A new spate of research is focusing on the benefits of
aquatic and hot water therapy, covering topics from
psychology to knee pain.
“We love research — the more data, the
better,” said Kathleen Carlson, senior vice
president of sales and marketing at Aqua Quip, a
Seattle-based Pool & Spa News Top Builder.
“We could use it in our sales presentations, [but]
I think there’s a larger advantage to the industry
to use it to market the category.”
She thinks this research is a direct result of the
slowdown the spa industry has seen across the board in the
past year. “If you have any decline in an
industry, then the smart people try to figure out why and
what can be done to counteract it,” she said.
Among the pending projects is a two-year study conducted
by Dr. Bruce Becker, a professor at Washington State
University in Pullman. Becker will observe the
physiological changes that underpin feelings of pleasure
and relaxation experienced by most spa users.
“When someone slips into a hot tub, you see a
look of relief,” Becker said. “There is
something about the water that is biologically healing and
In his study, patients will be submerged in three
increasingly warm hot tubs. Factors such as blood pressure
and heart rate will be recorded to determine the
subjects’ stress levels.
His investigation is one of several studies that have
recently emerged, each of which focus on a different health
benefit of hot water therapy. At the forefront is the
National Swimming Pool Foundation, which is partly funding
“There’s a gap in the information on
how effective a hot tub would be in terms of heart health,
respiratory health and basic relaxation,” said
Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of Colorado Springs,
Colo.-based NSPF. “Our mission is to encourage
healthier living through aquatic research. On my desk, I
have a million dollars’ worth of grant
Among the research proposals:
- Researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington
want to conduct a scientific review of the existing
literature on the psychological benefits of immersion
- At the University of Nevada, Dr. Mary Sanders is
curious about how training in water can help a person
be more effective in land-based activities.
- Dr. Steven Blair, a professor at the University of
South Carolina, aims to examine data on patients who
are also swimmers.
- The NSPF studies are not alone. Most recently, the
American Physical Therapy Association completed its
research on knee-replacement patients, which was
facilitated with the help of the Association of Pool
& Spa Professionals.
“Their research showed that those patients who
received hot tub therapy in addition to traditional,
land-based therapy showed more improvement in terms of pain
and swelling, and improved flexibility,” said
Lauren Stack, director of marketing and promotions for the
Alexandria, Va.-based trade association.
“They also reported that they have overall
increased mobility, which may allow more people who receive
total knee replacement the opportunity to return to normal
activity faster,” she added.
Spa and pool professionals, meanwhile, are hopeful that
the information will be of practical value to the