Apr 24, 2020

Are Bathing and Strolling Now Next to Godliness?

Two new studies suggest somewhat passive paths to well being

By Ed Goldman

Look, “Singin’ in the Rain” is one thing. But are you ready for “Strollin’ to the Tub”?

Two recent side-by-side New York Times stories, “Baths May Benefit the Heart” and “Find Health 4,000 Steps at a Time,” intrigued me because they seemed at first to contradict each other.

One story cited a Japanese study that indicated if you bathed “frequently” it could possibly reduce your likelihood of getting cardiovascular disease. (Don’t get alarmed. It defined “frequently” as daily, not hourly. “Hourly” is for washing your hands, for God’s sake.)

The other story, from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggested that “even a stroll around the living room may lower your risk of dying prematurely.” There was a third story on the same page that day about aspirin and migraines but I skipped it, figuring it’d give me a headache.

Neither story suggested that bathing and strolling were mutually exclusive pathways to becoming peppy or long-lived. For example, even if you bathe “frequently,” it doesn’t mean that while you’re running the water you can’t also go for that stroll through your living room. One caution, however: If you’re as forgetful as I am, this could prove risky for your continued homeowners insurance.

In his previous home, Osborn the Magnificent watches a favorite shoe. Photo by Ed Goldman.

Agent: Your entire home flooded, Mr. Goldman. Except your TV room.

Me:  I know. As I walked by the door, I saw that my cat, Osborn the Magnificent, was watching a PBS documentary on tigers. So I joined him.

Agent: Your “cat was watching…”—That’s a little weird, wouldn’t you say?.

Me: Why? It was a very absorbing show.

Agent: No, I mean—

Me: He prefers film noir but they don’t run many of those in the afternoon.

The Times story reported that according to the Japanese study, “compared with people who took baths less than twice a week, those who took baths three to four times a week had a 25 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 13 percent lower risk of stroke. Daily bathers had a 35 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease and a 23 percent lower risk of stroke.”

While the temperature of the water apparently didn’t matter—whether “lukewarm, warm or hot”—I would suggest to you that if the water had been ice cold or scalding hot, the outcomes would have been affected.

Meanwhile, for those of you who started strolling around your home during the prior paragraph, “Taking an extra 4,000 steps a day might reduce our risk of dying prematurely, even if those steps are not swift,” according to the Times’s summary of the JAMA research.

Okay, I see a linear route here.

If taking 4,000 more steps a day than you usually do causes you to break into a sweat, what better refresher than a nice, lukewarm bath to cool you down and relax those (barely utilized) muscles?

I feel like expanding on this finding but Osborn just meowed from the TV room something that sounded suspiciously like “Double Indemnity” or “The Naked City.” Gotta run—well, stroll.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).