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Hot Bath Weight Loss: Can Hot Shower Help Burn Calories 2022?

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Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Can a Hot Shower Bath Burn Calories

We are a weight-conscious society, but many people still struggle to lose weight. On one hand, the obsession with weight loss and maintenance is seen in the plethora of gyms, workout classes, and personal exercise routines available everywhere. But on the other hand, obesity still remains a global epidemic and one of the top causes of death worldwide. 

Any effective approach to weight loss must include the burning of calories. There are several potential ways to burn calories, one is taking a hot shower bath.

Can a hot shower bath burn calories? Studies have shown that the heat from a hot water bath can increase your heart rate and raise your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories. 

A more recent British study has shown how hot water bathing can help burn calories.

Research on Hot Showers and Weight Loss

Loughborough University[1] in the United Kingdom conducted a small but noteworthy study on the effects of heat therapy. Lead researcher Dr. Steve Faulkner noted their primary aim was to investigate the body’s response to heat therapy, otherwise known as thermal therapy, compared to exercise. 

The researchers found that an hour-long hot bath can burn 130 calories, which is about the same amount you would burn from a 30-minute walk.

One group of participants sat in a bath of 104 degrees for one hour. The second group bicycled for one hour at moderate speed. The researchers monitored the calorie burn and blood sugar levels of the participants.

To deal with an increase in external heat, the body has to work harder to maintain its normal internal temperature, which increases its calorie burn. The energy expended in the bathing group was similar to that of the active bicycling group, suggesting that regular baths can have similar benefits to regular exercise. Taking a hot bath or shower for an hour could help burn calories in those who do not or cannot exercise regularly, especially those who are obese.

A secondary benefit of this study found that the hot water participants’ blood glucose levels were 10 percent lower than the bicycling group. This indicates that the glucose was metabolized in an attempt to maintain core body temperature at normal. It also indicates less glucose would be available to convert to stored fat.

Benefits of Hot Water Bathing

Whether you enjoy a hot shower, hot bath, hot tub, or sauna, research has shown the benefits can contribute not only to your weight loss goals but also to your overall health and wellbeing. In addition to burning calories that can affect weight loss, the following benefits of hot water bathing have also been explored.

Promotes Cardiovascular Health

A moderate increase in your heart rate can be good for your cardiovascular system. Increasing your heart rate improves circulation, works your heart muscles and cleanses toxins from your system. According to a study[2] from the Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University in Japan, hot baths reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure and increasing circulation to all your organs.

Another study published by the Mayo Clinic[3] found reactions in the body from sauna bathing similar to that of water bathing. A typical sauna session increases your heart rate from baseline to anywhere between 120-150 beats per minute. 

If you already have heart disease, check with your doctor before using a sauna to determine if it’s safe for you.

Decreases Stress And Cortisol Levels 

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands when you are under stress. Too much cortisol in your system can lead to metabolic problems[3] such as increased blood pressure or blood sugar. It stimulates your appetite, especially cravings for unhealthy food. This can result in weight gain if it’s not managed. 

Managing your stress and thus keeping your cortisol levels in check can help you maintain a healthy weight. Hot water bathing has proven to lower stress through relaxation and thus has the power to lower cortisol levels.

One study[4] showed a significant fall in blood cortisol levels of individuals exposed to heat stress measured before, during, and after 20-min hot water immersion. 

Improves Quality Of Sleep   

Sleep deprivation can be a major barrier to weight loss. A study[5] done by the University of Texas at Austin reviewed over 5000 published articles on hot water baths. They concluded that a 10-minute warm bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can significantly improve your sleep.

Improves Glucose Metabolism

Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy. Excess glucose gets stored in the liver as glycogen or, with the help of insulin, converted into fatty acids, circulated to other parts of the body, and stored as fat in adipose tissue. Consequently, there is a delicate and complex balance between the effects of too much glucose and too little in your diet and the role it plays in fat burn and weight loss.

If you do not eat enough calories for energy, your body will start to burn its fat stores to provide energy. Typically, the fewer calories you take in, the more fat you burn. This is called a calorie deficit and can result in weight loss.

