I soaked in the hot tub every day for one month and here’s what happened.
The 30 Day Hot Tub Challenge
You may have noticed in the last few years that hot tubs have reinvented themselves from “hot tub time machine” style partying and emerged as a wellness icon.
People everywhere are raving about the benefits they’ve experienced by implementing the practice of a daily hot tub soak and a myriad of studies to support the health benefits of hot tubs have cropped up. This is by no means a new discovery, for thousands of years, in cultures as diverse as the ancient Greeks, Russians and Japanese, soaking in hot water and hot springs have been used to reduce pain, encourage blood flow and circulation, and promote relaxation.
Being someone who likes to be “in the know”, I embarked on a 30 day hot tub challenge to see if I could reap some of these benefits by making a daily hot tub practice part of my routine. After all, as far as health trends go, from Kale juice and coffee enemas, this one seemed rather enjoyable!
I decided that I would start each day with a soak in the hot tub. I woke up 30 minutes earlier than the family, grabbed a towel and went outside to the hot tub. I have an above ground tub with a cover. It is the kind of hot tub that is always kept warm which made this a very convenient challenge for me.
1. My back stopped hurting.
I have a degenerative disc in my lower back. Because of this, I have chronic back pain and occasionally my back will go out, where I am laid up on the couch for a few days. When I wake up in the morning, my back is noticeable stiff and sore. From the first day of hot tubbing, I noticed a significant improvement in my back. Gentle stretches in the warm water combined with the hot tub jets on my back had an immediate effect of eliminating morning stiffness. What I’ve noticed though, is a cumulative effect. With every day of soaking in the hot tub, my back has improved.
My observations of my own hot tub experience is supported by numerous studies on hot tubs or hydrotherapy for pain. Osteoarthritis, over-stretched muscles, sports injuries, and joint pain are relieved because the hot water and jet massage works to relax surrounding muscles, which reduces muscle spasms; it also dilates the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and promotes healing of injured tissue. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states, heat also “alters the sensation of pain”—in other words, it feels good and provides much-needed relief for acute or chronic back pain.
One study published in the British Journal of Rheumatology shows that patients treated with hot tub therapy showed more improvement, from mobility to reduced pain, than a group of patients treated with medication only.
Need another excuse to consider joining me in a 30 day hot tub challenge? It is so effective for pain that IRS regulations may allow a deduction for your hot tub purchase if your doctor recommends hot water therapy for a medical condition!
2. I have more energy through day.
Beginning the day in the hot tub has had a huge influence on my energy level. This may sound like an oxymoron that something as relaxing as a hot tub can actually increase energy. The science behind this phenomenon has to do with cortisol levels in the body. Stress can increase cortisol which can zap energy and leave you drained. Studies have found that hydrotherapy reduced the amount of cortisol in the body by up to 50 percent. By those calculations, a soak in the hot tub could effectively double your energy level. That 15 to 20 minute soak sets me up for the day relaxed and with the right mindset to take on life’s challenges. My mind is clearer and I am capable of getting much more done in my day.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Well in my case, “Give me 16 waking hours to accomplish everything and I will spend the first 30 minutes in a hot tub sharpening my body, mind a spirit.”
3. I am a better Mom.
Maybe it’s the time alone in the morning to regroup myself before I take on the day. Maybe it’s the jets. Maybe it’s the hot water. Maybe it’s the quiet time to pause for a moment before the day begins or being outside and connecting more with nature. Whatever the reason, my kids are getting the benefit of my 30 day hot tub challenge. Stress results in muscle tension, headaches, irritability, fatigue and soreness. Regular Hot Tub use, through a combination of buoyancy, heat and massage relieves tension and all of the symptoms associated with stress.
I am much calmer and have more patience with my kids. An added bonus; they have also joined me in my new morning routine a few times for some wonderful, electronics free quality time.
4. I am not as cold during the day.
I am always cold. Honestly the hardest part of the 30 day hot tub challenge was getting from my bed to the hot tub in the cold morning air. But I have noticed that the hot tub warms me up and I stay warm. In fact, I don’t think there is a faster or more enjoyable way to optimize your body temperature than with a relaxing soak in the hot tub. It warms you up from the inside and outside, and leaves you feeling fabulous!
