Bathing – Its History and Benefits

Subject: Health Care
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 13
Word count: 3470
Topics: Health, Cultural Diversity, Environmental Issues, Tradition


Bathing, which is the use of water or any aqueous liquid to clean the body, has historically been practiced by human beings in various cultures. Ancient cultures had different methods of bathing and for varying reasons. The way in which bathing has been practiced has also changed with time especially as a result of the inter-mixing of cultures and new knowledge. New information about the benefits of bathing has been the major driving force for the change in perception and bathing practices in the modern times. Cold water baths have been found to reduce fatigue, increase mental alertness, and as a form of relaxation among others. On the other hand, hot water baths increase metabolism, reduce muscular pain, and decrease the chances of suffering heart diseases among others (Caroline, 2016). This research relied on secondary data from websites, articles, newspapers, journals, and books to assess the benefits of hot baths. The findings were later compared with primary data collected from 45 respondents. The results indicated that a large percentage of people took baths as a way or relaxation and cleanliness (Smith, 2008). However, it is clear that a large part of the population is not aware of the benefits of bathing.     


Bathing is the washing of an individual’s body using liquid, often water or any other aqueous solution and in some instances, the immersion of the body into a liquid. Human beings have historically employed bathing as part of their health therapy (Ingraham, 2015; Salvo, 2015). Besides, there is presence of bathing tradition in every culture (Turc 2015). For instance, Scandinavians usually plunge into cool water after spending time in a sauna. Likewise, the Romans and their “love for baths” are known to have given rise to several bathing complexes such as the under-floor heating in a wide range of temperatures (Turc 2015). Even though some of the old bathing cultures are still used for human health, hot baths in various ways are hugely prescribed for relaxation and for medicinal purposes such as heart problems (Smith 2008). However, there are suggestions that cold baths have multiple benefits on health including the improvement of cardiovascular circulation, immune system, and vitality. 

According to Mooventhan and Nivethitha (2014), evidence show that long-hours in steamy hot water was similar to exercising. The study also found out that hot-steamy shower taken for long hours produced similar blood sugar and anti-inflammatory responses equivalent to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity. However, too-warm baths put an individual under heat stress, which is not good for human health. According to Dimon (2016), heat stress is similar to a strain on the heart. This implies that duration, pressure, and temperature changes of water have varying effects on different human body parts. Thus, the use of water in various physical states has medical benefits depending on the duration and the body part bathed. This paper will research the health benefits of hot water, duration of use, and targeted organs. The research also aims at designing a product that meets the needs and aspirations of the people.  

History of Bathing in Various Cultures

Throughout human history, various societies developed systems to access water. Ahluwalia, Gill, and Baker (2010) point out that Indians in ancient times employed elaborate practices as a way of personal hygiene that often involved three daily baths. These practices are still common in some Indian communities. Greeks in ancient times utilized wash basins, foot baths, and bathtubs for personal cleanliness. Based on the findings of the mid-2nd millennium BC, Greeks living at luxurious Crete and the palace complex of Knossos had luxurious alabaster bathtubs (Dingwell 2010). They also established showers and public bathtubs in their gymnasiums mainly for personal hygiene and relaxation. The word Gymnasium is thought to have originated from Greece (Dingwell 2010). 

At around the 7th century, the Japanese are believed to have bathed in the many open springs as there is no evidence suggesting otherwise (Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, 208). By the 8th century, Japanese had adopted the Buddhist religion from China, which changed the culture of their country. Besides, Buddhist temples were equipped with yuyas or bathhouses for the monks (Clark 2014). 

Clark (2014) notes that several changes have taken place since then. However, by the beginning of the Edo period in 1603, hot water tabs and steam baths were a common phenomenon. The Spanish are also believed to have brought the bathing habits to Mesoamerica people during the conquest of the region. These are recorded in various historical books describing their arrival and particularly the Aztec or King arrival of Cortes. Most of these baths consisted of small rooms with a small dome and an exterior firebox. 

In medieval Europe, it is known that Christianity placed hygiene at its core practices. Despite the influence of the Roman pools and their early bathing styles especially of the clergy, Christians usually attended public baths (Dingwell 2010). In Rome, Father Clement of Alexandria had built a public bathing facility in the church. These were also common in pilgrimage sites, monasteries, and church basilicas. By middle ages, public bathhouses were common in Europe and were sometimes havens for prostitution. These were done in large wooden tubs covered by linen for protection against splinters. 

