It is common for people to jump into a nice hot bath after a long hard day. What is it about baths that are so relaxing for us? A new study shows that taking a bath twice a week can help relieve symptoms of depression more than physical exercise.

What Happened in the Study?

Researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany compared the effects of taking regular baths with regular exercise on 45 patients suffering from moderate to severe depression. For eight weeks, subjects were assigned to either soak in a 40C degree bath for half an hour twice a week or to take part in two 40-45 minute sessions of moderately intense aerobic exercise. The baths would take place in the afternoon from 2pm-6pm and the exercises would be warming up, walking, jogging, stretching, and strength exercises. Then, researchers would measure the participants’ moods using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score. 

What Were the Results of the Study?

The researchers found that those who took regular baths had an improvement in their depression score with a reduction of six points. People who exercised only had a reduction of three points. Patients who bathed again saw a great improvement in their mood after the first two weeks of treatment while exercising took longer to have a similar effect. 

Why Does Bathing Help with Depression?

This could be because taking a bath is low-cost, fast-acting, and an accessible method of improving your mood, especially if you have trouble with exercising. Researchers conclude that taking a bath changes our circadian rhythm which tells us when to eat and sleep. This rhythm tends to be disturbed when we have depression. Our body core temperature tends to increase when feeling depressed at night whereas your quality of sleep is best when your core body temperature decreases. More research needs to be done since this study had a small sample size and a number of subjects in the exercise group dropped out. 

This study still shows us how important taking a bath can be towards our mental health. So, start soaking yourself in the warm water and even add bubbles to your bath to help you better relax. Smooth music can also help you relax as well as reading a good book in the bath. Ending your day with a bath can make you feel refreshed and help you get a good night’s sleep. 

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