Health Benefits of Spa Therapy

Finding relief from stress and worry is more important than you might think.

Chronic stress heightens blood pressure and anxiety, and takes a physical and emotional toll over time, says Dr. Bruce Becker, research professor at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. “When your car has to stay at high RPMs and sustain that for hours on end, things start to wear and break down. It’s the same with the body.”

The therapeutic effects of warm water cannot be denied. In a recent study, Becker found that warm-water immersion (at around 100 degrees) for 24 minutes not only reduced the stress response in college students but also enhanced pleasure. “It is in many ways felt to be analogous to meditation,” Becker says. “It creates an opportunity for mental creativity, focus, relaxation, and laughter.” The result is total well-being: physical, emotional, and psychological.

Working from home – plan an escape

It’s no surprise that people are stressed out. The economy is tight, the workplace is tense, the daily commute is chaotic, and the demands on your time are unrelenting. What you need to ease your troubles, according to the experts, is a relaxing soak in warm water.

Taking time out in a hot tub/ portable spa not only banishes the aches of the day, but it also gives you much-needed relief from the mental or emotional baggage you carry. While hot tubs are perfect stress relievers, using them regularly provides additional perks. If you’re looking for relief, consider taking these soothing steps:

Plan an escape. After a long day, it can be hard to unwind when you first walk in the door. Take 20 minutes for yourself to sit in the hot tub. The relaxing effect of the warm water lets you put your day into perspective and readies you for your evening routine at home.

“When you work from home, when do you stop?” asks Cunningham, co-owner of Olympic Hot Tub Co. in Seattle. “A hot tub [soak] can symbolize the trip home.”

Treat your senses. Having a relaxed outdoor setting to turn to does wonders to reduce stress. To create the perfect retreat, make your hot tub area a haven. Many models have speakers or iPod connections, so you can tune in to your favorite music while tuning out the cares of the day.

Lighting and fountain features treat your eyes and ears. Aromatherapy options also are popular. Try soothing scents such as vanilla or lavender, or more stimulating choices such as grapefruit.
Clear your head. Do you remember the last time you were alone with your own thoughts? The relaxing effects of warm water make it easier to empty your mind of your day-to-day troubles.

“It gives you quiet time,” says Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in La Mesa, Calif. “You think more clearly, solve problems better, and come up with solutions and connections to things that you ordinarily don’t during the tension of the day.”

Soothe those aches and pains. Soaking the stress away also means easing joint and muscle pain. “You can sit comfortably because part of your weight is suspended by water,” explains Jack Raglin, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University in Bloomington, who studies the connections between exercise and mental health.

Whether you have pain that builds from the daily grind or suffer from a chronic disease such as arthritis, adding time in your hot tub to your routine can significantly reduce the pain — and even your reliance on pain medications, in some cases.

Find family time.

If busy schedules leave family mealtime out of the question, consider reserving time for a family soak when everyone is in for the night. You’ll be able to have quality conversations away from the distractions of the TV, cell phones, and video games. Vacation in your backyard. Many families today can’t afford to splurge on an extended vacation away from home. The hot tub can give you just the escape you need, without the added travel hassles.

“You’re doing this rewarding, fun thing together, and it’s comfortable and relaxing,” Raglin says. Best of all? No reservations are necessary. You can take this trip every day of the year. Keep intimacy alive. It can be nearly impossible to carve out alone time with your spouse or significant other. But almost everyone can make time for a relaxing soak together.

“Touch in that barrier-free water absolutely increases desire, sexuality and communication,” Mantell says, adding that he often prescribes a hot-tub soak for couples in marriage counseling. “Nobody has an argument in a hot tub. People relax, they laugh, and the playfulness comes out.”

The soothing effects of the hot tub and the hum of the jets allow you to communicate better and enjoy each other. “There’s no other place that has the physiological [effect] of breaking down the social barriers that exist between people,” Mantell says. “It literally relaxes you psychologically.” Sleep easier. Making your hot tub part of your bedtime routine can grant you that good night’s sleep you’ve been seeking without resorting to medication.

“Between the hot water and the jets, it relaxes you to the point that you get a more refreshed night’s sleep,” says Wayne K. Stanton Sr., president of Liberty Hot Tubs in Clearwater, Fla.”

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