The Health Benefits Of A Dip In Natural Hot Springs

There's nothing like a long, relaxing soak in the tub after a long day, and we always feel so much better after relaxing in the hot water -– but why? As it turns out, there is an entire medical and therapeutic field of study that studies the answers to this question. Balneotherapy is the act of soaking in a hot spring, and according to experts, it can have major positive impacts on our mental and physical health (per Everyday Health).

While people can benefit from the effects of balneotherapy in many settings, such as at home in the tub or at a spa, many people familiar with the practice say that the added mineral benefits make soaking in a natural hot spring the best method of hot water therapy. Because the hot water in a natural spring accumulates from deep beneath the earth's surface, the result is water that is chock full of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sulfur -– all of which can provide various health benefits, especially when exposed to in conjunction with hot water, which provides a list of physical and mental health benefits of its own (per Everyday Health). Though soaking in a hot spring is not a substitute for routine medical care, studies show that there are clear benefits to submerging in the hot water of a natural spring.

Reduced stress

Soaking in a natural hot spring has significant effects on relaxation and can help you de-stress, unwind, and even get better quality sleep. According to Wilbur Hot Springs, the hot water of a natural spring can reduce your stress levels in a few ways. Not only does it help relax tense muscles, but it also promotes feelings of calm and relaxation. The contrast in temperature when you get out of a hot spring and cool down in comparison to your elevated body temperature while in the hot water can also help you relax and promote a deeper sleep –- which is particularly beneficial to those who regularly struggle with sleep issues like insomnia.

"The simple experience of soaking in a warm bath for relaxation can have profound effects by turning off our fight-or-flight stress response, allowing our bodies time to heal," says Krista Ingerick, licensed massage therapist and the spa operations manager at The Springs Spa (via Everyday Health). She adds that relaxation promoted by a hot spring can help combat symptoms of stress such as fatigue and burnout and notes that the natural setting that surrounds hot springs can even further promote relaxation and feelings of peace.

A study published in Hindawi examining the effects of hot springs on stress levels found that participants experienced a 60% decrease in stress-induced health issues and a 41% decrease in stress symptom intensity after two weeks of regular hot spring usage.

Improved circulation and heart health

Not only can soaking in a hot spring improve symptoms related to mental health and stress, but it can also help improve circulation and promote healthy cardiovascular function. According to Finding Hot Springs, the warm water found in hot springs naturally improves circulation and increases oxygen flow throughout the body. SCL Health also says that soaking in a natural hot spring boosts circulation and blood flow throughout the body, improving cardiac function and boosting your metabolism. This is caused by an increase in the pressure that surrounds your body due to the water's high mineral content. Good circulation is essential in keeping your heart and other organs healthy and functioning properly.

Marcus Coplin ND, a primary care naturopathic physician and the director of hydrothermal medicine for the Balneology Association of North America, adds via Everyday Health that the hot water of a natural spring also helps improve blood flow and circulation, as well as circulation of the lymphatic system fluid, which is responsible for helping clear waste out of the body. In fact, a study published in The Journal of Physiology examined 20 adults with sedentary lifestyles and found that hot water therapy has similar benefits to physical exercise when it comes to improved heart health by means of improved circulation, improved blood vessel dilation, reduced stiffness of arteries, and lowered blood pressure.

Pain relief

The whole-body relaxation promoted by the hot water in a natural spring is also great at treating the painful physical symptoms of chronic conditions as well as common aches and pains throughout the body.

According to Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, the heat and buoyancy your body feels while soaking in a hot spring can ultimately aid in the healing of sore muscles and joints by improving your range of motion. This is an excellent form of therapy for those recovering from physical trauma or painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Taking a dip in the hot water of a natural spring has also been shown to improve menstrual pains.

In fact, a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Scientists found that hot water therapy actually helps block pain receptors throughout the body, making it a good option for those struggling with a wide variety of painful physical ailments, while a study published by the British Society for Rheumatology found it to be particularly effective at treating lower back pain.

A clearer complexion

If you have problematic skin, a dip in a natural hot spring might be just the thing you need to clear your complexion and detoxify. According to Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, natural hot springs are a rich source of sulfur — a mineral that is used in the production of collagen. Collagen helps keep your skin healthy and smooth by helping maintain its elasticity that naturally fades as we age. Because of its anti-aging properties, collagen is a sought-after ingredient in skin care products and dietary supplements. Taking a long dip in a sulfur hot spring can boost your skin's collagen and help promote more youthful, glowing, and hydrated skin.

SCL Health also adds that soaking in a hot spring can aid in treating common skin irritations and conditions such as rashes, eczema, acne, and psoriasis due to the water's high mineral content. Thanks to the high concentration of silica found in the water of hot springs, a nice soak can also soften any patches of rough or dry skin that become especially common in the colder winter months. Submerging yourself in the water from a hot spring is also a great way to naturally detoxify and clear your body's natural barrier of any impurities.

Aid in weight loss

Evidence suggests that soaking in a hot spring can even help you on your weight loss journey by increasing your body's metabolic rate, which is the speed at which you burn calories. A study published in Temperature documented 14 men and found that those who submerged themselves and relaxed in hot water burned an average of 61 more calories per hour when compared to those in a relaxed state outside of the hot water. And while physical exercise is the most efficient and effective way to burn calories, it's still worth noting that sitting in a hot spring seems to be more effective at burning calories than sitting anywhere else.

Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found similar results. Eight overweight men with sedentary lifestyles underwent two weeks of regular hot water therapy and found it to have positive effects on certain inflammatory markers in the body. As a result, the hot water was found to help decrease chronic inflammation in the body while improving glucose and insulin health, boosting the body's metabolic rate and ultimately supporting a healthy weight. And while a hot spring won't be the magic cure-all to your weight loss woes, Coplin says via Everyday Health that regular hot spring usage is an excellent addition to your existing diet and exercise routine.