Does the chilly winter weather give you second thoughts about heading outside? Consider this, a heated pool is one of the warmest and most therapeutic places to be during winter. The pool is a warm haven waiting for you, filled with remarkable health and fitness benefits.
WHAT IS HEATED WATER THERAPY?
The water provides a natural resistance to movement, which makes it an excellent medium for physical activity. Additionally, water temperature influences health outcomes, both physical and mental.
Heated aquatic therapy, sometimes known as hydrotherapy or pool therapy, involves performing exercises in a heated pool. The heat of the water helps to relax muscles and increase blood flow, which can aid in recovery and pain relief.
The buoyancy of the water also reduces the impact on the joints, allowing individuals who have trouble with weight-bearing exercises to participate in a wider variety of activities.
Warm hydrotherapy can be in any form of water that is heated (outdoor normally between 28-29 C and indoor 32-37 C). At Water Resist, we provide therapy and fitness classes in heated pool water.
HEATED HYDROTHERAPY BENEFITS: PHYSICAL HEALTH
Improves Blood Flow
When it comes to blood flow, heat therapy is the superior choice. No matter its source, heat prompts the blood vessels to dilate or expand, allowing more blood to pump through the body and also heats the skin. Cold temperatures cause these same vessels to constrict or narrow, which reduces blood flow.
Adequate blood flow is important for many reasons, and poor circulation can lead to a number of ailments like tingling in the hands and feet, a weakened immune system, and low energy.
Blood delivers oxygen and vital nutrients to various tissues throughout the body while displacing waste. When our circulation is humming along, it's like highway maintenance for our bodies, keeping everything in tip-top shape. Many of the physical benefits from warm water are a result of increased blood flow.
Reduces Join Stiffness
Warmth increases the pliability of the muscles and the surrounding connective tissue, which increases a joint’s range of motion and decreases joint stiffness. This is why warm hydrotherapy can be beneficial to those that have arthritis or stiff joints.
Heated therapy in water also stimulates joint fluid (synovial fluid), which is what lubricates the joints to ease movement.
Encourages Muscle Repair
Warm water therapy and exercise can be especially beneficial to someone that has been working out hard or putting extra strain on the muscles through resistance training.
This is because resistance exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle tissue. Depending on an individual’s training intensity and fitness level, this leads to a certain level of delayed onset muscle soreness, or “DOMS.” While it may sound bad, it’s actually a good thing that is necessary for muscle maintenance and growth. It’s the job of amino acids to come in and repair the muscle to be stronger than it was before.
These helpful amino acids are transported via blood. We know that warm water immersion relaxes the muscles by causing blood vessels to dilate and encourage blood flow. This then leads to an influx of blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients like amino acids, which ultimately leads to the healing and repair of damaged muscle tissue.
Facilitates Cardiovascular Health
Due to this enhanced circulation, heated aquatic therapy can also benefit cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and reducing the likelihood of arterial plaque buildup. Also the heat increases heart rate similarly to cardio exercise, but without the added stress on the heart.
In a study where participants were given thermal footbaths, their measured arterial stiffness improved after the treatment. Arterial thickness is what researchers commonly use to predict those at risk for high blood pressure, meaning this modality may lower blood pressure.
Improves Sleep Quality
Interestingly enough, heat therapy encourages better and deeper sleep. According to Horne and Reid (1985), a warm bath before bedtime can encourage sleepiness. This research naturally aligns with our understanding that warmth is very relaxing.
In our fast-paced modern society, we tend to really undervalue sleep. Getting the right amount of quality sleep each night is vital for overall health and wellbeing. It affects everything from how our brain functions to how our muscles recover.
The immune system is a complex and convoluted place that is vital for our survival. It’s a protective mechanism that is our first line of defence against invaders that may try and make us sick. Maintaining a healthy immune system is undoubtedly important.
There aren’t remedies that necessarily target immunity, our body takes care of that itself. However, maintaining overall health with good nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction, and getting quality sleep will contribute to a strong immune system.
Contributes to Healthy Skin
Since heated water improves blood circulation and encourages nutrient absorption and digestion, the skin inherently benefits. Just be sure to make a conscious effort to stay moisturised since pool chlorine tends to dry out the skin. This is especially important during the colder months when skin tends to be more prone to dryness.
Thermal hydrotherapy, also known as balneotherapy, involves water that contains thermal or mineral properties. It is thought to cleanse, tone, and tighten the skin giving it elasticity and firmness and slow body ageing. This practice also aids in remineralizing the skin and body.
HEATED HYDROTHERAPY BENEFITS: PSYCHOLOGICAL & EMOTIONAL HEALTH
There’s a reason why we’re feeling stressed, people may suggest running a warm bubble bath or why a hot tub is seen as the ultimate relaxation space. The warmth and soothing nature of water creates a certain peace of mind.
Additionally, heat can activate nerve endings stimulated to block pain. Meaning, heated therapy may distract the brain and reduce pain. The comforting warmth can stimulate sensory receptors in the skin and decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
Regular exercise, whether it's in a gym or a warm pool, has been shown to have positive effects on memory and mental alertness. It stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. It also tends to increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that's vital for memory and learning.
HEATED HYDROTHERAPY BENEFITS: ATHLETES
To Warm Up
Warming up in a pool before exercise is ideal only in certain situations. While heat therapy is unnecessary for most people before stretching or exercise, it may benefit those with excess scar tissue or those experiencing areas of tightness before a workout. The heat helps increase blood flow to the area and increase tissue elasticity so the muscles are ready to work.
