Ice baths have long been used as a recovery tool for high-performing athletes as well as those looking to reduce inflammation and fatigue, but what if all those freezing sessions were for naught? New research points less to the ice and more to the warmth. Here are six reasons you might try drawing a hot bath to better recover—and make it enjoyable, too.
1. Hot Baths Help Muscles
Recently The New York Times published an article on the benefits of carbs and hot water, as opposed to protein and ice baths. A study completed in October of this year determined that post-exercise recovery is accelerated by heating skeletal muscle, rather than cooling it. Other research has found that simply stepping into icy water post-run or post-workout cannot only hinder recovery, but be detrimental to your muscles. Researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that participants in the study showed no markers for decreased inflammation when using ice baths as a recovery tool.
2. Hot Baths Have Effects Similar to Exercise
Not excited about working out today? A study published in the journal Temperature found that an hour-long soak in the bathtub resulted in the same amount of calories burned as a 30 minute walk.
3. Sauna Use Can Reduce Chance of Heart Attacks or Strokes
Are you a fan of saunas? You should be! Besides being the perfect time to meditate, do some light stretching or yoga, or get your reading on, saunas can help reduce your chance of cardiovascular diseases or sudden cardiovascular death. A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that an increased frequency of sauna bathing showed a reduced risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases, sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality. The takeaway? Get in that sauna!
4. Steam Rooms Increase Circulation & Blood Flow
Steam rooms are similar to saunas, but generally have a higher humidity and often circulate essential oils and other beneficial scents. The steam room’s high temperature causes blood vessels to expand; as this article explains, while blood pressure isn’t affected, heart rate can double!
5. Hot Springs are the Best Kind of Bath
Hot springs are popular amongst the Japanese, and they’re recently coming into favor here in North America, too, thanks in part to research that says, “Yes! They’re good for you!” Several studies have shown the health benefits of immersing oneself in therapeutic hot springs, with research suggesting positive correlations for immunity, chronic pain management, asthma, anxiety, and a variety of other disorders. Other studies conclude that hot springs may improve cardiovascular functions. It’s not just hot springs that help, but the Dead Sea, too. Need another reason to visit the Dead Sea in your lifetime? This 2012 study found “bona fide evidence that Dead Sea treatments are especially effective in psoriasis,” along with rheumatologic diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.
6. Hot Baths are the Perfect Time to Use Epsom Salts
Epsom salts are heavily used by a variety of people; some prefer them for their relaxing properties, others for their ability to heal fatigued muscles. No matter your age or exercise habits, epsom salt baths are a good choice. One reason why epsom salts alleviate stress and anxiety is because of their high magnesium content, a mineral that’s responsible for over 300 different processes in the human body. Secondly, magnesium is readily absorbable topically, not just orally, meaning that simply by soaking in an epsom salt bath, you can absorb appropriate amounts of magnesium.
Now you have six more reasons to finish your workout, light some candles, throw in a cup of epsom salts, and relax your way to better health.