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Jul 23, 2023

30 minutes in a hot tub or a 30 minute jog?

Estimated read time: 3-5 minutes
Author: Lisa Ruggles

Regular exercise is hailed as a cornerstone of good health, providing a multitude of benefits that reduce the risk of chronic diseases and all-cause mortality. However, despite its numerous advantages, a significant portion of the population are, for whatever reason, unable to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. Fortunately, recent studies have shed light on the potential of passive heating as a therapeutic alternative, offering health benefits comparable to exercise (Cullen, et al., 2020). Passive heating involves immersing oneself in warm water, such as a Jacuzzi hot tub, to induce a series of favorable physiological responses. The research by Cullen, et al. (2020) aimed to explore the similarities and differences between adaptations to passive heating and exercise, revealing how passive heating may hold promise for individuals who are unable to sustain regular exercise or have poor exercise adherence.

Comparable Health Benefits of Exercise and Passive Heating

The research indicates that passive heating can trigger several health benefits, many of which mirror those induced by exercise. Notably, both passive heating and exercise have been linked to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, vascular health, glycemic control, and the reduction of chronic low-grade inflammation. A further study led by Cullen and his team at Coventry University* recently showed participants' heart rates increased by 31 BPM on average during the sessions, which is equivalent to a 30-minute brisk walk. Furthermore, participants showed a significant reduction in their blood pressure readings, and blood flow to their legs increased by 345% on average, which is similar to a 30-minute jog. This revelation is especially promising for individuals who cannot engage in sustained physical activity or struggle with adhering to regular exercise routines.

Overlapping Cellular Signaling Responses

Cellular signaling responses regulated by temperature appear to overlap with the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial adaptations to exercise. Although detailed comparisons are yet to be conducted, this finding suggests that there might be shared pathways between the two activities, potentially explaining the similar health benefits observed in both passive heating and exercise.

The Promise of Passive Heating

While exercise remains a gold standard for promoting overall health and well-being, passive heating emerges as a promising therapy for specific populations. For individuals who cannot perform sustained exercise due to various reasons, such as physical limitations or medical conditions, passive heating presents an accessible and potentially effective alternative. Moreover, for those struggling with exercise adherence, incorporating passive heating into their wellness routine may provide a feasible and enjoyable way to reap health benefits.

health benefits of passive heat
Summary of chronic adaptations to exercise and passive heating. Where evidence is indicated as “mixed,” this may be due to different results observed depending on the population studied or the nature of the heating stimulus. Scientific illustrations produced by Servier Medical Art (https://smart.servier.com) and used under the terms of the Creative Commons 3.0 license. Source: Cullen et al., (2020) - see reference below for link

Conclusion

The research on passive heating unveils a remarkable parallel between its health benefits and those achieved through regular exercise. As a viable alternative for populations unable to engage in sustained physical activity or facing exercise adherence challenges, passive heating offers a compelling solution. While exercise remains a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle, incorporating passive heating, such as relaxing in a Jacuzzi hot tub, can complement existing wellness routines and promote overall well-being. Research in this area, sets the stage for future investigations, encouraging researchers to delve deeper into the shared mechanisms of action between passive heating and exercise. By harnessing this knowledge, the full potential of passive heating could be unlocked as a therapeutic oasis for those seeking to improve their health without the constraints of traditional exercise.

References:

Cullen, T. et al. (2020) ‘The health benefits of passive heating and aerobic exercise: To what extent do the mechanisms overlap?’, Journal of Applied Physiology, 129(6), pp. 1304–1309. Available at: Applied Journal of Physiology.

*Lay-Z-Spa Health Benefits Proven By Science (2023). Available at: Lay-z-spa blog (Accessed: 23 July 2023).

Disclaimer:

Please note that the information provided on this website is based on scientific research available up to the specified date. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant lifestyle changes, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions.

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