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Hot Tub Benefits

Hot tubs have been in use across multiple cultures and civilizations for hundreds of years. The health benefits have been studied and verified over and over again.

So, what exactly are the proven health benefits of hot tubs? And, equally important, what are the myths about the health impacts of hot tub use? Below, we have broken out the various health benefits of hot tubs and spas for quick reference.

“Give me the power to create a fever, and I shall cure any disease.” – Hippocrates, father of modern medicine

There is almost no part or function in the body that does not benefit meaningfully from improved circulation.

Top Hot Tub Benefits

I. HEAT– Apart from the jets that massage muscles and loosen joints, the heat works to dilate blood vessels, to lower blood pressure and to promote blood flow. This lower blood pressure is what feels relaxing, while the increased blood flow allows blood to circulate more freely which helps the body’s healing processes to work at their best.

Health Benefits Hot Tubs © Copyright Oakley Originals and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

Specifically, it has been cited that the heart’s workload is decreased by 20% in a hot tub. Heat also causes sweating, which expels toxins from the body. Heat and pressure have also been shown to increase white blood cells and antibodies, again promoting healing in ailing body parts.

  1. Supporting Resources
    1. Wikipedia, Heat Therapy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_therapy
    2. Wikipedia, Vasodilation (effects of dilated blood vessels), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasodilation
    3. Spine Health, Benefits of Heat Therapy, http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/heat-therapy-cold-therapy/benefits-heat-therapy-lower-back-pain

II. MASSAGE– Almost everyone can relate to, or knows something about, the benefits of massage. When muscles are massaged, they are simultaneously loosened, while the body rushes blood to the stimulated area. This increase in blood flow through loosened muscles is extremely helpful in the muscles’ healing and recovery process. Not to mention aiding the relief of tension (which manifests in muscle “knots”).

Along with HEAT, MASSAGE is one of the two most impactful and commonly referred to therapeutic aspects of hot tubs. But, it doesn’t end there. Massage therapy has been linked to a decrease in depression and anxiety, reduction in scar tissue, improved elasticity of scar tissue, reduction in cramping and spasms, as well as simple pain relief.

  1. Supporting Sources
    1. Oprah.com, The Hidden health Benefits of Massage, http://www.oprah.com/health/The-Health-Benefits-of-Massage
    2. Medicine.net, Massage Therapy, http://www.medicinenet.com/massage_therapy/article.htm
    3. MassageTherapy.com, Benefits of Massage, http://www.massagetherapy.com/learnmore/benefits.php
    4. WebMD, Massage Therapy Styles and Benefits, http://www.webmd.com/balance/massage-therapy-styles-and-health-benefits

III. BUOYANCY– Often overlooked, the buoyancy that you feel while submerged in water is, in itself, very therapeutic. This relief from one’s own body weight unloads the joints and muscles, allowing them to relax and heal. Also, with the joints unengaged and the muscles relaxed, blood moves through more easily to deliver healing and recovery.

a. Supporting Sources

i. Livestrong.com, The Effects of Aquatic Therapy on Arthritic Patients,            http://www.livestrong.com/article/520904-the-effects-of-aquatic-therapy-on-arthritic-patients/

ii. Artesian Spas, Heat and Buoyancy is Great Relief for Arthritis Pain, http://artesianspas.com/health/arthritis.html

IV. STEAM– Even the steam that rises from a hot tub has been attributed to meaningful health benefits. The steam works to clear congestion in the sinuses, as well as clearing the aerial pathways. Also, steam “stimulates” a fever, which, as explained above can boost immunity and fight illness. Additionally, steam helps with symptoms of Asthma, allergies, and bronchitis as it raises moisture content in the air being breathed.

a. Supporting Sources

  1. Ezine Articles, Steam bath healing and Health Benefits Fully Explained by Tim Gorman, http://ezinearticles.com/?Steam-Bath-Healing-And-Health-Benefits-Fully-Explained&id=360910
  2. Health.com, Steam It Up, http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306713,00.html

V. SLEEP IMPROVEMENT – The national sleep foundation has published studies that have shown soaking in a hot tub or spa prior to bedtime leads to deeper more restful sleep. This is because the bather will be relaxed, blood pressure will be low, and muscles will be loose. As a result, better rest is achieved.

