Some people think of a visit to the spa as a superfluous and dispensable expense. A luxury. It’s nice but you don’t need it.
Increasingly, however, research suggests that treatments available in spas can not only help to increase wellbeing, they may also significantly improve health and longevity.
Here, we present to you, the science of health, happiness, and a longer life in three spa treatments.
Massage. Oh, massage, How can anyone live without it?
Decreases stress, cortisol, immune function, and pain. Increases production of serotonin and dopamine
A review of research conducted in 2004 found that massage can significantly lower cortisol levels and increase production of serotonin and dopamine.
The researchers reviewed studies on depression, pain, auto-immune conditions (including asthma and chronic fatigue), immune system conditions (including HIV and breast cancer), and stress. They found that massage lowered cortisol by a significant average of 31%. They also found that the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine increased by an average of 28% and 31%, respectively.
While cortisol is required for the function of all sort of systems, too much of it is associated with a variety of health issues, including Cushing’s Disease, which is in turn associated with osteoporosis, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, weight gain, and more. Serotonin, meanwhile, is believed to help regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. Low levels are associated with depression, anger, OCD, and anxiety. And dopamine deficiency is the primary cause of Parkinson’s disease.
Sauna. Saunas will save your life – and cognitive function
Associated with lowered risk of dementia, lowered risk of hypertension and cardiac disease, lowered all-cause mortality
In 2015 researchers from the University of Eastern Finland found that frequent sauna bathing was associate with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as all-cause mortality. The study tracked 2,300 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years, categorizing the men into groups according to how often they used a sauna each week.
“Over the course of the study, 49% of men who went to a sauna once a week died, compared with 38% of those who went two to three times a week and just 31% of those who went four to seven times a week.”
Bathing. Soaking in the tub isn’t just relaxing. It might make you live longer
Decreases inflammation, burns calories, may help regulate blood sugar
This continues on the study of “passive heating,” as in heat from an external source rather than from exercise.
A study that recently made international headlines found that taking a hot bath improves health and can burn calories.
Researchers at Loughborough University investigated the effect of a hot bath on blood sugar control (an important measure of metabolic fitness) and on energy expended (number of calories burned). For the study, they recruited 14 men and divided them into groups to either soak for an hour in a hot bath (40˚C) or cycle for an hour. The activities were designed to cause a 1˚C rise in core body temperature over the course of the hour.
After measuring calories burned in each session, and blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial, they found that, while cycling burned more calories than the bath, bathing resulted in about as many calories being burned as a half-hour walk (around 140 calories). The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, “but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10% lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised.”