We all know getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress are essential to our health. But with the constant demands of our busy lifestyles, accomplishing any of those activities may seem like an impossible feat—and can cause us to feel even more stressed. Luckily, there’s a way you can relax, sleep better, work out, and enhance your overall well-being all at the same time. Learn how a hot tub or swim spa can improve your health, and discover the best options for your budget and space.
Photo courtesy of Jacuzzi Hot Tubs
Hydrotherapy & Aquatic Exercise
Hot tubs promote both physical and mental health through warm water therapy, or hydrotherapy. The combination of heat, buoyancy, and massage jets increases circulation, loosens and relaxes stiff muscles, and stimulates the release of endorphins (your body’s natural painkillers). Numerous studies have shown that regularly soaking in a hot tub or spa for 15 – 20 minutes can alleviate muscle and joint pain, reduce stress, help control blood sugar, and promote deeper sleep.
Hot tubs also provide a low-impact environment for exercise: Because you weigh only 10 percent of your actual body weight in water, there is less pressure on your joints. The low-impact environment is ideal for arthritis and fibromyalgia patients, as well as runners who may have suffered knee injuries. Water’s resistance also forces your muscles to work harder, making aquatic exercise an effective activity for strength training and endurance. Performing mild exercises in warm water (100 – 102 degrees F) is a soothing and gentle way to tone, strengthen, and rehabilitate muscles. (Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise routine.)
Swim spas allow for these same health benefits because they are a combination of a hot tub and swimming pool; they feature a swim current at one end and therapeutic jets at the opposite end. In addition to loosening muscles against the pulsating jets, you can swim laps in the convenience of your own backyard and in a fraction of the space of a pool. Swim spas can be used for many fitness activities including swimming, running or walking in place, and aquatic workouts using water weights, swim fins, resistance bands, and buoyancy belts. Some models even have deep water wells that add 2 feet to the depth of the spa, allowing for even more activities such as deep water running.
Choosing a Hot Tub or Swim Spa
Hot tubs can be used for personal benefits of relaxation and hydrotherapy, but you may also want to use them for entertaining, so it’s important to consider how many people you’d like your model to seat. Hot tubs range in size from two- and three-person models to styles that can accommodate up to 12 people and cost $2,000 – $15,000, respectively. Most hot tubs feature jetted seats with a combination of therapy, pulsating, laser, and swirl jets to provide different types of massage; some offer adjustable jetting which allows each user to control and vary the pressure of his or her massage.
Swim spas are larger and deeper than hot tubs, but offer a compact, self-contained alternative to a swimming pool. The smallest models typically feature therapy jets and a built-in bench at the opposite end of the current and start at $18,000. Mid-size and large units begin around $25,000 – $35,000. Some of these models offer a separate four- to five-person hot tub area and feature two thermostats so that people can relax in the hot tub portion while one person swims against the current.
Swim spas are ideal for swimmers, athletes, and moderate exercisers alike because the swim current can be adjusted to a wide range of speeds just like a treadmill. Also, the larger space allows a variety of aquatic exercises to be performed. A swim spa is a great alternative for those who don’t have the space or budget to install a swimming pool.
Photo courtesy of SwimEx, Inc.
Choosing Features and Accessories
A number of options can be added to hot tubs and swim spas to enhance your experience. Water features such as waterfalls, fountains, or laminar jets offer the soothing sound of falling water, which can help induce relaxation. Aromatherapy systems release scents that can stimulate the part of the brain that affects emotion and can counteract anxiety, stress, pain, and fatigue. Entertainment systems like surround sound, iPod/MP3 player docking stations, and pop-up TV/DVD players create the perfect atmosphere for socializing with family and friends. Additionally, LED lighting gives illumination for evening soaks and can provide the perfect ambience for a romantic rendezvous or festive gathering.
For fitness buffs, spa fitness equipment such as aquatic dumbbells, webbed gloves, ankle weights, and noodles can be used in both hot tubs and swim spas to help tone and strengthen muscles. Swim spas can also accommodate underwater treadmills, bikes, row machines, and tensor cords, which provide a variety of options for a comprehensive aquatic exercise program.
Selecting a Site
Hot tubs and swim spas can be installed indoors or outside. An indoor setup is a good option if you plan to use the hot tub or swim spa year-round or prefer a little privacy; however, a licensed contractor will need to install a ventilation system and floor drains to prevent moisture damage. Another option you may want to consider is placing the spa next to your back door, which offers convenient access during chilly weather. This requires less preparation than installing your spa indoors: all you need is a spa pad or concrete slab to create a level surface beneath the spa.
You can also install your hot tub or swim spa on a patio or deck; you’ll just need to make sure the foundation can support more than the filled weight of the spa. Hot tubs typically require approximately 150 psi (pounds per square inch) while swim spas need at least 200 psi. If you’d like the spa to be inground or partially recessed you’ll need to have the area excavated, which will add to the cost. Installing your spa on a patio or deck is great for socializing or outdoor entertaining because you’ll be right in the middle of the action. If relaxation is what you’re after, consider placing the spa in a quiet corner of the yard. Housing the hot tub or swim spa in a gazebo can help create a more private setting and will also provide protection from inclement weather.
Photo courtesy of Master Spas, Inc., and Oyster Bay Beach Resort, St. Marteen
Maintaining Your Spa
Hot tubs and swim spas require similar maintenance as a pool. This includes covering the spa when not in use, cleaning the filter, and testing the water’s chemical levels on a regular basis to ensure proper balance. Most manufacturers offer a variety of automatic water care options for their models, including ozonators, ionizers, and mineral systems. These systems will automatically disperse sanitizer into the water; you’ll just need to add a small amount of primary sanitizer (usually bromine or biguanide) to maintain a residual.
No matter which model, features, or location you choose, a hot tub or swim spa can help you achieve a healthy lifestyle.