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Are there health benefits to hot tubs?

Posted in Health Benefits

When you think relaxation - you can think of a hot tub.hands-in-the-waterThere are many benefits to sitting in an hot tub.  You don't need a research study to understand the health benefits to a good soak in a spa. 

Headaches, Stress, and Sleep

A hot tub can stimulate the release of our stress reducing endorphins. A hot tub’s hydrotherapy jets also dilate blood vessels to help prevent headaches. And when it comes to falling asleep faster and getting a deep night's sleep, the National Sleep Foundation clearly states, "soaking in hot water, such as a hot tub or bath, before retiring to bed can ease the transition into a deeper sleep." 

Muscles and joints

Ask any athlete in training -  Hydrotherapy is a staple in the training room.  One magazine article in Tennis Magazine said it best: “Your skin and muscles loosen and relax from the increased blood circulation” adding that, if muscles are injured: "Soaking in a hot tub with a whirlpool increases blood flow to the injured area, bringing nutrients to help repair the damage."

Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation "Hydrotherapy is one method of using water to help treat arthritis. The soothing warmth and buoyancy of the water makes it a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain. Using a spa adds another component to the therapy - massage." 

Blood Sugar

One study taken in Colorado has shown that people suffering from type 2 diabetes have significantly brought their blood sugar down by regularly soaking in a hot tub for 15 to 30 minutes each day. Doctors who conducted the study speculated benefits of hot tub therapy could be due to increased blood flow to skeletal muscles. 

To keep your good health, there are certain things you should know about maintaining the proper water temperature in your hot tub. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends never allowing the temperature of the water in your hot tub to exceed 104ºF. Water temperatures over 110ºF have caused a number of deaths, according to their findings. They site that high water temperatures can cause drowsiness to occur that may lead to unconsciousness and drowning.

The hot water will raise your body temperature, and thus your blood pressure, that may lead to heat stroke and death. They advise against pregnant women (since excessive water temperatures have a high potential for causing fetal damage during the early months of pregnancy) and young children (since their bodies do not get used to temperature changes as easily as adults do) using hot tubs before consulting a physician. Individuals suffering from obesity or having a medical history of heart disease, low or high blood pressure, circulatory system problems, or diabetes should also consult a physician before using a hot tub.

Aside from these comments, many hot tub manufacturers recommend never drinking alcoholic beverages before, during, and/or after soaking in a hot tub. Alcohol expands your blood vessels and increases your body temperature. So does your hot tub! The combined effect may raise your body temperature too much, leading to a stroke or heart attack. It may also cause dizziness, nausea, and/or lightheadedness leading to unconsciousness and potential drowning or a slipping accident. This argument holds true for certain medications/narcotics that raise blood pressure of body temperature.

Different people have different tolerances towards water temperature. Some find the water is not hot enough if it is set below 100º F. Others prefer the water to be cooler. Also, the outdoor air temperature is a factor to consider when determining the right water temperature.

Other things to consider to maintain water temperature level:
  • An air (bubble) blower will cool down the water temperature.
  • Removing the insulated cover, causes the water temperature to drop at a slow, gradual pace.
  • Adding cold water will also cool the temperature down.
  • More people in the hot tub will decrease the temperature slightly.
  • Turning the thermostat dial to a different temperature setting will also adjust the temperature
Another study showed that soaking in a hot tub simulates exercising! The idea is that the hot water raises your body temperature increasing your blood flow in much the same way as exercising. Soaking in a hot tub prior to exercising is a great way to warm up and condition muscles for work. The National Sleep Foundation has shown that a short soak prior to going to bed can ease the transition into a deeper, more restful sleep. This is also accomplished by altering your body's temperature. Other studies in various medical journals have shown benefits of soaking in hot water of lowering back pain, relieving stress, reducing body pain, relieving fatigue, lowering body weight, and aiding digestion.

Of course, talk to your doctor if you have questions.  Apart from the health benefits of soaking in a hot tub, an importatnt reason to soak is enjoyment!