In the modern era, public opinion has had a great influence on the way in which people take bath. For instance, in the 18th century, the knowledge that frequent bathing was associated with good health led to the development of therapeutic bathing. When Sir John Floyer published a book in 1702 about the history of cold baths and the benefits of certain springs, researchers and writers became interested and later influenced the people to appreciate therapeutic bathing (Gianfaldoni, Tchernev, Wollin, Roccia, Gianfaldoni, and Lotti 2017).  

Public baths were also revived in the 19th century based on earlier designs found in the Ottoman Empire. Their popularity was later spurred by newspapers in the 1830s. However, with the cholera scares of 1832, chloride lime was introduced. By 1844, public lectures that championed the provision of access to baths for working class members in Birmingham as remedies for gout, diabetes, and skin diseases led to their spread in many cities. Hot public baths became popular in 1850s when David Urguhart wrote about his experiences in Morocco and Spain in The Pillars of Hercules. His book gave accounts of hot-air baths that were used during the Ottoman Empire and had not changed much since the Roman times. Similar baths were opened in various locations including Sydney, Australia and Canada in the 1860s (Gianfaldoni et al. 2017).      

Literature Review

Physical and Psychological Benefits

Hydrotherapy, which is the use of water to treat various ailments, is as old as mankind according to Mooventhan and Nivethitha (2014). Water use for treatment in natural medicine is also referred to as aquatic therapy, water therapy, balneotherapy, or poll therapy. In these methods, water is used in its three states namely ice, liquid, and vapor by varying the temperature to produce the desired effects of treatment. The procedures are usually focused on different parts of the body. According to Mooventhan and Nivethitha (2014), it is evident that water use for treatment has a scientific evidence-based effect on different parts of the body. 

Mooventhan and Nivethitha (2014) note that cold application of water can cause psychological reactions such as local edema, decrease in local metabolic function, muscle spasms, and increase in local anesthetic effects among others. For example, Mooventhan and Nivethitha (2014) emphasize that those head-out water immersions for one hour in various temperatures produced varying effects.  In temperatures between 140 C, 200 C, and 320 C, there was no effect on the rectal temperature (Tre), metabolic rate (MR), but lowered the heart rate (HR) by about 15%. The diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and systolic blood pressure (SBP) also lowered by 12% and 11% (Mooventhan & Nivethitha, 2014). When these results were compared to those of ambient temperatures of plasma cortisol, rennin activity, and aldosterone concentrations, it was found to have been lowered by 34%, 46%, and 17%. There was also an indication of increased dieresis by about 107% (Mooventhan and Nivethitha 2014). 

On immersions of 200 C, similar results such as the decrease in HR, DBP, SBP, and plasma rennin activity was also observed. These results imply that cold baths such as regular winter swimming was beneficial because it decreases tension, improves memory and mental alertness, and decreases fatigue and the mood negative state points (Mooventhan and Nivethitha 2014).  Generally, there is clear evidence that hot baths are more beneficial especially in improving metabolism (Patel et al. 2015). In most cases, the main aim of burning calories emanates from an elevated heartbeat; for instance, when individuals engage in physical activities. An elevated heartbeat can also be achieved not only by physical activity, but also by taking a hot shower. Furthermore, unlike hot showers, cold baths are unbearable and can act as a “shock” to the body, which is not a desirable effect for individuals suffering from heart diseases (Buijze, Sierevelt, Van der Heijden, Dijkgraaf, and Frings-Dresen 2016). 

Pickles (2016) notes that researchers from Leicester and Loughborough Universities in the U.K. set out to understand how calories burn during a hot soak bath. The results of the study were compared to those of 10 “unfit” men exercising. By placing a rectal thermometer on the subjects, and taking readings each day, they found out that an hour in the “hot” tab burned about 126 calories, which was almost similar to those working out for 30 minutes (Morris 2016). The study also found out that participants who took a hot bath had their glucose levels drop by 10% as compared to those who took part in exercise. Based on these findings, it is evident that hot showers can actually reverse Type 2 diabetes effects. Besides, the process encourages the release of heat shock proteins that ensures that blood sugar levels are lowered (Morris 2016).   

