Why do you take a bath? Obviously, one reason is to wash your body. But if that were all, a shower would suffice, wouldn’t it? Releasing your mind and body to relax—this can be truly felt when leisurely immersing yourself in warm water. Just why does bathing have this effect? Let’s unravel this secret.
Why bathing is effective for the mind and body
That moment of bliss when unwinding in the bath. Just as there is genuine evidence as to why people are drawn to hot springs, there is now scientific data about the effects that bathing has on the mind and body. These come from the three mechanisms of warmth, water pressure, and buoyancy. These all go into action when you soak in the bath to promote blood circulation and bring relaxation.
Your body warms as it soaks in hot water—this is the warmth mechanism. As body temperature rises, the capillaries of your skin dilate and improve blood circulation for your entire body. This allows your body to smoothly release fatigue substances and waste products, loosen muscle tension to release stiffness, and relax.
Water Pressure Mechanism
Does it feel like your stomach flattens when you’re in the bath? This isn’t your imagination—it is in fact flatter because of water pressure in the tub. The pressure applies not only to body surface, but also to blood vessels. This pushes out the blood accumulated in your hands and feet and activates heart activity to promote blood circulation.
Gravity in the bathtub is 1/9 of that on land because of the buoyancy of hot water. Body weight also is reduced to 1/9, so this lightens the burden on muscles and joints that support your body, releasing tension and making it easier to relieve fatigue. At the same time, stimulation to the brain caused by tension also decreases. This is why both your body and mind are able to relax.
The many benefits of improved blood circulation
What do you think happens when blood circulation is improved in the bath? Many people know vaguely that “it’s good for the body,” but not the specific effects. Actually, many day-to-day health and beauty issues come from poor blood circulation. As blood circulates throughout the body, it transports nutrients and oxygen to the cells. It also collects carbon dioxide and waste products from the cells and delivers them to the internal organs that will dissolve and dispose of them. When this blood flow stagnates, the needed oxygen and nutrients don’t sufficiently reach every part of your body. Consequently it becomes difficult to eliminate some superfluous elements from the body and you become susceptible to all kinds of issues. Improving blood circulation by bathing can bring the following benefits.
Benefits of improved blood circulation
Recovery from fatigue
Improved blood circulation facilitates elimination of fatigue substances such as waste products and lactic acids. This removes fatigue and speeds up recovery.
Basal metabolism is the energy used for activities that sustain life, and this energy decreases with age. As a result, you gain weight more easily and your various body functions also diminish. Making it a habit to take half-body baths that promote blood circulation and perspiration will activate cells and can improve this metabolism.
Relief for stiff shoulders and lower back pain
It’s said that stiff shoulders and lower back pain occur from being cold or working long hours at the desk because fatigue substances build up in tense muscles and joints and put pressure on blood vessels. Improved blood circulation facilitates the elimination of these fatigue substances from the body, which will help relieve shoulder and lower back pain.
More beautiful skin
Dead epidermal cells on the outermost of the skin naturally shed in cycles of approximately 30 days, and new cells are regenerated. If the dermic layer underneath has poor blood circulation, this cycle won’t work smoothly and skin problems will result. Helping this cycle to function properly and discharge waste product will prevent acne and improve the transparency of skin.
Blood flow for bathing (half-body bath) vs. showering
The happiness that drifts in a half-body bath
Bathing is beneficial for both body and mind. We recommend half-body bathing to enhance these benefits further. This warms your body from the core and boosts the relaxing effect of bathing. We encourage you to try this, also so that you can relax better after the bath.
Half-body bathing is easier on the body
A half-body bath means to bathe leisurely for 20–30 minutes in lukewarm water, immersed to the pit of your stomach (beneath the chest). This burdens the heart less than a full-body bath where you immerse yourself up to the shoulders. It also enables you to bathe longer and warm your body to the core. If your shoulders feel cold, cover them with a dry towel. After a while, the blood that has warmed in your lower body will circulate and warm your upper body also. You will perspire heavily in a half-body bath, so be sure to drink a glass of room temperature water before and after bathing to avoid getting dehydrated.
The key is a slightly lukewarm temperature
The first thing you should know is that effects on the body are completely different depending on water temperature. If you want to refresh yourself and become alert, a bath with water hotter than 40°C is good. The stimulation of hot water will activate the sympathetic nerves and ready your body for action. On the other hand, if you want to relax before going to sleep, we recommend about 37–39°C, which will feel slightly lukewarm. The parasympathetic nerves will become predominant by soaking in tepid water, relaxing your mind and body. This is why lukewarm water is suited for a half-body bath before going to bed.
Astonishing relax effect
Now, here’s a bit of data. If we compare the level of reduced stress in five minutes of a full-body bath in 40°C and twenty minutes of a half-body bath in 38°C water, it’s clear that stress is reduced much more with a half-body bath. How you take the bath makes a huge difference
Perspiring is important
As you relax in a half-body bath, you will eventually perspire. Perspiring is extremely important for the body because it allows body temperature to smoothly adjust. This is essential to biological activity and regulates the balance of the autonomic nerves. Not only that, it facilitates elimination of waste product and fatigue substances from the body to relieve fatigue and improve the skin, so it’s great for you! We encourage you to leisurely immerse yourself in the bath and enjoy the benefits of perspiring.
Reference: “Shiawase (Happy) Bathtime Recipe” by Tokyo Gas Urban Life Research Institute; “Kenbiyoku no Oudo (The Royal Road to Healthy, Beauty Bathing)” by Bath Culture Research Group