    1. Supporting Sources
      1. National Sleep Foundation, Healthy Sleep Tips, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/healthy-sleep-tips
      2. National Sleep Foundation, RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) Treatment Options, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-disorders-patient-education/rls-restless-legs-syndrome-treatment-options
      3. National Sleep Foundation, Let Sleep Work For You, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/hot-topics/let-sleep-work-you

VI. TYPE 2 DIABETES– A study in Colorado, conducted over a 30 day period, showed that people with type 2 diabetes significantly lowered blood sugar with as little as 15 to 30 minutes a day of soaking in a hot tub, as early 10 days into the study! Specifically, participants in the study reported the following: 13% lower blood sugar, lower doses of insulin, lost weight (4 lbs., nearly 1 lb. per week), decrease in plasma glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin, better sleep, and increased general sense of well being.

Granted, it is always wise to monitor blood sugar immediately before and after hot tub use, and also ensure that the temperature is no hotter than 100 (per one article about safe hot tub use for diabetics).

  1. Supporting Sources
    1. Diabetes Health, Hot Tub Therapy for People With Diabetes, http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/05/22/1681/hot-tub-therapy-for-people-with-diabetes/
    2. Diabetes Monitor, Hot Tubs, http://www.diabetesmonitor.com/m41.htm

VII. ARTHRITIS – Heat and buoyancy help relieve arthritis pain and also loosen arthritis joints. Again, this is primarily because the buoyancy relieves the joints of the weight they bear, while the heat dilates the blood vessels, loosens tissue, and promotes blood flow to help repair and heal ailing joints and muscles.

  1. Supporting Resources
    1. Arthritis Foundation, Types of Excercises, http://www.arthritis.org/types-exercise.php
    2. Wikipedia, Heat Therapy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_therapy
    3. Web MD, Heat and Cold Therapy for Arthritis Pain, http://arthritis.webmd.com/heat-and-cold-therapy-for-arthritis-pain

VIII. DETOXIFICATION –Known as hyperthermia, heat therapy, sweat therapy, or fever therapy, it is a function of the body to cleanse and heal itself using heat. Our bodies create a fever for two purposes: A) the increased body temperature can make the body an inhabitable host for certain infections, and B) the body will literally sweat out toxins and disease.

Although, today, fevers are thought of as an inconvenient symptom, they are actually the body’s own mechanism for fighting illness. By “creating” and artificially high internally temperature for a temporary time (15-45 minutes), you can reap some of these benefits. Heat draws out toxins, cleans clogged pores, and kills a variety of harmful bacteria. The increased circulation also benefits the immune system, cellular activity, and even increases the metabolic rate.

  1. Supporting Sources
    1. The Natural Path, Hyperthermia – Body Detox and Cleansing Using Body Heat, http://www.the-natural-path.com/hyperthermia.html

IX. MUSCLE PAIN – Although benefits have been noted in this area for hundreds of years, recent studies have more specifically addressed the actual benefits and causes of the benefits. Recent studies have confirmed that after almost one month of using a hot tub or spa, participants in the study report both less pain, and more flexibility. Again, major contributors to this improvement are improved circulation to the muscles, as well as the loosening of the muscle fibers.

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X. PREPPING FOR EXERCISE – By warming the body, increasing blood flow, and loosening the muscles, an athlete can better prepare his body for physical exertion and exercise, to prevent injury and limit soreness. Additionally, the athlete will benefit from increased range of motion.

XI. QUESTIONABLE BENEFITS – There are two commonly mentioned benefits of hot tubs and spas that are often oversimplified or simply misrepresented.

