkner, lead author of the study, many of the world's healthiest people "swear by the benefits of a hot bath." Icelanders have their hot springs; the Japanese have their world-class bathhouses, called onsens. And as the impossibly svelte Gwyneth Paltrow told Byrdie last year, nightly baths are her secret to survival. "I'm a real bath girl. … I take a bath every single night before I go to bed," she said. "It's my ritual."
Keep scrolling to learn how taking long, hot baths can help you burn calories à la Gwyneth Paltrow.
The Benefits of Bathing
"Only recently has science begun to understand how passive heating (as opposed to getting hot and sweaty from exercise) improves health," Faulkner said. For their study, Faulkner's team assigned a group of 14 men either to an hour-long, 104º bath or an hour of moderate cycling. On average, the bathers burned about 140 calories per session, and though that's less than the cyclists, it's "about what they would have used on a half-hour walk," reported Business Insider. In addition, the bathers also exhibited an improved ability to control blood sugar, which is important for a healthy metabolism.
According to the researchers, a type of blood sugar–regulating protein, called heat-shock proteins (HSPs), might be at play here. "HSP levels tend to be lower in people with type 2 diabetes, and these levels tend to rise after both exercise and 'passive heating,'" said Business Insider.
More research needs to be conducted on a larger sample group (that also includes women), but the researchers say that for exercise-phobes like me, soaking in a hot bath might have some of the same benefits. After all, it's Gwyneth Paltrow's number one secret.
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Next up, see what happened when Byrdie editors tried five ridiculous-sounding weight-loss tips.