Health in a Hot Tub

December 26th, 2011

Do you have trouble getting yourself motivated to put on the running shoes and actually get out the door?

In some ways, you might want to climb into your hot tub instead.  Many observers have commented that the physiological changes induced by immersion in hot water are quite similar to those caused by working out.  We are not claiming that sitting in the hot tub can substitute for training for that Boston Marathon you have in mind, but some of the same beneficial cardiovascular effects you get from running, swimming or biking can be achieved with a good, regular soak.

Beyond this, the hot water in the spa (and possibly the massage effect from the jets) can help to temporarily alleviate or ameliorate aches and pains in muscles and joints. Regular soaks can help to improve joint flexibility, relieve stiffness, and sooth chronic pain associated with minor muscular-skeletal trauma or chronic conditions.  Finally, the buoyancy of the water may help to relieve the discomforts associated with having to support the full weight of the body.

Physiological Changes From Using the Hot Tub

A good primer for how immersion in hot water affects your body can be found in the National Swimming Pool Foundation’s new booklet, Hot Water and Healthy Living. The NSPF booklet notes 3 ways the hot tub helps healing:

  1. Immersion increases circulation. The basic physiological change induced by hot water is to improve blood flow to the extremities, and into joints and stressed muscles.  This increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to these zones, and increases the amount of waste removed.
  2. Water immersion increases the surface pressure on the body.  This helps to reduce inflammation, a primary source of discomfort.
  3. The buoyancy of the water can relieve the discomfort associated with supporting the full weight of the body.

These therapeutic benefits are not guaranteed to heal all wounds or diseases.  Be sure to check with your physician if you have a chronic or acute medical issue to find out if immersion in a hot tub might be beneficial for you.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Remember that we mentioned that hot water immersion has some of the effects of exercise?  Sitting in a hot tub typically increases your heart rate and lowers your blood pressure.  The higher heart rate will improve the flow of blood, and the arteries will dilate to accept the higher rate of flow.  The NSPF booklet notes that this is accompanied with the heart being stretched to accommodate the higher flow of blood and the “push” of blood to the heart due to the pressure of the water. In combination, these functions help to strengthen the heart while oxygenating and cleansing tissues.

What Have You Experienced?

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