Acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammation and metabolism in sedentary, overweight adults

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Dec 1;125(6):2008-2018. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00407.2018. Epub 2018 Oct 18.


Regular exercise-induced acute inflammatory responses are suggested to improve the inflammatory profile and insulin sensitivity. As body temperature elevations partly mediate this response, passive heating might be a viable tool to improve the inflammatory profile. This study investigated the acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammatory and metabolic markers. Ten sedentary, overweight men [body mass index (BMI): 31.0 ± 4.2 kg/m2, mean ± SD] were immersed in water set at 39°C for 1 h (HWI) or rested for 1 h at ambient temperature (AMB). Venous blood was obtained before the session, immediately postsession, and 2 h postsession for assessment of monocyte intracellular heat shock protein-72 (iHsp72) and plasma concentrations of extracellular Hsp72 (eHsp72), interleukin-6 (IL-6), fasting glucose, insulin, and nitrite. Thereafter, participants underwent a 2-wk intervention period, consisting of 10 hot water immersion sessions (INT). Eight BMI-matched participants (BMI: 30.0 ± 2.5 kg/m2) were included as control (CON). Plasma IL-6 and nitrite concentrations were higher immediately following HWI compared with AMB (IL-6 P < 0.001, HWI: 1.37 ± 0.94 to 2.51 ± 1.49 pg/ml; nitrite P = 0.04, HWI: 271 ± 52 to 391 ± 72 nM), whereas iHsp72 expression was unchanged ( P = 0.57). In contrast to resting iHsp72 expression ( P = 0.59), fasting glucose ( P = 0.04; INT: 4.44 ± 0.93 to 3.98 ± 0.98 mmol/l), insulin ( P = 0.04; INT: 68.1 ± 44.6 to 55.0 ± 29.9 pmol/l), and eHsp72 ( P = 0.03; INT: 17 ± 41% reduction) concentrations were lowered after INT compared with CON. HWI induced an acute inflammatory response and increased nitric oxide bioavailability. The reductions in fasting glucose and insulin concentrations following the chronic intervention suggest that hot water immersion may serve as a tool to improve glucose metabolism. NEW & NOTEWORTHY A single hot water immersion (HWI) session induces an acute increase in plasma interleukin-6 and nitrite concentrations but does not acutely elevate heat shock protein-72 expression in monocytes [intracellular Hsp72 (iHsp72)]. A chronic HWI intervention reduces fasting glucose and insulin concentrations in the absence of changes in resting iHsp72. Therefore, HWI shows potential as a strategy to combat chronic low-grade inflammation and improve glucose metabolism in individuals without the physical capacity to do so using exercise.

Keywords: chronic low-grade inflammation; glucose metabolism; heat shock protein; interleukin-6; passive heating.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose*
  • HSP72 Heat-Shock Proteins / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrotherapy*
  • Hyperthermia, Induced*
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Male
  • Nitrites / blood
  • Overweight / blood*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • HSP72 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-6
  • Nitrites