Hot baths have also been found to relief muscle pain as indicated by Salvo (2015) and Patel et al. (2015) also indicate that it helps to ease pain related to arthritis. Dimon (2016) also highlights the fact that several people usually believe that bath salts relieve muscle pains. Moreover, heat increases the temperature of the aching area and blocks pain sensors, releases lactic acid and acts as a pain reliever. These benefits make healthcare professionals to adviser athletes to consider taking hot baths occasionally (Ahluwalia et al. 2010). Even so, most athletes prefer cold baths, which does not lower lactic acid in their blood stream as hot water baths (Twigg 2002). In fact, cold baths constrict blood vessels and subsequently drains lactic acid. Consequently, the lactic acid builds up in the body during exercise and can lead to slower recovery affected muscles. 

In addition, baths before going to bed improve sleep. Moreover, after the hot bath, the body temperature begins to drop and encourages the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that often induces sleep, which is also associated with the strengthening of a person’s immune system. Additionally, Logan (2015) indicates that the use of hot or cold water is beneficial and depends on the time of the day that an individual takes a bath.  Therefore, in order to kick-start the body, it is important to have another hot shower. However, Koopman (2016) notes that massive overheating of the body might have negative consequences. 

Steam baths have also been found to reduce the symptoms associated with common colds. Logel (2015) says that although there is no known treatment for common colds, being submerged in hot water often targets two main elements essential for cold-management namely body temperature and steam therapy. Inhalation of steam has been found to be an excellent remedy for reducing cold-induced misery (Buijze et al. 2016). Besides, the steam usually reduces inflammation while clearing the nasal passage. In fact, it is important for those suffering from colds to keep their bodies warm. Based on this, Ahluwalia et al. (2010) argue that elevated temperatures improve immune system functioning, which is important in fighting diseases efficiently. 

Warm salt water baths have also been found to calm pain experienced by arthritic patients. The chronic pain often related to arthritis, lower back muscles, and fibromyalgia can be greatly reduced by adding salt to hot water tabs. Cheng and Lee (2005) note that this discovery was made in 2012 by scientists experimenting with saltwater baths and inflammation-related pain syndromes. The salt in the hot water reduces pain because the dehydration of the targeted cells inhibits inflammation. 

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Disadvantages of Hot Bathing Techniques

Water Wastage and Pollution

Hot tubs and saunas are considered major water consumers in homes and public facilities as too much water is used in filling pools. In some governments such as the San Jose City Council, they have banned the filling of hot tubs and pools as they consume more water. In Santa Clara, California, sauna and hot tub owners can only replace water after taking fewer showers.

Discharges from the use of various chemicals and disinfectants in saunas and hot tubs usually add to environmental pollution (Oumanski 2014). The water discharged end up in streams and rivers and the chemicals present can have negative impacts on the earth’s flora and fauna.  Additionally, the most common micro-organisms in hot pool discharges are from feces. These microbes can cause ocular and respiratory diseases, and pharyngo-conjuctival fever outbreaks among other serious illnesses. Hepatitis, noroviruses, and enteovirus outbreaks have also been associated with pollution caused by discharges from hot tub pools and saunas.    

Heath Risks

 Hot tubs and saunas have also been found to lower sperm count in men. The excess heat affecting the scrotal area affects the formation of healthy sperms. Apart from that, hot tubs and saunas have also been found to increase birth defects among pregnant women especially during the first trimester (Oumanski 2014). There are also suggestions that hot tubs and saunas increase the risk of neural tube defects in babies. Other studies have linked these baths to Legionnaire’s disease, which is a kind of lung infection caused by breathing vapors containing bacteria (Masquelier 2006) although the condition can be treated using antibiotics (World Health Organization 2006). Genital herpes can also be spread by hot tubs and saunas whenever people sit on un-chlorinated plastic-coated seats exposed to herpes simplex virus.    

Research Findings, Justification and Rationale

The secondary data collected was from articles, books, journals, and websites. These sources were the best resources because they were easily available from the internet. They also indicate the extent of research that has been carried out about the topic. However, the primary data was based on an online survey on the opinions of 45 respondents about bathing. The primary data was useful in comparing what has already been studied by others and giving explanations on the perception and trends of respondents regarding bathing. The results can be used to come up with a new bathing product that meets the expectations of the general populace.  

