Studies show that it’s difficult to lose weight and keep it off. Each year, 50 million Americans begin a diet, but research shows that only one to five percent of them are able to keep lost weight off.
Doctors recommend that the best way to effectively lose weight and attain general health is to adopt healthy habits like exercising regularly, reducing alcohol consumption, managing stress and making good food choices.
Stress is a leading cause of weight gain, giving way to unhealthy habits. In addition to the recommendations above, hot tub use can be a great way to manage stress. We will discuss how warm water hydrotherapy can abate stress and increase your wellbeing.
How Stress Makes Us Fat
Cortisol is a hormone that is released as as response to environmental signals. When faced with threats, cortisol helps our bodies and minds make an important decision known as fight or flight. This system was very beneficial to our ancestors who encountered stress intermittently. They would experience extreme hunger or fear when fighting or being chased by another animal.
In this day and age, most people in America deal with a different kind of stress – a low-grade cortisol response that’s activated by a combination of pressures from work, home life and finances. While as a culture, we’re not regularly concerned with life-threatening events like bear attacks, for example, this low-grade stress is actually worse for our bodies than extreme, intermittent stress.
It’s linked to conditions like obesity, a direct cause of heart disease, the number one killer in the United States. An on-going study by the American Psychological Association describes constant stress as Americans’ new normal, with 20% of US nationals rating their stress as an 8 or 9 on a 10-point scale. In addition, Columbia University’s First World Happiness Report puts the United States at #25 worldwide for happiness.
Constant stress leads to weight gain
- Fatty, salty foods are available everywhere. Our bodies are programmed to experience pleasure when consuming these high-calorie foods, so it’s no surprise that many of us self-medicate with unhealthy food.
- You’ve probably heard that muscle weighs more than fat, but did you know that muscle actually burns more calories than fat? The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn, and the more fat you have, the fewer calories you can burn. To make matters worse, cortisol can block the release of testosterone, a hormone essential to building new muscle.
- When cortisol is released, it signals the body to store fat, in particular deep abdominal fat. This type of fat receives more blood flow from the body and has more cortisol receptors than other types of fat.
How Spa Use Lowers Stress Levels
When we lower our stress levels, it’s easier to relax. When we’re relaxed, we take better care of ourselves with exercise and time with friends. Think of your hot tub as a tool to lower your stress level and make room mentally, emotionally and physically for good habits and experiences.
Owners of hot tubs rave about the benefits of hot tub use. An owner of a HotSpring Grandee® tweeted “My spa gives me that “gone to heaven” feeling! #HotSpringSpas”.
Another customer and owner of a HighLife Sovereign® says “My husband and I look forward to our relaxing, quality time together in the spa about 5 nights a week! Hydrotherapy is a wonderful thing!”
These owners are aware of the physiological changes they’ve experienced with warm water immersion. Our hearts are able to beat with increased power and steadiness thanks to the heat and additional buoyancy. Our blood vessels’ circulation improves, delivering oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. Overall, we feel better.
In addition, we experience slowed-breathing when the heart beats more easily. If you’ve ever taken a yoga or meditation class, you know that slow, controlled breathing has a calming effect – and it’s not just in our minds. Deep breathing actually reduces cortisol secretion. With less cortisol in your body, your cravings for sweet and salty foods will reduce.
Did you know that millions of Americans struggle to get to sleep at least one night per week? If you’ve ever soaked in a hot tub, you know just how relaxed you feel afterwards. Now just imagine being able to do that each evening before crawling into bed. Falling asleep faster and increasing the quality of your sleep will help you wake refreshed in the morning and stay out of the fridge in the middle of the night.
Time to Relax
Cognitive behaviorist from the University of Utah, Dr. David Strayer, is a firm believer that time in nature is necessary to relax the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is thought of as the command center and can become exhausted when there’s too much cortisol in the body.
A similar study by Japanese researchers tested the effects of time spent in forests on subjects, compared to time spent in cities. They sent 84 subjects into a total of seven different forests, while 84 others were sent to various city centers. Not surprisingly, they recorded a 16 percent decrease in cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate in the forest explorers. With that in mind, you should know that only in ten American teens spends time outside everyday, with the majority of parents spending the vast amount of their time indoors as well.
While some people keep their hot tubs inside, the majority of owners keep them outside on a patio or pool deck. For these people, time spent soaking offers time to admire the harmony of the trees, birds and flowers in their area. If you take a few minutes to just observe, you may be surprised at the little wonders living right in your backyard.