It’s the little things in life that are often the most enjoyable. Taking a good soak in a steamy bath is probably one of the pleasures most people look forward to after a long day in the office – but did you know that this stress-busting ritual is not only a mode of relaxation, it’s a source of a number of wide-ranging health benefits?
From anti-ageing properties to battling cold and flu, check out the 11 reasons you need to start soaking in a tub – you’ll be pouring empsom salts and dipping lavender oil into the steaming water before you can say, “Rub-a dub-dub!”
1. Improves Your Mood
It may seem pretty obvious that relaxing in a warm bath makes us feel good, but did you know that bathing has been scientifically proven to make us feel more optimistic? Our bodies associate lying down with relaxation and vulnerability, so the combination of bodily comfort, warmth, isolation and horizontal body positioning in the tub significantly improves our mood. When we emerge from the calm, secure environment of the tub, which some scientists say mimics the warm, liquid conditions of the womb, we are likely to feel better both physically and mentally which helps increase our self-confidence and motivate us to face the challenges ahead.
2. Relieves Stress
As well as improving our mood, warm baths are the ideal way to unwind and de-stress. A Japanese study recently showed that the stress level markers, cortisol and chromogranin, reduced considerably in those who took a bath after approximately 60 minutes of an anxiety-inducing event. For the ultimate stress-busting bath, add essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus into the tub before bed to help you fall asleep a lot quicker and more relaxed.
3. Tackles Depression
A cold-water bath can enormously help sufferers of depression. Exposure to cold water activates the nervous system and increases the level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline found in the blood, which in turn helps manage depressive tendencies.
4. Aids Sleep
A warm bath is a natural way of inducing a good night’s sleep and the best time to have one is roughly 2 hours before bed time. A drop in body temperature at night induces the brain’s production of melatonin which triggers sleep. Our bodies naturally get cooler at night, starting approximately 2 hours before bed and lasting until around 4am. We can assist this process by kick-starting the downward shift in body temperature. Taking a warm bath slowly increases the body’s temperature; after hopping out your body starts to cool, triggering the release of melatonin in your brain and making you feel sleepy and ready for bed sooner than you think – great for those who suffer from insomnia.
5. Fights Cold Symptoms
Having a warm bath might not make your cold vanish, but it will likely help relieve your flu symptoms. Firstly, the inhalation of steam from a bath helps clear out the nasal passages and reduces inflammation. Secondly, raising body temperature actually helps the immune system to function more efficiently, boosting the body’s ability to fight off infections.
6. Reduces Muscle Tension
A hot bath is the perfect recovery to physical activity. It can relieve over-stretched muscles, back pain and minor sports injuries. The heat of the bath mixed with a tablespooon of Epsom Salts increases the temperature of the aching muscles, helping them to relax, and blocks pain sensors which provides pain relief. Bathing also improves flexibility and elasticity of muscles post-workout.
Many athletes like to take cold baths which help lower the level of lactic acid in the bloodstream. The cold water narrows blood vessels and drains lactic acid that builds up in the muscles during exercise. When you emerge from the tub, new, non-constricted blood can flow which is free of lactic acid build-up, and recovery time is minimised.
7. Helps Arthritic Pain
In 2012 scientists discovered that a saltwater bath can reduce chronic pain related to arthritis, fibromyalgia, or muscular low back issues. Salt dehydrates cells by reducing swelling and inhibits the inflammation that causes severe pain. Salt baths for pain relief is one of the most ancient remedies on the planet, used widely by the ancient Greeks and by many cultures since, but only now do we understand the science behind the remedy. Just add a few tablespoons of Epsom Salts to your next bath and it should do the trick!
8. Improves Blood Circulation
Immersing yourself into hot water increases blood circulation – water creates a physical pressure on the body and increases the heart’s capacity to pump blood. Regular baths are an excellent workout for your heart. Improved blood circulation also aids the repairing of damaged cells at the extremities and reduces blood pressure!
9. Reduces Headaches
The majority of headaches are caused by the constricting of blood vessels to the head. The positive effect of warm water helps un-constrict blood vessels, reducing pressure to the head and helping cure headaches.
10. Alleviates Period Pains
Oh boy, the things we’ve tried and tried again to ease those agonizing cramps… Yet again baths are here to help! Hot baths help to relax muscles and encourage increased blood flow to reduce pain caused by period cramps. When that dreaded time of the month next comes around, try running a bath and see if it helps alleviate some of the discomfort.
11. Cleanses Skin
A good soak in a warm bath is a natural cleansing process – it opens up the pores in the skin and helps remove dirt and toxins, resulting in cleaner, softer and fresher feeling skin. Salt-water baths have also been proven to reduce signs of ageing, so all in all, baths clean, detoxify and moisturise our skin, making it look (and feel!) beautiful!
BUT - Don't Forget These Pointers
Despite all these health benefits, there are a few warnings to note before you go ahead and run yourself a steamy, bubbly bath:
• Limit bathing time to 20-30 mins.
• Consult your doctor before taking hot baths if you have an ongoing heart condition. According to medical research, heat stress strains the heart which is why those with heart conditions should avoid saunas, steam rooms and Jacuzzis.
• Pregnant women are advised not to take very hot baths.
• Take a cold drink to the bath with you – you can easily become dehydrated in the tub because of the amount that you sweat.
• Ideally take warm, but not too hot baths, or pour cooler water over your body whilst bathing. Overly warm baths tend to limit health benefits rather than encourage them – they put your body under heat stress where your body finds it difficult to regulate its internal temperature and doesn’t have the chance to recalibrate if suddenly exposed to a heat extreme.
Now that you know how and when to take the ideal warm bath filled with essential, deliciously scented oils for around 20 minutes and preferably a couple of hours before bed, accompanied with a cold beverage to keep hydrated, you're ready to reap all of the amazing health benefits of, well, lying in a tub and just relaxing! Nothing sounds better than that...