By Priscilla Liguori
Lucky us: Researchers are finding evidence that proves a popular vacation activity can actually improve your health.
Around the world and throughout history, doctors have prescribed hot spring therapy to patients. Hot springs are bodies of water heated from the ground, usually because of volcanic activity. Their healing properties are attributed to the high temperatures and mineral content. In the U.S., temperatures are usually around 90 to 130 degrees. Common minerals include silica, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate and lithium.
I recently visited Chico Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa in Pray, Mont., to try it for myself. I was intrigued to learn how hot springs can benefit the body and mind:
Improve Cardiovascular Health
A study by the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education in 2009 proved that the high temperatures of hot springs can increase heart rate and lower both diastolic and mean blood pressure.
As for the advantageous minerals, bicarbonate is known to help with proper circulation, calcium protects the heart and potassium balances blood pressure.
Hot springs can even be used to treat particular heart conditions. A study published in the Heart and Vessels journal concluded that “hyperthermia by bathing in a hot spring improves cardiovascular functions and reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines in patients with chronic heart failure.”
Enhance and Treat the Skin
Rich in potassium and silica, hot springs can nurture healthy and soft skin. Sulfur can relieve symptoms of eczema, psoriasis and rashes.
Moreover, a 2005 study in the International Journal of Dermatology indicated that magnesium-rich water “improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin.” The study tested people with a salt solution from the Dead Sea, a hot spring with a high magnesium content.
The heat of the water can quickly relax tenseness in your muscles and make them stay that way even after you leave the hot spring.
Sodium, magnesium and potassium help with muscle cramps and fatigue. This is why hot springs can be particularly useful for patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia.
According to a study in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, “Temperature and pressure of water in aquatic or hydrotherapy can block nociceptors by acting on thermal receptors and mechanoreceptors and exert positive effect on spinal segmental mechanisms, which is useful for painful condition.”
This health benefit is one you can read all about but really have to experience for yourself. Hot springs are incredibly calming. They contain potassium and lithium, which relive anxiety and promote a healthy mental well-being.
Additionally, entering and leaving a hot spring makes the body cool itself down. This natural process can enable people to unwind and even sleep better.
The days I was at Chico Hot Springs, everyone I saw was incredibly relaxed, and I felt that way as well.
If you are ready to try a soak, begin by researching the temperature and mineral content of the hot spring you are interested in, checking if it’s regulated and consulting your doctor. The hot water and mineral content may be damaging for people with certain health conditions, such as pregnancy and high blood pressure.
Dr. Brent A. Bauer, director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, noted that the research on hot springs is ongoing. “Each of these trials has a small number of participants – so we can’t say they are definitive – but at least point to potential health effects of hot springs for some patients,” he said.
The effects of hot springs, according to Bauer, are likely due to many factors. But he agreed, “Probably some of the effect from bathing in hot springs is just feeling good.”
So whether you are seeking relief, craving a getaway or just feeling adventurous, take a dip into a hot spring to discover how it can promote your physical and mental health.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Priscilla Liguori is graduating Emerson College as a broadcast journalism major and business minor in December 2016. She’s pursuing a career as an on-air reporter and is a multimedia journalist at WEBN-TV Boston. Past internships include NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, The TODAY Show and American Program Bureau. Priscilla was the executive producer and a reporter for WEBN’s 2015 Emmys Special, the co-host of WEBN’s 2016 Oscars Special and the managing editor at WEBN. Follow Priscilla on Twitter @PriscillaLNews.