Better Recovery Time
As mentioned above, you may have experienced DOMS in the past. It’s that achy feeling in your muscles that you get about 24 to 48 hours after a tough workout. Researchers agree that heat is more effective for DOMS within this time frame after exercise compared to cold therapy to support muscle repair and recovery
When an athlete can recover quickly and efficiently between training sessions, this will inevitably benefit performance. Recovery between competitions or workouts is essential to any individual’s athletic capacity.
Bear in mind that while the idea of minimising recovery time is alluring, if you don’t give your body the time and attention it needs to recover, you run the risk of doing more damage than good!
Studies have found that heat-based therapies, like a dip in a heated pool, can help restore muscular health after injuries that restrict movement. Warm water therapy may also minimise muscle loss and even enhance the efficiency of muscle contractions.
Generally speaking, swimming is an excellent workout for cardiovascular fitness. If a warm pool helps you stay fit year-round, that is another huge benefit.
HEATED HYDROTHERAPY BENEFITS: MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Firstly, it’s important to seek guidance from a medical professional if you have any of the following medical conditions before beginning any new forms of treatment, including heated water therapy. With that being said, in Western medicine, we have a tendency to rely on prescriptions and invasive surgeries as treatment rather than focusing on prevention, or more holistic forms of treatment.
Water therapy in heated water can be an excellent therapeutic tool for the prevention and management of:
Arthritis: Moist heat is known to loosen stiff joints and soothe sore muscles. The Arthritis Foundation actively suggests warm water therapy for those that suffer from stiff joints.
Muscle Spasms: Muscle spasms can happen anywhere on the body, but are most common in the extremities. However, those with lower back pain in particular may experience muscle spasms in the back muscles.
Thanks to its relaxing properties, moist heat can reduce and eliminate painful muscle spasms. Since spasms can be due to tension, keeping the muscles relaxed and tension-free is a preventative measure against muscle spasms.
Chronic Pain & Tendinosis:Tendinosis is a type of chronic pain that makes tendons and joints feel stiff and painful. Heat therapy can help to relieve those symptoms once the initial inflammation has been treated.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a nasty condition that causes inflammation throughout the body, leading to chronic pain and impacted aspects of life.
In this study, 60 middle-aged women with fibromyalgia completed a 16-week exercise program in a warm water pool. At the end of the study, participants in the treatment group experienced significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia as well as improved cognitive functioning.
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that leads to degeneration of the joints.
Heated hydrotherapy is incredibly beneficial for those with this condition because being in water removes the pressure on joints. To go a step further, warm water soothes any joint inflammation or aches.
Stress: Warm water therapy, and hydrotherapy in general, can reduce stress by calming the central nervous system.
Inflammation & Swelling: Warm water is an excellent solution to tame inflammation and swelling in the body.
Athlete Recovery:For athletes, warm water pool therapy can be especially beneficial following an injury to both maintain cardiovascular endurance and repair damaged tissue. It’s also helpful in reducing DOMS, which is commonly experienced by athletes.
Lower Back Pain: Heat therapy is a widely used treatment method for low back pain. Heat can not only help reduce pain, but heated water creates relief for individuals so that they can exercise and perform rehabilitative movements.
Depression:The benefits of heat therapy go beyond the physical: in patients with depression, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) can produce positive results.
In a 2017 study by Naumann et al., participants were given two hot baths per week for four weeks, while others were given a placebo treatment. In just that short amount of time, the participants who received hot baths showed a marked decrease in depressive symptoms.
HEATED POOLS & WINTER: THINGS TO CONSIDER
While you may now be convinced to rush to the pool to exercise and start reaping all of these incredible benefits, there are some things to think about prior. Our outdoor pools are 28-29 degrees in winter and indoor pools are 32 degrees but in cold weather, it's not always easy to get to the pool and into the heated water, but the health benefits are huge if you do. Some might say it’s even harder to get out. That being said, dress for the weather!
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO AVOID THE CHILL:
As our Germans friends say, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.” The Germans swim outdoors at -18 degrees. This time of year, Australian pools are heated, but we have to be careful to rug up both before and after.
Don't Confuse a Sun Rashie with a Thermal Rashie
A normal rashie in Australia is made for the sun. So when wet, the slightest breeze makes you cooler. Seeing as this is not what we’re going for in winter, look for a thermal rashie that keeps you warm until you warm up.. We recommend a thermal rashie with a zip so that it is easy to take off once you’ve heated up.
For example, the thermal rashies are great in the water to keep your top half toasty until you get moving on your AquaBike. Contact us if you would like one and we can certainly point you in the right direction.
Wear a Hat
A hat is a pro tip we learned from the surfing community; it keeps the heat in. No one wants to be outside in winter with an exposed wet head of hair.
For further Winter tips visit our blog and check out our tips to stay healthy in winter.
Dry Off & Warm Up Quick
Bring plenty of towels for afterwards. Dressing gowns and swim parkas are also great options to put on either when you leave, or even to help you get to the pool in the first place.
SUMMARY: THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF WORKING OUT IN HEATED POOLS
Heated aquatic therapy offers a multidimensional approach to health and wellbeing. It effectively combines the benefits of exercise, heat therapy, and water-based therapy to offer a safe, effective, and holistic health solution for individuals with a wide range of needs. It provides not just a route to physical wellness, but also a path towards improved physical and mental health and overall quality of life.
Whether you’re looking to relieve pain or muscle soreness, increase blood flow, enjoy improved sleep, manage arthritis or reduce depressive symptoms, heat therapy could be an effective and holistic form of treatment.
When combined with specialised aquatic equipment like Hydrorider's AquaBike to control, structure and enable both movement and resistance in heated pools, the results are outstanding. Before beginning any new therapy, it's crucial to consult with professionals to ensure it's the right fit for your specific needs and conditions. For further information, contact Water Resist. See you in the pool.