The heat from a hot water bath increases your metabolism and the need to burn calories or fat to maintain core body temperature. Hot water baths have also been found to improve insulin sensitivity which controls how much glucose your body uses.

An increase in body temperature has also been linked to[6] increased circulating nitric oxide. This can cause blood vessels to relax, which reduces blood pressure. Nitric oxide also helps glucose properly fuel our tissues for energy, and scientists think it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Reduces Inflammation

Some studies[6] have shown that hot water bathing may have a similar anti-inflammatory response in the body compared to exercise. Although managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising daily are known to help control inflammation, hot water bathing may be a novel treatment for those suffering from inflammatory diseases.

Relief From Respiratory Ailments

Hot water baths improve oxygen[7] transport to the lungs because of the increase in blood flow from the heart. The more the heart pumps out fresh blood, the more oxygen that becomes available to the lungs 

The steam itself from a hot bath can also help loosen up congestion and mucus in your airways, making it easier to breathe. The temperature of the water and pressure on your chest can also increase your lung capacity and ability to utilize more oxygen.

Helps Stiff Joints And Sore Muscles

Bathing in hot water promotes muscle relaxation[7] through increased blood flow. The buoyancy effect reduces the weight that joints, bones, and muscles have to bear. 

The warmth and pressure of the water itself can also reduce joint swelling and pain.

Improves Brain Health     

Hot water baths may also support a healthy mind. A 2018 study[4] published in the International Journal of Hyperthermia concluded that brain health was positively affected.

The particular areas affected were memory, learning, mood disorders, and energy metabolism. All of these areas affect the body’s ability to burn calories effectively, so this is a good thing when it comes to weight loss.  

Conclusion

Bathing or showering in hot water for up to one hour has been shown to affect several bodily functions including the burning of calories. This has the potential to lead to weight loss. Hot water soaking has been used for over a hundred years to relax the body and reduce stress. Many studies have now shown that hot showers and hot baths affect other systems of the body besides calorie burn and weight loss. These include the cardiovascular system, immune system and inflammation, glucose metabolism, respiratory system, and musculoskeletal system. They can also promote brain health, support the endocrine system, and induce relaxation and sleep. 

So, no matter your weight, age, or health, start taking a hot bath, hot shower, or spa soak daily and chill out. You will benefit from the heat, soothing water, and relaxation. And the calorie burn just might help you lose a few pounds in the process as well.


+ 7 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Temperature. (2017). The effect of passive heating on heat shock protein 70 and interleukin-6: A possible treatment tool for metabolic diseases? [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23328940.2017.1288688
  2. ‌Ukai, T., Iso, H., Yamagishi, K., Saito, I., Kokubo, Y., Yatsuya, H., Muraki, I., Eshak, E.S., Sawada, N. and Tsugane, S. (2020). Habitual tub bathing and risks of incident coronary heart disease and stroke. Heart, [online] 106(10), pp.732–737. Available at: https://heart.bmj.com/content/106/10/732
  3. ‌Laukkanen, J.A., Laukkanen, T. and Kunutsor, S.K. (2018). Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, [online] 93(8), pp.1111–1121. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30077204/
  4. ‌International Journal of Hyperthermia. (2018). Head-out immersion in hot water increases serum BDNF in healthy males. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02656736.2017.1394502
  5. ‌Haghayegh, S., Khoshnevis, S., Smolensky, M.H., Diller, K.R. and Castriotta, R.J. (2019). Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, [online] 46, pp.124–135. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079218301552?via%3Dihub
  6. ‌Journal of Applied Physiology. (2020). Acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammation and metabolism in sedentary, overweight adults | Journal of Applied Physiology. [online] Available at: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00407.2018
  7. ‌Mooventhan, A. and Nivethitha, L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. North American Journal of Medical Sciences, [online] 6(5), p.199. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Sandra Cesca is a freelance healthcare writer with many year’s experiences working in the health industry. She covers allopathic, naturopathic, holistic, and complementary medicine. Sandra is also a cultural photographer and tour guide living her dream in tropical Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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