Hydrotherapy: The Soothing Power of Soaking

Stress and tension twisting your body and mind into knots? Slip into asteamy, bubbling hot tub for an instant dose of calm.

Here's how it works: Heat dilates blood vessels, which in turn lowers blood pressure. It also increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients and speeds the elimination of toxins. So a hot tub's combination of warmth and pulsing water jets not only quiets a racing mind, but also alleviates body tension, muscle soreness and joint stiffness. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation touts hot-tubbing to restore range of motion.

"You feel better, at least temporarily," explains C. Barton Moore, M.D., M.P.H., health services director at Sanoviv, a healing retreat in Baja Beach California, Mexico, "Sitting in a hot tub depresses the central nervous system, so you don't get the same signals to the brain that say you're hurt. Chronic pain is also a major risk factor for depression, so anything you can do to reduce chronic pain helps to reduce anxiety and depression. And in many cases, the chronic aches and pains can all benefit from water therapy."

Not surprisingly, the National Sleep Foundation also recommends taking regular dips a few hours before bed to enhance sleep quality. And a small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine even suggests that soaking for 30 minutes each day can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

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Simply put, taking a bath lets you put everything else on hold--if only for a little while. "You can't sit in front of a computer or write notes in a hot tub--though I've seen some try," says Moore. "The point is you're disengaged from the normal hustle and bustle of life long enough to relax."

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