There are very few feelings that compare to the bliss of washing away the physical and mental stress of the day. For many of us, our busy schedules dictate we do this in the most expedient way: showering. But what about the lost art of a bath? When was the last time you allowed yourself the luxury of soaking in a bath? Well, read on. You may want to reconsider your routine, because lounging in the tub has its perks!
Humans have been using temperature to address pain for thousands of years and it’s still an effective alternative to medication. Immersing yourself in warm water can relax muscles and help relieve pain associated with cramps and muscle spasms. Adding bath salts can have the extra benefit of reducing swelling. Salts act on a microscopic level to slightly dehydrate cells. This is an inhibitor of inflammatory conditions that might otherwise cause debilitating pain, like arthritis.
For soreness related to physical activity, a cold bath might be a better solution. When you push yourself during a hard workout, lactic acid accumulates in your muscles and makes you sore. Cold water will cause blood vessels to constrict and help force out the lactic acid, which is why many athletes soak in ice baths after games and training sessions.
Besides releasing tight muscles, baths are an easy way to reduce stress. Simply taking the weight off your legs, especially if you’ve been on your feet all day, can do wonders for your mental state. Baths can also induce relaxation on an instinctive level, as our bodies naturally associate being horizontal in a warm, watery environment with the safety and security of a mother’s womb.
Taking a bath right before you go to bed can help you doze off more quickly. A soothing soak in warm water raises your body temperature and then, as you dry off and put your pj’s on, your body cools down again. This process mimics the natural drop of body temperature that occurs right before you fall asleep, speeding you on your way to dreamland faster than a glass of warm milk.
The good old-fashioned sanitizing properties of baths shouldn’t be ignored either. Not only are you washing away dirt and contaminants, a moderately long soak will moisturize your skin. In addition, scrubbing with a washcloth or loofa will help slough off dead skin cells and remove potential causes of infection. Bath oils can enhance this whole process leaving you soft and smelling sweet.
Bathe With Care
While baths are wonderful, you should keep them warm (rather than hot) and relatively short. A scalding hot bath isn’t just uncomfortable - it can also create a condition called heat stress.
When in heat stress, your body can’t get rid of excess heat fast enough to re-calibrate its internal temperature. This is incredibly hard on your heart. People with heart conditions should be especially careful to avoid hot baths, as well as hot tubs and saunas. A moderately warm bath will still give you all the benefits mentioned above and keeping it under ten minutes will prevent your skin from becoming dehydrated.
So switch up your routine and sink into a nice relaxing, restorative bath!