    1. Chromo therapy – Chromo therapy is “light therapy”. Be wary of sales men or marketing that touts chromo therapy when all they are providing is a light or multiple LED lights. Not just any light can provide chromo therapy and these misrepresentations are often nothing more than a sales tactic and false representation.
    2. Aroma therapy – Aroma therapy is “scent therapy” delivered via specific scents, oils, and mixtures that are inhaled. Not everything that smells nice is considered aroma therapy. Also, aroma therapy, at the time of writing this article, is not a function of the spa, but a possible function of what you put in the water. As such, it is something that can be applied to any hot tubs. Again, this is something that is often misrepresented as a sales tactic.

XII. MISCONCEPTION OF HARM – The most common misconception about hot tubs and spas is the concern about its effect on fertility. Specifically, the wives’ tale about how hot tub or spa use will decrease fertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent and long term exposure to heat can temporarily lower sperm count for a short period of time, but causes no long term effects.

XIII. RECOMMENDED USE AND SAFETY GUIDELINES – Hot tubs and spas are not only fun and relaxing, but highly therapeutic. The list of benefits is as long as it is well researched and published. However, every hot tub user needs to be aware of a few guidelines to ensure that you and your family are using your spa safely.

Hot Tub Health Benefits © Copyright Jeremy T. Hetzel and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License
  1. Make It Social – It is recommended that you avoid using hot tubs or spas alone, and always ensure a reasonable time limit for each soak. Even a short break before re-entering the spa is highly beneficial. Over exposure may cause fainting or dizziness.
  2. Supervise Children – Check with your doctor about the safe age for your children to use the hot tub. Equally important, ensure that your spa has a locking ASTM safety cover, to prevent unsupervised use by your children or uninvited guests.
  3. Pregnant Women – Again, we highly recommend you consult your physician for exact guidelines on hot tub use, if you are pregnant. However, generally speaking, women in their first trimester are urged against using a spa, or to limit their use to no more than 10 minutes at a time.
  4. Other Medical Issues – If you have any on-going or chronic medical issues, again, we recommend checking in with your physician for an exact recommendation regarding hot tub use. In some case, you will be urged to use your spa regularly for its therapeutic needs and in other cases you may be urged against using it at all. It depends on the medical condition.
  5. Maximum Temperature – No hot tub should allow the user to set the temperature above 104-F. Newer spas restrict this by way of the programming in the spa electrical pack. It is considered very unsafe to soak in a spa at temperatures above 104-F. There is some debate about the ideal temperature for hot water therapy, but the range has historically fallen between 100-F and 102-F.
  6. Drugs and Alcohol – Simply put: NO, drugs and alcohol do NOT mix well with hot tubs. The heat dramatically accelerates the effects of most drugs and alcohol and can lead to dangerous outcomes, most commonly unconsciousness. If you feel the least bit uneasy, nauseated, or sleepy, it is imperative that you exit the hot tub, lay down, and ideally be around other people that can keep an eye on you. If the situation deteriorates, call 911.
  7. Clean Water Means Happy Soakers – It is absolutely imperative that you get educated on your hot tub’s water management system. There are a variety of built in systems that help keep water clean and balanced, and every system requires some level of owner involvement in adjusting and adding sanitizers or balancers. Make sure you know how to keep your water clean and balanced to avoid infections or inconvenient side effects like dry skin or irritated eyes. Visit here for a more thorough education on water management.

XIV. HOT TUB EXCERCISES – Hot tubs can be an enjoyable, safe, and effective environment for exercise, however, you have to be careful about the level of exertion. The national arthritic foundation recommends water exercise. Although the heated environment has a lot of benefits during exercise, it also requires that you limit how hard you push yourself. The level of exertion should be mild. Below is a list of recommended exercises:

