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Hot Tubbing: More than Just a Barrel of Fun and Relaxation

In the early 1970s I had a week of liberty from the Navy, and my wife and I were visiting family in Southern California. My elderly grandmother was living with my aunt and uncle at the time. After catching up, we decided to all get in the backyard hot tub to continue our conversation. It was great fun and so relaxing. After a little while my aunt said she was going in to start dinner. My wife RaNae wanted to help and left with her. A few minutes later my uncle left to get dressed, and then I decided to follow suit. As we were sitting down to a delicious dinner, all of a sudden we heard a weak voice crying, “Help!” We heard the same plea a couple more times before we realized, Grandma! We had left her alone in the hot tub. By the time we ran out to the backyard she was hanging on to the side with her head barely above water. It took all of us to lift her out of the bubbling water. After apologizing to her, she said that it felt so relaxing, but had drained all her strength out of her. A close call, but we still have a good laugh about it over 40 years later.

roman_bath_hot_pool_architecture_history_picWhether you call them a hot tub, a whirlpool, hydrotherapy, a spa, or a Jacuzzi, they have become hugely popular worldwide, but this use of warm water therapeutically is really not a modern concept. Archeological evidence indicates that the ancient Egyptians, and later the Greeks and Romans, used natural hot mineral baths, adding essential oils, spices, and flowers for relaxation and health, not just for cleansing. That’s wonderful if you happen to live near a natural hot spring.

The harnessing of electricity, development of plumbing methods, and modern technology, have made hydrotherapy, once only available to the privileged upper class, now available to everyone. The Americans seem to be the first to get bitten by the hot tub bug around the end of World War II. I remember in the 1960s this interest in lounging in a bubbling tub of warm water seemed associated with the “flower power” Hippy movement. By the end of the twentieth century the craze was full blown, with portable spas that have everything from dozens of massaging jets, to sound systems, TVs, colored light systems, and waterfalls all available at the touch of a button. Is it all just gizmos, marketing, and hoopla, or are there real benefits to be gained? Let me share with you a number of the claims that studies and experience actually do support.

First a few warnings. Keep your hot tub visits short to reduce the risk of overheating and fainting. Pregnant women should avoid the hot tub, particularly in the first trimester as the water will warm your body much like a fever would and can harm your child. Even after the first trimester, the risks of overheating or slipping are high enough you might want to avoid them while pregnant altogether. General rules for tubbing are to keep the water hygienic, never any hotter than 104 degrees, limit the sessions to 15 minutes, and be sure to drink plenty of water afterwards. And always consult your physician if you have health concerns. Now the benefits.

relaxing_woman_bath_hot_tub_candles_bubbles_sleep_picHot tubs are relaxing, and the hydro-massage feature offers quick stress relief at the end of a demanding day, much the same as a professional massage. It can melt away tension and even serve as a cheap solution to work fatigue and road rage. In a bad mood; hit the hot tub.

According to the American Arthritis Foundation there are approximately 50 million Americans with various forms of arthritis. They have found that whirlpools are beneficial for several kinds of arthritis, effectively increasing the mobility of the joints while diminishing discomfort and muscle spasms. When a person is submerged up to the neck, gravitational stress on the skeletal frame is reduced by up to 90% due to the principle of buoyancy.

The New England Journal of Medicine found that the improved circulation and increased vasodilation generated by warm hydro-massage is helpful to diabetics.

After the initial swelling and inflammatory stage has been dealt with by ice packs or cryotherapy, hot tub therapy is really helpful in healing sports injuries.

Hot water whirlpool raises the body’s temperature, functioning almost like a temporary fever which can help defend against an array of bacteria and viruses. This heating up opens the pores helping to detoxify the skin. The elevation temperature also burns more calories, helping with weight management.

hot_tub_pool_friends_social_happy_picAccording to research by the National Sleep Foundation, 40% of Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, often dealing with it by taking drugs that may have dangerous side-effects. They found that a 15 minute soak 90 minutes before bed encouraged people to fall asleep quicker and deeper than even most prescription medications.

An often overlook benefit of hot tubbing is the socializing aspect. Spending time together in a fun, relaxing environment is a bonding experience. I’m convinced that if more couples regularly hot tubbed together they could save a lot of money on marital counseling.

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