The effects of chronic stress
Your nervous system isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If you’re super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger and the harder it becomes to shut off.
If you tend to get stressed out frequently—as many of us do in today’s demanding world—your body may be in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
Depression and anxiety
Pain of any kind
Skin conditions, such as eczema
Thinking and memory problems
The Science of Hydrotherapy and Stress Relief. The warm water of a hot tub has been shown to help balance your nervous system and to keep it in balance. It is believed that warm water immersion encourages the release of a hormone, dopamine.
Why Is Stress Bad for Us?
Before we get into how exactly hot tubs help to relieve stress, it’s important to look at the negative effects of stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can affect your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Stress can wreak havoc on your body and mood, causing chest pain, upset stomachs, headaches, depression, anxiety, angry outbursts and social withdrawal. What’s worse, if your stress is left unchecked, you can develop some serious health problems. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease, depression, problems with your memory and concentration, weight gain, digestive problems and problems sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Science Behind How a Hot Tub Can Help Relieve Stress
Warm Water Immersion for Deep Relaxation Immersing yourself in warm waters at 102 degrees F has proven to put your body into a deeply relaxed state. During his research, Dr. Bruce Becker, a physician and research professor at Washington State University, found that the sympathetic nervous system3 (which increases when you’re stressed) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which helps your body to calm down), balance out when you soak in warm water. Your nervous system reacts to warm water in the same way that it reacts to meditation or other relaxed states. During his studies, Becker found that stress levels were decreased in all subjects who immersed their body in warm water. Water Buoyancy Reduces Physical Stress The weightlessness of your body in a hot tub can also help to relieve physical stress. A study by E. J. Sung and Y. Tochihara4 analyzed how soaking in warm water improved sleep. The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF)5 suggests that this sleep improvement may be a result of the water’s buoyancy. The water supports approximately 90 percent of your normal body weight, relieving stress from your joints and muscles and making you feel weightless.
Massages work the stress away along with the stress relief you receive from water buoyancy and warm water immersion, therapeutic massages from hot tub jets help to relax your body and mind. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, massages reduce stress hormones and promotes the body to release endorphins, which are natural mood elevators and painkillers. The American Cancer Society also states that massaging water jets provide relaxation and stress relief. Quiet Relaxation for Stress Management Taking just 15 or 20 minutes every day to sit quietly, relax and breathe deeply can help you cope with stress, according to the American Heart Association. A hot tub is the perfect place for tranquil solitude, giving you the alone time, you need to focus on yourself and relax. Dr. Michael R. Irwin, director of UCLA’s Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and the Mindful Awareness Research Center, also states that taking time to relax everyday significantly improves your life. In an interview with the LA Times, he says that stillness and being present in the moment causes profound relaxation by resetting your physiology, regulating your stress hormones, helping with concentration and reducing tension. As you can see, soaking in a hot tub is an incredible way to help you manage the stress in your life. Not only are hot tubs fun and enjoyable, but they can also help to give you a happier and more pleasant life through relaxation.