A soak in the tub reduces peak blood sugar levels by 10 per cent and increases energy expenditure levels by 80 per cent burning 126 calories per hour, a study has found.
Dr Steve Faulkner investigated whether there were any alternatives to exercise which could assist people in maintaining the condition.
He compared an hour long hot bath with the same period of cycling and discovered the less strenuous activity provided some surprising benefits.
Dr Faulkner, who is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU), said:
“We discovered the participants who bathed had, on average, 10 per cent lower peak glucose levels in comparison to the exercise, which was completely unexpected.
“The amount our blood sugar rises after a meal is one of the risk markers for things like developing type 2 diabetes, so keeping it down can be good for our health.”
Dr Faulkner, who is from Loughborough University, added:
“We think the reason is that the bath may encourage the release of heat shock proteins, which may help lower blood sugar levels by improving insulin controlled glucose uptake.
“However, although these findings are interesting, we would always encourage increased physical activity and exercise as the best way to maintain good health.”
The experiment involved 10 sedentary males, who all bathed in a 40˚C, while wearing a continuous glucose monitor to record changes in their blood sugar during the subsequent 24 hours.
The same participants also cycled on a separate day – at an intensity that increased their body temperature by 1˚C – to match what happened during their bathing session.
Although nowhere near the increase resulting from exercise, the bath also resulted in an 80 per cent increase in energy expenditure – they were burning on average 126 calories per hour, which is approximately equivalent to a 25-30 minute walk.
Overall, the research suggests that passive heating, such as a bath, can increase the rate people burn calories and may help to reduce blood sugar spikes after eating.
In the long term, these findings may assist with weight control and possibly improve control of blood sugar, which would help people with type 2 diabetes.
Further work is planned to extend this study into a diabetes population.
The study was partly funded by the NIHR BRU and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University.
The NIHR BRUs undertake translational clinical research in priority areas of high disease burden and clinical need.
The NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity BRU harnesses the power of experimental science to explore and develop ways to help prevent and treat chronic disease.
It is a collaboration between Loughborough University, University Hospitals of Leicester and the University of Leicester.
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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit http://www.nihr.ac.uk.
The NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit is funded by the NIHR. The BRUs undertake translational clinical research in priority areas of high disease burden and clinical need.
The NIHR Leicester and the Leicester-Loughborough BRU is a national centre of excellence in diet, lifestyle and physical activity. It harnesses the power of experimental science to explore and develop ways to help prevent and treat chronic disease.
Loughborough University is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.
It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 The Student Experience Survey. Loughborough was ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2017 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017 and was also named University of the Year in the In the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015. For more information visit http://www.lboro.ac.uk/