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Hot Tubs & Brain Function

November 24th, 2014 by

hot-tubs-make-you-smarterSoaking in water soothes the savage beast. Hot tubs are well known for reducing aches and pains, and research has shown that it relaxes muscles as it improves blood flow and raises muscle temperature. But did you also know that your spa or hot tub can make you smarter?

In a study done with 60 mid-aged women suffering from fibromyalgia, hot water immersion and light exercise was prescribed, including mobility, aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises for 16 weeks.

Study participants tested for higher cognitive function after the 16 week study, as compared to tests completed prior to the study, and as compared to a control group. In addition, they had a self reported higher pain threshold and reduction in pain symptoms.

By way of contrast, another study at Kent State showed that exposure to acute cold, lead to pronounced reduction of cognition, before and after soaking in cold water at 55°.  Subjects were tested against various known cognition tests for reaction time, before during and after cold water immersion. Brr… I hope they paid those students well!

Hot Tubs Make you Smarter?

You heard it here first, folks. But, how exactly can we make this claim, and what is making some test subjects test better on cognition skills during and after a soak in hot water? According to a study by Titis Wijayanto, at Kyushu University, “passive heat exposure increases oxygen delivery in the pre-frontal cortex to maintain pre-frontal cortex oxygenation”.

So, in the presence of heat, and more specifically an increase in the core body temperature, the body responds by sending more oxygen rich blood to the frontal cortex. This is why you are so brilliant in the hot tub, and immediately afterwards!

Don’t confuse hot tubs with hot weather, however. The US Army has studied the effects of outside air temperature extensively on it’s soldiers, and both hot and cold environments have an adverse effect on soldier performance in various cognition tests, especially at temperatures below 50° and above 90° F.

Power of Water – Known to the Ancients

cleopatra-being-bathedAs far back as Hippocrates, water therapy was appreciated for it’s effect on the mind. The Greek doctor said that water therapy was necessary to prevent “lassitude”, or physical or mental weaknesses. During the rise of the Roman empire, great baths were erected for the ‘spiritual fulfillment’ of the citizenry.

For the ancient cultures of the Inca in South America, water was a deity, and natural hot spring baths were infused with local eucalyptus. The baths are still in operation to this day, known as the Baños del Inca. In North America and Europe, water therapy flourished until the middle ages, when puritan ethics decreed bathing to be something lascivious.

During the 17th and 18th centuries however, this gross misjudgement was corrected, and bathing for health, and well being become popular again.

Hot Water Therapy for Mood Elevation

happy-personMany studies have shown the effects of hot water immersion and an elevated mood, which can last for several hours after soaking, like the runner’s ‘high’. a study in 2020, by Dubois, et al showed that when test subjects (120 persons) were given regular warm water therapy, anxiety was reduced with less prescription drugs.

And in another study on the effects of hot tubs and depression, even the CDC is onboard, stating that hot water therapy improves mood and reduces depression.

 

Carolyn Mosby
Hot Tub Works

 

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