Hot baths could be even more effective than exercise in combating mild to moderate depression, a study suggests.
It involved half of a group of 45 people with depression taking “thermal therapy” at a spa twice a week, while the others were put on an exercise programme.
The spa group soaked in a tub of water at 40°C for up to 30 minutes before wrapping up with blankets and hot water bottles for another 20 minutes.
After two weeks some were asked to continue at the spa, while others carried out their treatment at home.
After eight weeks, the bathers’ depression symptoms fell by six points on a widely used scale, while those of the exercisers went down by three.
The bathing treatment started working faster, according to the study from the University of Freiburg in Germany, published on the bioRxiv website.
The body temperature patterns of those with depression can be disrupted and it is believed that hot baths may help correct this. The baths in the study raised participants’ temperature by around 2°C.