Hot water soaking dates back to ancient Greek and Roman days, to a time when bathers sought relief from rheumatism and jaundice while engaging in social banter and holding philosophical discussions.
Through the centuries, hot water immersion was enjoyed in Japan, Finland, Egypt, Spain, Turkey and Germany. In times past, people had to travel to a spa to experience the soothing effects of hot water, sometimes undertaking very long journeys to do so. Thousands of people sought relief each year in places such as Spa in Belgium, Bath in England and Berkeley Springs, Hot Springs and Saratoga Springs in America.
As people became more enamoured of hot water soaking, they began to seek ways to make the experience more convenient and accessible. They poured water into wooden vessels resembling wine casks and heated it with wood-burning water heaters so they could enjoy the benefits of hot water soaking right in their own homes. Dubbed "hot tubs", the popularity of these baths grew as believers and converts alike voiced their testimonials.
Why do you immediately feel good when you get into a hot tub?
For a start, you instantly lose 90% of your body weight, reducing the load on your heart by 10-20%. And, because the temperature is sustained at around 38 °C, the feeling of well-being that you experience is accompanied by changes in your circulatory system that have a beneficial effect on many aspects of your body. When this is combined with the therapeutic affect of the spa's massage jets, which further relax the muscles, and promote healing, the result is sheer bliss!
What happens to your body in the hot tub?
The body's first reaction to being immersed in hot water is to try to get back to its normal temperature by working the heart harder to pump the blood to the surface where it hopes to be cooled. This causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. Of course, because the water is hot the blood is warmed not cooled. The result is that the core body temperature rises and, after a short while, the warm blood causes the blood vessels to dilate which lessens the resistance to blood flow and reduces blood pressure. The body begins to perspire, expelling toxins and the muscles relax, temporarily relieving aches and pains.
What are some therapeudic benefits?
Stress - It is widely recognised that a benefit of warm water and soothing massage is to relieve anxiety and relax tense muscles. It has also been shown that 20 minutes in a hot tub also helps relieve high blood pressure, headaches and chronic pain due to stress.
Muscular relaxation occurs when warm blood reaches deep into the muscles. This relaxation effect helps to deaden muscle pain by easing any pinching of nerves or blood vessels and by helping the muscle rid itself of lactic acid and other metabolic wastes.
Insomnia - It has been found that sleep deepens as the body temperature falls. As a result some medical experts recommend that anyone wanting to induce sleep - especially those being kept awake by pain - soak in water at approximately 39°C about two hours before bedtime.
So combined with the fact that a soak in a tub alleviates body tension and provides a natural remedy (unlike drugs and alcohol which make you feel groggy and have other adverse side effects) you can't fail to have a good nights sleep.
Healing - A known benefit of hot water and massage is that it eases pain, fatigue and soreness due to exercising. It also relaxes muscles and stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers.
A further benefit of the hot tub's jet action is to promote healing by providing even more oxygen to the blood than is provided by warm water alone. The heat and pressure from the jets can also raise the level of antibodies and white blood cells, promoting the destruction of toxins and stimulating the formation of new tissue.
Arthritis and Chronic Pain - A benefit of the buoyancy of hot tub water if that it reduces body weight, thereby relieving pressure on joints and muscles and making it easier to perform exercises. Heat warms up the joints and decreases any swelling. Then, as the body registers temperature change, the central nervous system becomes depressed, contributing to muscle relaxation and temporarily relieving chronic pain.
Regular use of hot tubs help to keep joints moving. It restores and preserves strength & flexibility, helps restore the full range of motion and also protects your joints from further damage.
Type 2 Diabetes - Hot tubs are proven to provide benefit to people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels, improving sleep patterns and boosting an individual's general sense of well-being. Also, by relaxing the muscles, hot water helps increase an individual's range of motion and is especially helpful to patients who find it hard to exercise on land. An independent study of Type 2 diabetes patients, who were required to soak in a hot tub for thirty minutes a day, six days a week for three weeks, showed that the patients' blood sugar levels were reduced by an average of 13 percent.
Family Entertainment - And finally, if you're still not convinced, possibly the greatest benefit of all hot tubs is that they provide an ideal place to relax with your friends, family and loved ones. You will soon find that your children think the whole hot tub experience is as cool as you do and you'll be amazed at how the conversation magically flows.
Then, you'll find yourself becoming incredibly popular as your friends queue up to share a cool drink and have a fun dip in your hot tub too!
Spas can be used all year long, even in cold UK climates. The fact is, a spa's bubbling waters get your skin so warm, you won't even feel the cold when you get out. You can simply slip on a robe and walk back inside the house feeling relaxed, cosy and completely comfortable. Few things are as relaxing and romantic as unwinding in a spa.
The ancient Greeks and Romans may have had the original idea, but today we can enjoy an improved version of their design in the safety and privacy of our own homes. So now, thanks to a discovery by our ancient ancestors and constant innovation in the modern age, relaxation and rejuvenation are just bubbles away.