We recognize how tough it can be to squeeze time in for relaxing or rejuvenating amid a hectic schedule. We named our blog "20-minute Renewal" to remind ourselves (and our readers) that even a modest effort can put us on the path to establishing daily self-care habits. Just 20-minutes in a hot tub is all you need to release tensions, relax muscles and let go of all the clutter in your head. According to recent science, it is no coincidence that 20 minutes in a hot tub seems ideal. In recent years, there has been an increase in academic study on the effects of hot tub use - also called warm water immersion - particularly in 20-minute intervals.
Two researchers are leading the charge, Dr. Bruce Becker of Washington State University and Dr. Doreen Stiskal of Seton Hall University, and both have focused their studies around 20-minute sessions. To get a clearer picture, let's delve into the science.
As Dr. Stiskal puts it, "the body gains the maximum benefit of warm water therapy within 20 minutes." Dr. Becker has conducted many studies, focusing on immersion of 20 - 24 minutes with a temperature range of 94°-102°. This is the average range for hot tub temperature as well so we can apply many of these study results to hot tub use.
Here are some of the benefits he observed:
Water buoyancy relieves joint pain from arthritis
The water buoyancy relieves gravity, taking the pressure off joints. This can help provide relief to arthritis sufferers. Warm water immersion can also reduce swelling, improve circulation and relieve pain.
How does warm water immersion help my breathing and endurance?
Immersion in warm water makes the respiratory muscles work harder by 60%, strengthening and building endurance in the muscles associated with breathing. Water is much denser than our bodies and immersing our bodies in water allows the hydrostatic pressure to bring the oxygen rich blood to into our chest cavity and the lungs. Exercising in the hot tub has been shown to increase athletic performance later outside the hot tub.
How can a hot tub help with relaxation?
A 20 - 24 minute warm water immersion affects the nervous system in much the same way as meditation. Soaking in a hot tub provides the same benefits as meditation. According to Dr. Becker's research "the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system - fall into balance when the body is immersed in warm water. " This accounts for the relaxation and comfort that you experience when using a hot tub for warm water immersion therapy.
Dr. Becker's research points to the fact that 20 minutes is the sweet spot. It is the perfect length of time to reap the maximum of the benefits he observed. Of course, staying in longer is fine-it's wonderful-but the benefits do not increase after 20 minutes. As always, be sure to stay hydrated no matter how long you decide to stay in your hot tub.
The physical effects of warm water immersion are still being studied, but here's what we do know: A 20 minute relaxation session works best for me, and according to Dr. Stiskal and Dr. Becker, I'm not the only one. If you would like to learn more, here is a video of one of Dr. Becker's talks: