Bathing has a long and detailed history. Submerging ourselves in water, whether in a bathing receptacle or in a natural body of water is something we do for both personal hygiene, leisure and health. There is nothing more enjoyable than going for a swim in the ocean on a warm day or having a hot fragrant bath in the cooler months.
Hydrotherapy has been practiced for centuries. Both the use of hot and cold water can have beneficial effects on the body. Boiling water can be sourced naturally from a hot spring and many places like New Zealand and Iceland have naturally occurring hot pools that people can utilize to take advantage of the mineral rich waters. Similarly, cryotherapy or taking ice baths, can help to alleviate muscle strain and many athletes including runners will submerge themselves in freezing waters to counteract the damage or strain induced by exercise.
Regardless of the temperature, the benefits of taking a bath have been scientifically proven and can ensure optimal health of the mind and body.
Here are 10 scientifically proven health benefits of taking a bath:
Although bathing in high temperatures can put unnecessary strain on your heart, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition, taking a warm bath will make your heart beat faster and can give it a healthy work out. This can improve circulation around the body and to the extremities as it makes the blood less viscous and the vessels function better. In people without prior heart disease and who are otherwise healthy, a warm bath can lower your blood pressure and improve cardiac function.
Being immersed in water past your chest with your head out, can have a good influence on your lung capacity and oxygen intake. There are two factors that contribute to this; the temperature of the water and the pressure the water places on your chest and lungs. When the water is warmer and your heart is beating faster, your oxygen intake can be improved and the steam created can clear your sinuses and chest. Immersion in colder water such as taking a swim in a natural body of water or an unheated pool, can help to reduce the risk of infection in people who suffer from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Studies on prepubescent girls have shown that swimming can improve lung growth and capacity due to the resistance it provides and the breathing techniques that are required for stamina. You are required to take longer and deeper rhythmic breaths, which improve the strength and capacity of your lungs.
Submergence in water can reduce pain and inflammation and also calm the nervous system, reducing the levels of stress and anxiety in the body and improving your mood. Hydrotherapy can help people who suffer from multiple sclerosis as the temperature and pressure of the water gently relieves the spine of pain and discomfort. By providing postural stability, water can alleviate symptoms associated with such conditions as Parkinson’s Disease, providing the patient with some relief and a better quality of life.
Stretching and moving in water has been shown to be low impact on the joints, muscles and bones, but very effective in providing an adequate workout through resistance. There is also less chance of injury for people who are at risk of falls, which makes aquatic exercise ideal for the elderly. Taking a spa can alleviate some of the discomfort of conditions such as osteoarthritis, without any adverse effects or exacerbation of symptoms.
The heat of a warm bath can alleviate pain associated with hemorrhoids or anal fissures. The temperature can cause the sphincter to relax and help to heal wounds following surgery. Although warm baths aren’t advised immediately after eating, taking baths will improve your blood circulation, which can aid digestion generally. In fact, a recent independent study has shown that bathing may reduce sugar levels in the blood, which could help people who suffer from diabetes to manage their weight better.
It is well documented that women in the first stages of labor can maximize relaxation and minimize pain when immersed in a warm bath. This can then allow them to focus on birthing their babies and progressing their labor. There are no adverse effects to both mother and baby from being immersed in water during labor and after the baby is born. In some cultures, post natal bathing in herbs and essential oils have also contributed to the healing process of both the body and the mind. While regular bathing can present an increased risk of urinary tract infections, particularly for repeat sufferers, warm baths can aid internal urethral sphincter relaxation, which alleviates pain following surgery and can accelerate the healing process from episiotomy or birth related tearing.
Not only does a warm bath make the blood flow easier, it also makes it more oxygenated by allowing you to breathe deeper and slower, particularly when taking in steam. Taking a hot bath or spa can kill bacteria and improve immunity. It can relieve the symptoms of cold and flu. Research has shown that cold water submergence can improve cell damage and decrease the risk of necrosis, reducing the risk and survival rate of some cancers.
Conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and some fertility issues can be assisted by bathing in colder temperatures. Hormones released by the pituitary gland such as adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH and other hormones such as beta endorphin and cortisol can become more balanced. Alternatively, warm water bathing can increase levels of serotonin, which is the chemical produced by the brain associated with happiness and well being.
Exposure to fluid through bathing and steaming is a great way to ensure hydration of the body in all aspects. The human body is made mostly of water and that is why we are encouraged to drink plenty of it. But soaking in it is also extremely beneficial. We can enhance this by adding certain oils or salts to a bath or bathing in a natural body of water or pool, rich in naturally occurring minerals. Hot water opens our pores and causes us to sweat, which is the body’s natural way of cleansing itself. Similarly, cold water can tighten our skin and reduce sweating and open pores, whilst still providing optimal hydration.
There is no quicker and more pleasant way to regulate your body temperature than through bathing. On a cold day, taking a hot bath or spa is sure to warm you up. Going for a cold ocean swim in the height of summer is undeniably the best way to cool off.
Evidence has shown that bathing, whether in cold or hot water; at home in a vessel or out in a natural body of water can have many health benefits without adverse effects. However, it is advised that a health professional is consulted if pre-existing health conditions or diseases are present before embarking on any form of hydrotherapy.
Featured photo credit: Beauty Blvd. via beautyblvd.net
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