There are many health benefit claims made by people on the internet trying to sell you hot tubs. In this article, I am going to see if there is evidence to back up these claims. If you have found health benefits from using your hot tub, do let me know in the comments!
A little about me – I am not a doctor! So, if you have specific questions relating to your health, you must talk to your physician before using your hot tub. However, my day job is as a senior radiotherapist at one of the leading university hospitals in London, so what I can do is evaluate literature and try and get some hard facts from the sea of internet gossip!!
Health Benefit: Hot tubs and arthritis
There is a lot of great medical literature detailing the benefits of both warm water emersion and hydrotherapy, so both inflatable hot tubs and regular hot tubs may be of benefit. Studies show benefits in both pain management and function meaning patients were able to move their joints more. Great news! The evidence seems to suggest that basic exercises while submerged works best, so if you are planning to use the hot tub to help with rheumatoid arthritis, it might be sensible having a conversation with your physician or physiotherapist.
Practical considerations for patients with limited mobility using hot tubs
Hot tubs are not always easy to get into and out of at the best of times! Because of this careful consideration will be needed as to the type of hot tub you use. I would recommend that it has a flat section in the hot tub to stand on. Many companies have incorporated a ‘cool -down’ seat which also acts as a step making entry and exit easier. A general good rule to follow is never to use the hot tub alone – I think this is good advice for everyone regardless of your level of physical ability.
Conclusion: It’s a fact Hot tubs can be of benefit to people with arthritis!
Health Benefit: Hot tubs for sports injuries and muscle ache
As with arthritis, there is evidence that warming the muscle increases blood flow and induces relaxation. However, there is also evidence that cold therapy might aid recovery, although there is speculation that this may be phycological.
My experience is that I feel infinitely better following a soak in the hot tub. That stiffness you feel following sport seems to melt away in the hot tub, and I feel much better. The next morning I would still be stiff, but that’s another excuse for a 20min soak before work!!
Conclusion: It’s a fact Hot tubs can help with muscle pains!
Mental health benefits of hot tub use
I was somewhat overwhelmed when I started to look at the medical evidence of the mental health benefits for hot tub use. The literature not only looked at how people felt afterwards, but scientists can prove that our bodies change on a chemical level. I think most of us have heard of endorphins, but other hormones have a long-lasting positive effect, which is boosted with hot tub use.
From my own experience, I know that the stresses of work ease away when I have a quick hot tub session. I am typically joined by my wife, and it’s a fantastic time of self-indulgence. Think about it – how often do you get ‘me’ time in our routinely hectic lives? Even on my breaks at work I take calls on the mobile and answer e-mails, so those minutes in the hot tub are incredibly special, and I know this must help with my stress levels. When we were planning to have our daughter, my wife and I had to stop using hot tubs because of the risk to a newly forming baby and the fertility implications, and we both missed our hot tub sessions immensely.
Conclusion: It’s a fact Hot tubs can help with stress levels and some mental health problems that are linked to stress!
Health Benefit: Does hot tub use promote weight loss
This can’t be true! Well, when you start to critique the actual evidence, there is something in the claims, but they are probably embellished on some of the popular websites! What is not happening is that the fat is ‘melting’ while you sit in your tub. It stands to reason that if your lifestyle stays the same, your weight will too!! Why some people experience, weight loss is linked to the emotional/mental health improvements a hot tub can bring. If you eat junk food or snacks because you are stressed, then being less stressed, through hot tub use, should mean you eat less. Win-win! I find that when I am cold, I eat more – I suppose it’s a form of comfort eating. If I have been in the hot tub, I am warmed up to the core and often fancy summer food (salad) instead of something more hearty!
Conclusion: Hot tub use can help with weight loss for some people only!
Hot tubs help with back health problems – I can vouch for this!
Being in a medical profession with a lot of patient contact, I often have to assist patients getting from their wheelchair onto the treatment couch. Even though I follow all the manual handling rules, I usually have a sore back at the end of the day. I find the hot tub jets really help loosen my back muscles and I always feel better after a 10-20 min session!
Conclusion: It’s a fact Hot tubs can help with minor back problems.
Health Benefit: Can hot tubs help with headaches?
The medical evidence shows that it depends on the cause of the headache. If the headache is caused by dehydration, then the hot tub experience could make it worse. Stress headaches vanish when you use the hot tub, as hot tubs appear to balance the bodies mental state. I am sure the same effect could be reached by laying on a hard floor meditating for 20 min, but in all honesty, the hot tub sounds better!! In my experience after a stressful day at the hospital, the headache starts getting better the minute I slip into the warm bubbling water!! However, if you are generally feeling unwell, you should avoid the hot tub until you are feeling better
Conclusion: It’s a fact hot tubs can help with some headaches.
Health Benefit: Can hot tubs lower my blood pressure?
There is medical literature that supports this, but I would advise that you speak to your medical professional before you buy and jump into a hot tub. If your blood pressure fluctuates, then you will need to take precautions like not hot-tubbing alone and getting out slowly, so you do not feel faint.
Conclusion: Hot tubs can help with blood pressure, but their use should be in conjunction with advice from your health care professional!
Beware of websites showing one article and presenting it as fact!
While researching this article I came across a few sites that had links to medical papers backing up their claim. When I first started writing this article, I was going to be doing the same. However, I changed my mind because the quality of the literature varied so much. By quality, I mean factors like, how many people were tested, was this carried out in a clinical setting, what statistical analysis was used etc. The reason I am telling you this is just because one paper claims to have found evidence it does not mean it is true. There may be 20 other papers saying it is false, but unless you have access to them all, then it is challenging to get a clear picture. I did my research in the Universities’ library, which has access to all journals, but if you wanted to look at some of the evidence yourself, I would recommend HDAS.com.
So, are there health benefits in using your hot tub?
Having looked at countless medical papers, I would undoubtedly say yes! Now time to choose the tub that’s right for you! See my other article on the differences between inflatable hot tubs and rigid hot tubs if you are considering your first hot tub.
Thanks for reading,