  1. Stretching– Do each of the exercises below 5 times, on each side. Over time, work up to 15.
    1. Legs – Sitting up right, straighten one leg in front of you. Then, raise that leg toward your face while keeping it straight. You will have to grab that leg with your hands and lift it up to effect a stretch. Range of motion will vary, so go only far enough to feel an effective stretch.
    2. Core (lower back and abdomen) – Sit up straight. Twist your upper body nearly as far as you can to one side. Hold for 3 seconds, then twist to the other side and hold again for 3 seconds. Make sure the movement is slow and fluid, going only far enough to feel the stretch in your lower back and abdomen.
    3. Shoulders – Cross one arm across your chest. Grab the elbow of that cross arm with your other hand, and pull the arm across to effect the stretch in the shoulder.
    4. Neck – Lastly, move your head clockwise circles, followed by counter clockwise circles. For this stretch, it is very important that the movement is slow and the circles are as large as possible to promote the stretch in the neck muscles.
  2. Exercises– Do each of these exercises below 5 times, on each side, and work up to 15.
    1. Feet – Raise one leg out in front, as you maintain a seated position. Make large circles with your feet, moving clockwise, then counterclockwise.
    2. Calves – Front a seated position, one leg at a time, raise your toes and hold for 5 seconds, then bring your toes down and immediately lift the heals and hold for 5 seconds.
    3. Thighs – Seated bicycle kicks are a very complete movement if you feel confident enough to lean back in a seated position, lift your legs and perform bicycle kicks. The buoyancy in a hot tub should be very helpful. If you can’t perform bicycle kicks, then you should begin with a more simple movement of raising a leg, holding for 5 seconds, lower the leg, rest for 3 seconds, then raise the leg again.
    4. Buttock – In a seated position, simply flex the buttock muscles, hold for 5 seconds, then release. Repeat as many times per the instructions above.
    5. Abdomen – In a seated position, bend both knees, lifting them, and bring them to your chest. Hold for 5 seconds, release, and repeat per the instructions above.
    6. Arms and Shoulders – With both arms straight, and down on your side, raise them together through a half circle until they are pointing straight over head. Do this consecutively per the instructions above. Next, from the same starting position, lift the arms out to your side in a quarter circle until they are pointing straight out to the side. Do this consecutively per the instructions above.
  3. Cool Down – For your cool down, repeat the stretching routine. Then, relax and enjoy your spa!

XV. SWIM SPA EXERCISES – Swim Spas are excellent alternatives to expensive swimming pools, which can sometimes allow for more exercise options than pools, as well. Here are just a few exercises that make swim spas more versatile than pools:

  1. Swimming – Of course this goes without saying, but we have to include it in our list. Swim spas allow swimmers of all aptitudes and skill levels to swim safely. The swim spa will have adjustable flow to allow users to set the pace of the current to match their intended swimming speed. Additionally, some swim spas will have tether belt system for additional resistance as well as assisting in keeping the swimmer in going straight.
  2. Walking or Running – Using the tether belt, the current of the swim jets, or a combination of the two, simply walk, jog, or run in place. The buoyant environment is excellent for this because it relieves the ankles, knee, and hip from the impact of traditional running, but allows the user to still benefit from the exercise of running.
  3. Rowing – Quality swim spas will also come equipped with rowing equipment. Simulated rowing exercises are an excellent way to strengthen the arms, shoulders, and especially the back.
  4. Strength Training – Again, if you purchase a swim spa that comes with exercise equipment, you will often get a set of resistance bands that buckle directly into the walls of the swim spa. Resistance bands are excellent for almost any movement that you might do in a traditional gym.They can be used for exercises that can work every part of the body from head to toe.The list of these exercises is so long that we simply can’t list everyone.A simple web search for resistance band exercises will yield a large array of options as you want to enhance your regimen. Often, the swim spa you purchase may come with a list of recommended movements.
  5. Stretching – You can follow the stretching routine under the “Hot Tub Exercises” section above. However, in a swim spa, since the temperature is lower, you are able to safely exert yourself further than you would in a hot tub.Also, with the additional space in a swim spa, you will also have more options. In a swim spa, you can follow any traditional stretching routine that you might do in a gym or at home. However, in a swim spa, you are able to perform all the movements with less impact on the joints and in the privacy of your own backyard.

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