Study Finds Hot Baths Are Better Than Exercise At Treating Depression

It's all to do with our circadian rhythms.

American author and poet Sylvia Plath was on to something when she said: “There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.”

A new study from the University of Feiburg in Germany has found that having a hot bath may be better at treating depression than exercise.

Researchers carried out the experiment with 45 people who were suffering from depression.

The late poet and author Sylvia Plath. Source: Getty

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To start, they split the participants into two groups. The first group was told to take a 30 minute soak in a warm bath every day for eight weeks. Then they were instructed to spend the next 20 minutes relaxing while wrapped in a warm blanket with a hot water bottle.

While the second group was instructed to do 40 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week.

After the eight weeks was up, the researchers asked the participants to score their moods on a commonly used depression scale.  As it turns out, those who were in the group taking the warm baths scored an average six points lower on the scale than their exercising counterparts.

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Researchers believe the reason behind the revelation might have something to do with our circadian rhythm (aka our internal body clock) which impacts the functioning of our organs through temperature regulation.

It's common for those suffering from depression to have a disrupted or delayed circadian rhythm (which explains why they get insomnia).

By having a hot bath, participants were increasing their core body temperature -- in turn helping to strengthen their circadian rhythms.

It's not the first time the impact of our circadian rhythm has been considered as a major player in depression.

A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders back in 2016 found that Bright Light Therapy (BLT) to be effective in treating depression when administered over the course of two to five weeks.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Feature Image: Getty