A study indicates that a hot bath can have effects similar to exercise.
Increasing physical activity remains the most widely publicized way of improving health and wellbeing. However, in populations that benefit most from exercise (EX), adherence is often poor and alternatives to EX are important to bring about health improvements. Recent work suggests a role for passive heating (PH) and heat shock proteins (HSP) in improving cardio-metabolic health. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of HSP70 and interleukin-6 in response to either EX or PH and the subsequent effect on glucose control. Fourteen males volunteered and were categorized lean (BMI 23.5 ± 2.2 kg·m−2) or overweight (29.2 ± 2.7 kg·m−2) and completed 60 minutes of either moderate cycling at a fixed rate of metabolic heat production (EX) or warm water immersion in 40°C water (PH). Extracellular HSP70 increased from baseline in both conditions with no differences between PH (0.98 ± 1.1 ng·mL−1) or EX (0.84 ± 1.0 ng·mL−1, p = 0.814). IL-6 increased following both conditions with a two-fold increase after PH and four-fold after EX. Energy expenditure increased by 61.0 ± 14.4 kcal·h−1 (79%) after PH. Peak glucose concentration after a meal immediately following PH was reduced when compared with EX (6.3 ± 1.4 mmol·L−1 versus 6.8 ± 1.2 mmol·L−1; p < 0.05). There was no difference in 24-hour glucose area under the curve (AUC) between conditions. These data indicate the potential for thermal therapy as an alternative treatment and management strategy for those at risk of developing metabolic disease where adherence, or ability to EX, may be compromised.