New study finds hot water soaks may help with poor leg circulation
June 18, 2019 – The longer I’m in the hot tub industry, I feel like I’ve heard about the benefits of hot water soaking with nearly every condition or ailment known to man. Today, I came across yet another new study pointing to the potential benefit of hot water soaks teamed up with exercise in relation to peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
Admittedly, until I came across this report, I had never really heard of PAD. And it appears I’m not alone. While there is data suggesting about 8.5 million people are affected by this disorder, only one in four Americans are even aware of it!
What is PAD? This is a condition that occurs when the vessels supplying blood flow to your legs experience a buildup of cholesterol. Left untreated, blood flow to the legs will either slow or in some cases halt altogether. If you experience pain or cramping when you walk, sores or ulcers on your legs that take an unusual amount of time to heal, feel your legs and they are cool to the touch, or notice a loss of leg muscle, they’re all symptoms of PAD.
Naturally, changes in diet that will lower cholesterol intake is important should you end up diagnosed with the condition. And, if you’re a smoker (I hope you’re not for other reasons!), it’s yet another very good critical reason to stop.
One prescribed treatment to help combat the symptoms of PAD is regular exercise. In the study recently completed, some participants were asked to incorporate soaking in hot water at a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit for a half hour in addition to 30 minutes of exercise. They were asked to adopt this regimen three to five times a week. A second study group was asked to incorporate physical walking and resistance training for 90-minute periods twice a week.
At the completion of the study period, there was no real beneficial difference between those who just did physical activity and resistance training and those who were on the exercise/hot water soak combination.
One reason hot water could be beneficial is the increased circulation experienced during a soak. There’s plenty of data out there about the benefits of hot tubbing improving circulation while naturally lowering blood pressure. Improved blood flow to your legs will not only help combat PAD but make it even easier to walk.
It seemed obvious to me that during this study they might want to ask some participants to soak for a period, then walk while still in hot water. Since PAD makes it difficult for patients to walk without pain, adding the buoyancy you experience while in hot water could very well make it easier to get some of that required physical activity in while there’s less stress on knees and ankles. Even so, adding hot water to the mix improved participants’ ability to walk by an average of 10%. That may not seem like much, but to someone navigating ways to overcome a disorder like PAD, it would certainly be a help—both physically and emotionally.
The results of this were viewed by some as encouraging, while others felt that because the study group was small, more research was necessary. Still, if you’re someone who suffers from PAD, it might be a worthwhile discussion with your medical provider to see if hot tub soaks could help relieve some of your pain and get you back on a path to better health and well-being.
If you’re interested about reading more on this, you can check out the study published in the American Journal of Physiology. You can also learn more about peripheral arterial disease by visiting the American Heart Association.