Skip to Content

Does bathing help circulation?

Bathing, particularly in warm or hot water, can provide a number of benefits for the cardiovascular system and circulation. The warmth from the water causes blood vessels to dilate, which improves blood flow. The buoyancy of water also reduces strain on the heart. Overall, bathing can promote relaxation, lower blood pressure, and support circulation in several key ways.

Improves blood vessel function

One of the main ways that bathing supports circulation is by improving blood vessel function. The warm temperature of the bath water causes blood vessels to dilate, or expand. This allows more blood to flow through the vessels and reduces resistance. Better blood flow reduces the strain on the heart and lowers blood pressure.

This vasodilation effect can be particularly beneficial for people with conditions like high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, or diabetes that impair blood vessel function. The dilation effect helps open up blood vessels and gets blood moving to the extremities more effectively.

Increases blood flow

In addition to improving vessel function, the dilation of blood vessels that occurs with bathing also increases overall blood flow in the body. More blood is pumped through dilated vessels with each heartbeat. This gets oxygen and nutrients delivered to tissues more efficiently.

Increased blood flow provides benefits throughout the body. More blood reaches the muscles, which can aid recovery after exercise. Circulation to the skin is improved, helping wounds and infections heal. And oxygen delivery to the brain is increased, which can improve cognitive function.

Lowers blood pressure

The combination of dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow also lowers blood pressure. When vessels dilate, the resistance they create to blood flow decreases. This means blood can pass through more easily and does not get “backed up” in the circulatory system. Improved blood vessel function and increased flow reduces the workload on the heart.

Studies show that taking a hot bath can temporarily lower systolic blood pressure by about 14 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by about 13 mmHg on average. This is a significant drop that translates to a reduced risk of issues like stroke and kidney damage.

Promotes relaxation

Bathing, especially in hot water, induces overall relaxation in the body. The hot water helps relax tense muscles. Laying in the tub in a reclined position also takes pressure off the spine and joints. The effect of this is lowering of blood pressure as the body moves into a more calm, rested state.

Relaxation also reduces stress hormones like cortisol that can constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. The relaxation response bathing elicits counters these effects. Lower stress equals better circulation.

Supports heart function

The relaxing warm water also supports circulation by reducing strain on the heart muscle itself. When the body is immersed, the water provides buoyancy that takes pressure off the heart by equalizing blood distribution. This reduces the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood.

Like for other muscles in the body, a lighter workload translates to less strain and fatigue for the heart. The hearts chambers can fill more fully when less force is needed for circulation throughout the body. All of this promotes better cardiac function and output.

Improves venous circulation

Venous circulation through the veins is enhanced by bathing as well. Veins contain a series of one-way valves that push blood back to the heart against the force of gravity. The buoyancy of water assists this process by effectively decreasing the pressure of gravity against blood flow.

This can help blood flow back from the lower extremities and also reduces blood pooling or congestion in the veins. Improved venous circulation reduces issues like varicose veins, edema, and hemorrhoids caused by pooling of blood.

Caution for those with heart issues

While bathing does provide significant benefits for circulation in most people, there are some precautions for those with compromised heart function. The shift in blood flow to dilate peripheral vessels can sometimes lower blood pressure too much in certain individuals.

Those with severe heart failure or on certain medications that regulate circulation and blood volume may need to avoid very hot baths. Check with a doctor before bathing to make sure dramatic changes in blood flow won’t have adverse effects.

Best water temperature for circulation

When it comes to water temperature, warm and hot baths provide the most significant benefits for circulation. But research suggests very hot baths above 103°F (39.4°C) don’t necessarily further boost circulation and may cause discomfort or even overheating.

Baths between 100-102°F (37.7-38.8°C) appear ideal for improving circulation by dilating blood vessels without causing excess strain on the heart. Slightly cooler temperatures between 92-98°F can also provide benefits when soaking for longer periods.

How long to bathe

Most research on bathing and circulation has studied sessions between 10-30 minutes. Bathing for at least 10 minutes seems needed to lower blood pressure, while benefits seem to max out around the 30 minute mark.

Longer soaks may help circulation by keeping vessels dilated over an extended period. But too much time in hot water can cause lightheadedness or overheating. Keep the bath between 10-40 minutes for best circulation results.

Improving circulation with minerals

Certain minerals absorbed through the skin during bathing may further assist circulation. Magnesium and potassium help regulate blood pressure through various mechanisms in the body. Bathing with Epsom salt, which contains magnesium, or potassium chloride may boost these minerals.

Sulfur found in some mineral salts and hot springs may also improve circulation by promoting production of nitric oxide in blood vessels. Nitric oxide helps dilate vessels and control blood flow.

Contraindications for circulatory bathing

While bathing does benefit circulation in most people, there are some instances where it may cause problems or should be avoided:

  • Severe heart failure – Sudden changes in blood pressure can be problematic.
  • Advanced diabetes – Small blood vessels may not dilate well.
  • Skin infections, burns, or wounds – Hot water may exacerbate inflammation and damage.
  • Embolism risk – Warmth can cause blood clots to dislodge and travel in the bloodstream.
  • Pregnancy – Raising core body temperature is not recommended.
  • Recent meals – Can divert too much blood flow to the digestive system.

Check with a doctor before bathing for circulatory benefits if you have any heart, circulatory, or health conditions. Avoid bathing right after large meals as well.


Bathing, especially in warm water between 100-102°F (37.7-38.8°C), provides significant benefits for circulation and heart health. The dilation of blood vessels improves flow, lowers blood pressure, and reduces strain on the heart. Bathing supports circulation to vital organs and throughout the body.

Most healthy individuals can soak 10-40 minutes several times per week to aid circulation. Check with a doctor first if you have an underlying heart condition or diabetes. Bathing to boost circulation should be avoided in cases of severe heart failure, pregnancy, or after large meals.