Taking hot bath twice a week is better than exercise for treating depression

Experts say that this could be because it restores the body's natural temperature rhythm over the course of the day.

A new study now says that taking hot baths could be a better way of treating depression than exercising.

According to the report, people who go to a spa for an hour twice a week show better improvements in their mental health than those who work out regularly.

Experts say that this could be because it restores the body’s natural temperature rhythm over the course of the day which can otherwise be disrupted in patients of depression.

Regular bathing is faster-acting and easier than exercise, scientists said, and the study showed people are more likely to continue with it over the long term.

Researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany tested the effects of thermal baths on 45 people with depression and said that hyperthermic baths seems to be a fast-acting, safe and easy accessible method leading to clinically relevant improvement in depressive disorder after two weeks.

The people in the study, who had an average age of 48, all had moderate to severe depression, which was measured on the commonly used HAM-D scale.

They were randomly assigned to either twice-weekly spa bathing, or two sessions of moderate exercise a week and their depression retested.

People in the bathing group saw an average drop of six points within a fortnight, whereas exercise patients only shaved three points off their score.

This suggests someone with severe depression could cut their symptoms to moderate depression by bathing, or somebody already on a moderate score could drop to mild.

Although the exact causes of depression are not certain, it is believed a disrupted circadian rhythm – or body clock – could be to blame, the New Scientist reports.

In people with depression their body temperature may not regulate itself properly, and taking hot baths could help correct this – the baths in the study raised participants' body temperature by around 2°C (35.6°F).

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