You likely think of a relaxing bubble bath as the antidote to a stressful day.
It certainly can be that.
But new research suggests a long, hot bath may be as helpful to you as a gentle workout session, too.
British researchers report that hot-water immersion — that is, a long sit in a hot-water bath — may help reduce inflammation and control blood sugar levels in much the same way exercise does.
This is especially helpful for people who are unable to exercise or meet the weekly physical activity recommendations.
However, before you turn on your faucet and drop in a dissolving bath bomb, you should understand the limitations of these findings.
Inflammation after exercise, such as sore muscles and redness, is to be expected.
During brief physical stress, levels of inflammatory markers rise.
These markers signal the production of another inflammatory chemical called interleukin.
After this initial increase in inflammation, your body produces an extended release of anti-inflammatory chemicals. These substances combat the high levels of inflammation caused by the exercise.
This is a natural, normal process: Brief inflammation is followed by prolonged anti-inflammation.
However, when the anti-inflammatory process isn’t robust enough, your body may be left with chronic, low-grade inflammation.
This type of inflammation isn’t healthy. In fact, it may contribute to a number of health conditions, including obesity and diabetes.
Exercise can combat the inflammation, but not everyone is able to exercise. Or they may not be able to exercise at levels adequate enough to reap the anti-inflammatory rewards.
In recent years, research has shown that raising body temperatures can also influence the body’s inflammatory response.
What’s more, research suggests this same spike in body temperature may increase the production of nitric oxide. This substance in your blood can help improve blood flow and transport glucose throughout your body.
What’s been unclear, however, is if exercise alternatives, such as sitting in a hot tub of water, can produce the same low-grade inflammation and healthy anti-inflammation responses