Hot Tubs: As Good As Exercise

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Have you ever wondered why it is that for all the health benefits of using our industry’s products, most consumers are only dimly aware that there are any?

It’s both a mystery and shame. As research defining the spectrum of benefits of hot water immersion and aquatic activity piles up year after year, discussions remain largely academic and strangely dispassionate.

It’s time to face the painful fact square in the face: As an industry, we have been just plain lousy at using the amazingly compelling information we have at our fingertips for our own benefit as well as for the benefit of our consumers. Most would agree, I’m sure, that this pitiable status quo must change — but how?

RELATED: How the Boating Industry Created a National Ad Campaign

A viable answer might just have been buried in the title of a story on It was an opinion piece by British researcher Steve Faulkner, with a compelling title: “Why Taking a Hot Bath Might Be as Good for Your Health as Exercise.” In the piece, Faulkner discusses the results of a study at Loughborough University that strongly supports the idea that bathing in hot water is in some very important respects as good for our health as exercise. Think about that: as good as exercise.

To quickly recap the study, 14 men were assigned to either an hour-long soak in a hot bath (at 104 degrees Fahrenheit) or an hour of cycling; both were designed to cause a small rise in core body temperature over the time period. Faulkner’s team measured how many calories the participants burned in each session and monitored blood sugar for 24 hours after each trial.

The results: “Bathing resulted in about as many calories being burned as a half-hour walk (around 140 calories),” Faulkner wrote. “The overall blood sugar response to both conditions was similar, but peak blood sugar after eating was about 10 percent lower when participants took a hot bath compared with when they exercised.”

He continues: “We also showed changes to the inflammatory response similar to that following exercise. The anti-inflammatory response to exercise is important as it helps to protect us against infection and illness, but chronic inflammation is associated with a reduced ability to fight off diseases. This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, that is often present with long-term diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.”

Consider the implication of these findings: The physical effect of soaking in hot water — which is what we do in spas/hot tubs — is similar to exercise. For proponents of the hot-water side of our industry, that news should rain like manna from heaven. After all, how many activities in life feel so pleasurable while being so healthful at the same time? Massage therapy, eating deliciously prepared healthy foods, sound sleep, walking in nature and making love are probably the only other relative equivalents, and most of them are more difficult to accomplish.

And keep in mind Faulkner and company are not the first researchers to make claims that point in this general direction. I recently wrote an online piece about research that suggests hot water immersion has significant neurological benefits including the ability to fight depression and reduce the effects of PTSD.

And for years now, we’ve had information that indicates immersion increases cardiovascular health. Now, it’s also implicated in benefiting the pandemic problem of Type 2 diabetes and reducing chronic inflammation.

RELATED: Selling the Benefits of Hot Tubs

When you look at the history of marketing and advertising it becomes clear success often means coming up with a simple slogan that is easily repeated and remembered while reinforcing a positive message.

Consider these familiar taglines: “It does a body good,” “Like a good neighbor,” “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” “Be all that you can be,” “Breakfast of champions,” “It’s the real thing.” Even though some of those are pretty old, odds are you already made connected the mental dots between those catch phrases and milk, State Farm Insurance, the United Negro College Fund, the U.S. Army and Coca-Cola. Those slogans have all become imprinted in our subconscious to the point they are part of our cultural landscape.

By the same token, I contend hot tubs need their own simple, memorable message: “As good for you as exercise.”

And maybe there’s an equivalent for swimming itself, “Swimming: the best exercise.” 

To win on the battlefield of the mind, we need a powerful and concise battle cry. With enough repetition, a simple concept can break through the wall of noise that separates millions of potential customers from great products that could significantly improve their lives.

The best part of this strategy? It’s true. 


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