In our fast-paced culture, it’s only natural that just 10 percent of Americans prefer a bath to a quicker, more efficient shower. But it may be worth it to regularly soak in your tub. In the past, doctors prescribed baths for various ailments, and modern research suggests these doctors were on to something.
Not only are baths the ultimate stress busters, but they also offer a number of surprising health benefits. Keep reading to learn about the superpowers of soaking in your tub, and discover what to add to your bath water to boost the therapeutic benefits.
Could a long bath be as healthy for you as a workout? It sounds too good to be true, but a small study suggests an hour-long soak in 104-degree water may provide some of the same health benefits as moderate intensity physical activity. In the study, 14 men were randomly assigned to cycle or take a bath. Cycling burned about twice as many calories, but the bathers had lower overall blood sugar afterward. Both cycling and bathing produced a similar anti-inflammatory response.
Moreover, research suggests taking a warm bath provides other health benefits. Soaking for 45 minutes before working out helps prevent exercise-induced muscle damage. It may not be realistic to set aside 45 minutes to an hour per day to bathe, but you’ll likely see benefits from taking shorter, less frequent baths. Bathing in warm water, for example, may relieve pain for people suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions. Additionally, warm baths increase circulation, lower blood pressure, and improve heart function in healthy people, according to several other studies.
Furthermore, taking a warm bath about 60 to 90 minutes before bed may enhance the quality of your sleep. That’s noteworthy because every year, 60 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders; remember that restful sleep is vital to good health. And it’s called beauty sleep for good reason: Getting seven to nine hours of sleep improves complexion, reduces swelling and dark circles under the eyes, and improves the health and fullness of hair.
How to Take a Therapeutic Bath
You’ve probably been taking baths since you were a kid, but a few simple tips can help you boost the health and beauty superpowers of that water time. That means you’ll look and feel amazing afterward, instead of withered or sluggish.
First of all, baths may not be for everyone. Sitting in a hot bath strains the heart and may be harmful if you have a heart condition. If in doubt, talk to your doctor first.
As with all things, moderation is best when it comes to bathing. Too many baths (or showers) can strip the skin of its oily protective barrier and disrupt the ecosystem of billions of microorganisms on the skin, which helps you stay healthy.
In general, it’s best to keep your bathwater warm but not too hot to prevent injuring the outside layer of your skin. Keep your head, hands, or feet out of the tub while you’re bathing to allow your body to release heat, and drink water while you’re in the tub to prevent dehydration.
Bathing in warm water by itself is healing. Alternatively, add one of these all-natural ingredients, which may boost the therapeutic benefits of your bath.
People have been raving about the benefits of magnesium sulfate crystals since the 17th century. That’s when the substance was discovered in an underground spring in Epsom, England; observers noticed it quickly healed the wounds of grazing farm animals. Soaking in bathwater infused with Epsom salt may help boost magnesium levels in your body, according to a small, non-peer-reviewed University of Birmingham study in the United Kingdom. Magnesium is crucial for neuromuscular health, which may explain why so many people credit Epsom salt with relieving aches, pains, and other complaints. Add two cups of Epsom salt to your bathwater to give the water a silky feel.
Humans have been swimming in the ocean for thousands of years, so it makes sense that bathing in sea salt would be healing. Sea salt contains up to 82 trace minerals. One study suggests bathing in a bath infused with salts taken from deep layers of the Dead Sea helps improve the skin barrier and lowers inflammation, when compared to bathing in regular tap water. Sea salt bath water may also be helpful for treating psoriasis, osteoarthritis, and acne. Add a quarter cup to a cup of sea salt to your bath.
Oats have been used topically to heal skin disorders and burns for centuries, and they’re a key ingredient in numerous body and bath products. At least one study suggests oatmeal, when applied topically, relieves skin dryness, scaling, roughness, and itchiness. To make an oatmeal bath, ground a cup of rolled or quick oats in a food processor or blender until it turns into a fine powder. Mix the powder into your bath while the water’s running to transform your bath water into a milky, skin-softening elixir.
Sodium bicarbonate, a natural salt used to leaven cookies and quick breads, may also benefit some people in the bathtub. It’s an alkaline substance that alters the body’s pH levels. Usually that’s not a good thing because the pH of the skin should stay slightly acidic. However, a half cup of baking soda dissolved in a bath may help heal an itchy or irritated skin rash or dry, scaly skin.
Bathe Your Stress Away
Don’t wait for vacation to unwind and relax. Light some candles, run a warm bath, and turn your bathroom into a relaxing getaway. Your bathtub may be the miracle cure you’ve been looking for.