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Hot Tubs: Enjoy the Health Benefits and Stay Safe

Soaking in a hot tub isn't just a luxury it's good for your whole body. As your summer vacation approaches, here's what you need to know to reap the benefits of hot tubbing while staying safe.

Key takeaways:

Study says hot tubbing boosts wellness

Soaking in hot water is a form of hydrotherapy. Also called water therapy, aquatic therapy, and pool therapy, hydrotherapy includes any treatment using water for physical and mental health benefits.

Evidence of using water for therapy dates back to ancient civilizations like Greece, Egypt, India, and China. Cold therapy — also called cryotherapy — is another form of hydrotherapy that also has powerful benefits.

Sitting in hot water increases your blood flow and heart rate. It also strengthens your heart muscles' ability to contract, much like exercise. This increased blood flow boosts oxygen and nutrient delivery throughout your body. It also helps flush out waste, impacting your physical and mental health.

According to researchers, tub bathing produces these effects better than showers, even when you soak for only 10 minutes.

The health benefit of hot tub jets

Hot tub benefits become even more impressive when you turn on the jets to increase the pressure against your skin, muscles, and fascia. This whirlpool therapy improves anxiety and reduces chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MPS).

Six benefits of hot tubs

The benefits hot tubbing are impressive and help people reduce their risk of chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, mental health challenges, and poor sleep, to name a few.

1. Improved cardiovascular health

In 2020, a landmark study declared that regular bathing reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk by an impressive 23–46% over nearly 20 years in 30,000 Japanese subjects.

The study claims to be the first to examine the long-term effects that tub bathing has on cardiovascular health in a large population of people with healthy hearts, veins, and arteries.

In Japan, baths usually range between 100–107°F (37.8–42.2°C) in temperature, similar to standard hot tubs. Those who bathed daily at warm and hot temperatures experienced better results than those who bathed two times or less weekly in warm or hot water.

Along with an overall reduction in CVD, the study found lower instances of particular conditions like stroke and blocked coronary arteries. There was also a significant reduction in high blood pressure in those who bathed frequently, which helps reduce CVD risk.

2. Improved sleep

Many people report sleeping better after hot tubbing or taking a hot bath.

Data supports this experience, especially for older adults who report falling asleep faster and sleeping better after a hot bath. Researchers found that people who bathe before bed move less during their first 3 hours of sleep, suggesting deeper rest.

3. Reduced stress and anxiety

It's hard for anyone to deny the relaxing effects of soaking in hot water.

A 2018 study comparing showers to baths in water 104°F (40°C) or hotter found those who bathed had a significantly improved mood. Bathing subjects smiled more and showed less stress, anger, and sadness.

This improvement may be due in part to an increase in serotonin. According to experts, increased body heat may signal the brain's release of serotonin, a depression-fighting neurochemical.

4. Reduced pain and inflammation

Hot tubbing helps ease the aches of chronic conditions like arthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.

Increased serotonin levels produced by increased body heat may be part of the reason. This confidence-boosting neurochemical also helps decrease one's perception of pain, as a small 2017 study noted.

Hot water immersion also addresses pain by reducing inflammation, relaxing tense and spasming muscles, and increasing one's circulation of nutrient-rich blood. These improvements also increase the range of motion of joints, improving many people's quality of life.

5. Improved blood sugar levels

Studies also note that soaking in hot water may decrease glucose levels and help people lose weight.

One study found a possible reduction in insulin resistance related to diabetes by applying heat therapy. People with diabetes often have reduced levels of a protein that researchers call the heat shock protein, HSP72. Increased levels of HSP72 help one's cells to become more sensitive to insulin, which reduces blood sugar levels.

6. Improvements for children

A 2013 study led by Dr. Eric Hollander, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that hot water therapy reduces autism symptoms, possibly by reducing inflammation.

Parents with autistic children often report improvement when their child has a fever. Researchers believe soaking in water at 102°F (38.9°C) may create a similar effect by triggering the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals, thus, improving autism symptoms.

Another interesting 2020 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Health and Biomedical Sciences found that warm water therapy improved premature babies' health and quality of life. Soaking in a tub reduced the babies' pain, increased their weight, and decreased their heart rate and irritability.

Soaking safely

Even though hot water therapy can reduce the risk of CVD, it may irritate cardiovascular conditions when you already have cardiac issues.

Heat stroke and respiratory and skin infections are other risks of hot tubbing. Chlorine can cause skin rash in some people.

As a result, doctors don't recommend soaking in hot water for people with these conditions:

  • Pregnancy
  • Fever or hyperthermia
  • Compromised immune system
  • Open wounds or skin infection
  • Low or very high blood pressure
  • Intestinal virus
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Stacking biohacks

You can boost the benefits of hot tubbing and bathing by stacking a few other biohacks.

  • Relaxation. Practice deep breathing or meditation exercises to calm your body and mind while soaking.
  • Nutrition. Drink a green veggie and fruit smoothie after your soak to boost your cellular hydration, restore electrolyte levels, and feed your body healing nutrients.
  • Epsom salt. Add magnesium-rich Epsom salt to your bath for a gentle detox and increased muscle relaxation.
  • Oils. Sprinkle bath oils with natural ingredients and essential oils into your bath water for aromatherapy's healing effects.
  • Music. Try listening to binaural beats as you soak.

With these tips and bits of knowledge, you're ready to make the most out of your bath and hot tub. They're surprisingly powerful for your health.

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