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What Is an Air Bath?

By Megan Shoop
Updated May 21, 2024
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An air bath is exactly what its name implies — a bath taken in the cool, fresh air. Though this practice is no longer in vogue, Benjamin Franklin and other gentlemen of his time regarded an air bath as a luxury. Franklin and his contemporaries claimed these baths opened the pores and refreshed the body by drawing toxins out of it. It was also said to be relaxing and strengthening. Today, some doctors recommend daily air baths to help promote restful sleep and a stronger immune system.

Traditional air baths could be taken indoors or outdoors, but always in the fresh air. Those bathing indoors typically opened their windows to allow a cross-breeze to flow through the room. People living in more secluded areas had the luxury of air bathing outdoors. In both instances, an air bath implied simply sitting in the breeze for up to 30 minutes. This was usually followed by a warming activity, such as light exercise or a warm cup of tea. These baths were generally shorter in the winter than in the warmer months.

Those who want to add air bathing to their daily routines have many things to consider. First, very old or very young people should ask a doctor before air bathing. Bathing improperly may weaken an already weak immune system or constitution. Second, people shouldn’t typically jump right into taking this type of bath. For instance, opening the windows in the dead of winter and sitting nude in the freezing air for 30 minutes probably isn’t a good idea.

Beginners should take their first air bath for one minute or less in the autumn or winter, and for 10 minutes or less in the spring or summer. Those that begin to shiver during the bath should cover up immediately and drink something warm to help their body temperature return to normal. An air bath is usually only strengthening when the body can restore its own warmth afterward. The point is to cool the body and skin, releasing toxins. Allowing the body to rewarm itself afterward often relaxes the body and gives the person more energy.

Some people like to take a warm water bath before or after an air bath. These water baths usually contain bath salts and essential oils to condition skin, promote relaxation, and further cleanse the pores. Those taking a warm water bath after air bathing should bathe in lukewarm water to avoid shocking the system. People who want to air bathe after taking a water bath should dry themselves very thoroughly and wrap their wet hair in a towel. Air baths taken after water baths should be relatively short, especially in the winter.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002513 — On Dec 08, 2019

In Ben Franklin's time, they didn’t have the germ theory of disease. They thought disease came from “bad humours”. It was known that people who lived down by the stinky polluted rivers got more diseases (since they got cholera and typhoid from the polluted waters.) But the theory was it was the bad air that did it . not the water. They theorized that taking a fresh air bath would be good for your health.

By pleonasm — On Jul 25, 2014

@bythewell - I wonder if some of the benefits of an air bath are actually just from lowering the body temperature a little bit so that it has to work to keep it up.

I read an article a few years ago about a guy who started deliberately lowering his temperature in order to lose weight. He would go for brisk walks in the winter without a coat, or swim in cold water instead of a heated pool. His theory was that the body would burn more calories warming him up than from exercise alone and it seemed to work.

I can imagine that it would also rev up the body more than exercise alone, and that could be why some people find it invigorating.

By bythewell — On Jul 24, 2014

@MrsPramm - It often isn't the same air though, especially in modern buildings where a lot of the time the air is manipulated to be different temperatures in air conditioners. This almost certainly adds or takes away elements of natural air.

And air bathing seems to be more about sitting in moving air, which might be difficult to come by in some kinds of homes unless you set up a fan or something.

By MrsPramm — On Jul 23, 2014

This kind of reminds me of the customs of some people in Scandinavian countries, who believe that infants are healthier if they are allowed to sit outside in the cold air. They will wrap up the baby very warmly, of course and only leave their face open, so it's completely safe. But they will do things like leaving prams outside a restaurant so that the babies can get their dose of cold air, which would seem risky to the point of insanity to people of many other cultures.

I guess it's got more to do with the temperature than the air itself though. I've never really been sure why people think that the air outside a house is going to be any better than the air inside a house. It's all the same air.

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