Bath lovers (and non-bath lovers alike), have been buzzing about the results of new study that indicate bathing can burn as many calories as working out. Seem too good to be true?
Steve Faulkner, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Loughborough University, led the study published in the journal Temperature.
In the study conducted on 14 men (some overweight), Faulkner looked at the correlation between taking a hot bath, a person’s blood sugar, and how many calories they burned. He discovered that taking a hot bath burns about 140 calories per hour. The baths also lowered the men’s peak blood sugar after they ate by about 10% more than exercising did.
Though this discovery is neat, you shouldn’t swap your regular gym sessions for hot baths just yet.
Because you’re ALWAYS burning calories regardless of what you’re doing, even when you live a sedentary lifestyle. So, the amount of calories each person burns doing a certain activity varies dependent on several factors – namely, weight and body composition.
Let’s break it down.
Since the test subjects were men – and some of them overweight – it’s likely that they’d burn more calories in the bath than an average-sized woman (meaning, you might not even burn 140 calories in the tub). And while 140 calories in an hour isn’t anything to brush off—that’s about the equivalent of a craft beer—you can burn that amount and then some so much faster by going for a run, lifting weights, or hitting the elliptical. Plus, you’d be seriously prune-y after an hour in the tub.
According to Jennifer Wider, M.D., these findings are part of new body of research known as “passive heating.”
“It’s a pretty new area of research, but several positive results have come out over the last few years,” she says. “It may become a lasting trend.”
Wider says that because the study was so small, more research is needed. Though she points out that the findings clearly demonstrate how “health shock proteins,” a family of proteins that are produced by your cells in response to stressful conditions, can become elevated during both exercise and passive heating, like when you’re taking a sauna or hot bath.
“These proteins may help the function of insulin and improve blood sugar control,” she says. And, if your blood sugar is controlled and even, you’re less likely to suffer from blood sugar crashes which can leave you feeling hungry—and make you more likely to overeat.
But if you’re toying with the decision of taking a hot bath vs. working out, Wider says it’s still best to hit the gym.
“The benefits of exercise have been well-established,” she says. “Even if future studies support the health benefits of passive heating, nothing replaces the multitude of benefits a person will get with regular exercise.”
So what do we suggest? Take a nice hot bath post work out — you may just end up burning a few extra calories in the process.
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Don Patrick is an amateur writer and sports enthusiast. He loves reading books, listening to the Huberman Lab Podcast, and spending time with his family and friends. Don is also a personal trainer and youth hockey coach.