Few people would argue that a home sauna or hot tub will help a person relax, but recent studies may lead some health-conscious bathers to opt for a session in the sauna over a dip in the hot tub.
While the documented benefits of saunas are numerous, these recent studies reveal some health concerns with hot tubs.
One new study reveals that hot tubs can be a breeding ground for many different disease-causing bacteria. Dr. Rita Moyes, a microbiologist at Texas A&M University, tested 43 water samples from both private and public hot tubs. In the samples, bacteria derived from feces were present in 95 percent, fungi were present in 81 percent, and potentially deadly staphylococcus bacteria were present in 34 percent.
To put these findings in another way, Dr. Moyes explained that a teaspoon of tap water contains about 138 bacteria, and many samples contain none. A teaspoon of hot tub water, however, contains about two million bacteria. The interior pipes are not filtered or chemically treated, and poorly maintained hot tubs are prime targets for potentially infectious microbes to congregate. When the jets are turned on, bacteria-packed water gets blown into the tub with the bathers. The bacteria found in hot tubs can lead to a number of diseases, including skin infections, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.
While Dr. Moyes did not address home saunas, they are frequently cited for the many health benefits associated with their use. A German study, for example, found that people who took saunas twice a week got half as many colds as those who didn’t. A study of men in Japan revealed that daily saunas reduced the thickness of blood vessel walls by 40 percent.
In addition, some studies suggest that taking saunas regularly may help people with diabetes and high cholesterol, lower the blood pressure in people with hypertension, alleviate pain in people suffering from rheumatic disease, and improve lung function in people with obstructive pulmonary disease.
Other reliable data indicates that taking saunas can stimulate vital organs and glands, help increase cardiovascular activity, trigger the production of endorphins, accelerate the body’s metabolism and healing functions, and promote positive changes in mood and quality of sleep.
Based on even this small sample of the extensive information available on home saunas and hot tubs, it appears that sauna enthusiasts have good reason to be enthusiastic, while hot tub lovers have valid cause to be concerned.