Interpretation of Primary Data

According to the photos from Prague, which prides itself of a renowned beer spa, it is evident that bathing using beer can also have immense benefits. Some of the key features associated with the spa include a calm and relaxed environment, clean and comfortable facilities, and a variety of bathing techniques such as the use of cold and warm showers. Those who are tired can enjoy the serene and vitalizing environment. Although soaking in beer is a waste of resources and money, it is related to the study in the sense that people would want to experiment on different bathing products to achieve maximum benefits. 

From the primary data collected from 45 participants, 44.56% of male respondents and 55.44% of female respondents often take a bath on daily basis. The findings indicate that females take a bath more regularly than men. Based on the secondary data collected, it is assumed that bathing has become a daily activity for almost everybody, yet raw data suggests otherwise. On the question of what form of bathing do they use, 57.78% responded that they only had a shower while 17.78% only got bath, 17.78% noted that they shower but adventitiously bath as a form of relaxation, and 6% had other responses.

When the participants were asked about their feelings about bathing, 37.78% loved it while 37.78% liked it somewhat, 20% felt neutral about it, and 4.44% thought that they had nothing special about it. The secondary literature collected indicated that bathing whether in cold or hot tubs had relaxation effects, reduced fatigue, increased mental alertness, and reduced the chances of heart disease. Therefore, primary data is important because it gives the researcher the actual reflection on what people think about bathing. 

Additionally, when the participants were asked about their frequency of bathing, 44.44% did not regularly bath, 33.33% did it 1 to 3 times a week, and 13.33% did it more than 4 times a week, while 8.8% took a bath 1 to 3 times a month. The findings clearly indicate that most people do not know the importance of taking a bath and they do not perceive it as an important activity. Unlike in the secondary data collected, it was assumed that human beings had learnt the benefits of taking a shower a long time ago and they did it regularly.   

When asked to describe about the benefits of bathing, the most common answers were keep clean, relax, relax the mind, and recover muscle pains, which are the same benefits confirmed by the secondary data. However, the answers from the respondents did not include other benefits such as improving blood flow and increasing heartbeat. Moreover, on the question of what time the respondents go bathing, they generally answered at night, before sleep, before travel, morning and night, late night, will not bath, 8 P.M, and 10 P.M. The findings indicate that a greater percentage took a bath at night with a smaller percentage indicating during travel and not at all. The reason most people took a shower at night was possibly because they wanted to relax or for cleanliness purposes after work as indicated by the secondary data gathered above.

The methodology used in collecting data is beneficial because it allows the researcher to have first-hand experience in the field rather than relying on already collected data. It can also help in identifying the best products to recommend for clients used in bathing such as warm or cold water, hot baths, using gels, among others.      

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Design Brief

Based on studies, hot and cold baths have been explored and other methods have been ignored. Indeed, there are benefits associated with these baths as well as their setbacks. There is a need to come up with a product that can offer alternative solutions to bathing. The proposed product is a gel that does not involve the use of water, which helps to address the problems of water wastage and pollution (Scope, 2017). Experts in the industry can collaborate and design a formula that incorporates the benefits of hot and cold baths to the gel. It is a dry bath that has similar germ killing properties like any detergent used in hot or cold water baths (Scope, 2017). Based on research, the soaps used should have PH values of between 5.4 and 5.9 (Tarun et al., 2014). 

The target market segment for this product is the middle class because they are sensitive to their health compared to the lower class. The purpose of this market is to select the best soaps and combine them with the gel to achieve the best results. The use of this product involves purchasing soaps with recommended PH and combining it with the gel and during bathing, the soap is first used before the application of the gel. However, if used in a bath tub, the gel product is mixed with water and the user makes use of the soap to bath before going to sleep. An important consideration associated with the product is that it should not come in contact with water because this can compromise the quality. 


Bathing has a long history and it differs from one culture to another. Different cultures perceive bathing in different ways including the health benefits associated with the activity. Interestingly, bathing using hot or cold water is associated with particular health benefits. According to research, bathing has physical and psychological benefits. However, there are also disadvantages associated with bathing which include water wastage, pollution, and health risks. This research was based on data collected from articles and other reputable sources such as books. According to evidence gathered, additional research has to be carried out with the aim of sensitizing people on the benefits of bathing. Apart from that, product designers in the bathing industry must also consider the trends of consumers in order to satisfy their bathing needs. 

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