Spa and wellness businesses have a long history of using hydrotherapy to deliver curative benefits to customers and there are more than 34,000 thermal/mineral spring establishments worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Economy Monitor. Now a research review has shown why being immersed in water has so many unexpected health benefits.
The paper, by South Korean academics, assessed 13 pieces of research, and findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year.
Called The thermal effects of water immersion on health outcomes: an integrative review, the paper explored the health effects of immersion hydrotherapy in the studies. Nine studies used warm water, one used both warm and cold water and the other three used cold water. Immersion is just one form of hydrotherapy which uses water for pain relief and treatment of existing conditions.
Findings of the study
The study found that warm water immersion can improve cardiovascular function, suggesting it has clinical significance as an alternative to exercise, and more importantly, as a preventative health treatment. It’s also been shown to increase blood flow to major organs, including the brain, heart and lungs; to help with improved short-term brain function; and to improve tissue oxygenation and strengthen muscles.
Meanwhile, it revealed that cold water immersion can provide an anaesthetic effect, and reduce stress and force placed on the body to help the ability to exercise. In addition, it can support musculoskeletal function in healthy people or act as a rehabilitation treatment for patients with existing pain-related diseases.
The global pandemic has kickstarted a renewed interest in health, leading the spa industry to anticipate a surge in demand for treatments like hydrotherapy which also help with prevention.
Interestingly, the European Parliament is also in the process of assessing a tourism and transport initiative, which includes a sub-section highlighting the need to support European resorts in attracting spa and wellness tourists. The initiative calls on the European Commission to fund more science-based research to enable the sector to develop medical tourism business with the aim of reducing healthcare costs through preventative measures, such as hydrotherapy and balneotherapy.
This reinforces a view held widely in the industry – that treatments such as hydrotherapy have the potential to improve health globally and should be taken seriously as preventative health modalities.
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