The reason for this? Dipping the body into hot water to the neck is kind of an exercise for your blood vessels. This is because water creates physical pressure on the body which increases the capacity of our heart and improves circulation. In other words, when we’re immersed in water, the heart works faster and stronger to warm you up. This is not a massive undertaking – more like a light exercise. A few dips a week is an excellent workout for your heart.
5. I sleep better.
A more productive day, waking up early, handling stress better and decreased body pain all attribute to a better nights sleep. My fitbit shows my sleep has gone from 6-7 hours a night to 8 hours since I began the 30 day hot tub challenge.
The studies that I found about hydrotherapy and sleep recommend taking a 15-minute soak in a hot tub about 90 minutes before attempting to sleep for the best results.
6. I lost 5 pounds.
You may be as surprised or as skeptical at this claim as I am. I was shocked to discover that I lost 5 pounds during my 30 day hot tub challenge without changing my eating or exercise habits. Why have I lost weight and is it from soaking in the hot tub?
I found several studies to support that this just might be true. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that hot tub therapy simulates the beneficial effects of exercise. In one clinical study, patients who used hot tubs lost an average of 3.5 pounds in weight without any new diet or physical exercise programs as compared to the control group. In another study, patients with type 2 diabetes who soak in a hot tub for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week for 3 weeks, experience a reduction in blood sugar levels by an average of 13%.
While I did not find soaking in a hot tub to be equivalent to exercise, I did notice the increase in body temperature and an increase in energy which are both symptoms of an increased metabolism. This may be what attributed to the weight loss. Either way, I am quite happy with the outcome!
7. I have less joint pain
For 30 minutes every day, I am weightless. I float, without gravity compressing my joints, allowing the hot water to raise my body temperature and increase circulation. I get out of the hot tub without my usual morning joint pain and stiffness. It is my natural alternative to Tylenol or Aleve.
It is so effective for joint pain that the Arthritis Research Foundation recommends using a hot tub as an excellent way to apply heat to arthritic joints because of it’s tremendous ability to relax muscles, decrease pain and joint stiffness which, in turn, allows for greater ease when performing exercise and daily activities.
8. Waking up early got easy! Habits – research – cue reward cycle
Waking up early is always one of my New Year’s resolutions. But hitting the snooze button always wins out. I recently picked up a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg to see if it could provide a life hack into changing habits, namely, waking up earlier. The author talks about a “Cue Reward Cycle”. Duhigg says that MIT researchers discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: A cue, a routine and a reward. I decided that instead of a negative cue, such as the blaring of an alarm clock, my cue to wake up and get in the hot tub would be the coffee machine. Every night before I go to bed, I set the coffee pot to brew automatically at 5:30 am and put a towel on the end of my bed. When the coffee pot beeps, I get out of bed, grab the towel and a cup of coffee and head to the hot tub. This is the new “routine”. My reward? You guessed it. Sipping my morning coffee in the hot tub! I have essentially reset my morning routine with a new, healthier habit. For the first time in my life, waking up early is easy and I no longer hit the snooze button!
9. More time outdoors, appreciating nature.
Being outside in the morning when the air is crisp, and the birds are all busy and chirping is a reward unto itself. Being able to enjoy my garden immersed in warm water means that I am far more likely to spend more time appreciating the outdoors. The spa has become my private retreat where I can relax, let my guard down, and enjoy meaningful conversations and special moments with loved ones surrounded by nature.
I plan on continuing to with my new morning routine. I love my new habit of waking up early. The improvements in my physical and mental well being have motivated me to implement more healthy habits. Next, I plan to tackle journaling in the morning (AKA morning pages). I am looking forward to doing the journaling IN the hot tub! I encourage you and everyone to challenge themselves to 30 days of hot tubbing. I can assure you that it will be one of the most pleasurable and worthwhile health kicks you will ever try. Until the next wellness trend, I’m signing off for now. Good luck and good soaking! 😉
If you would like to join me in a 30 day hot tub challenge, post your Instagram pics with the hashtag #30dayhottubchallenge
Looking to Keep Learning? Check out our guide on hot tub cover care here.