Hot tubs can be a relaxing way to unwind at the end of a long day. They are also a great tool to soothe sore muscles after an intense training session at the gym. But can sitting in a hot tub burn calories and help with weight loss?
You can burn calories just by sitting in a hot tub, but it will not be much higher than just sitting in a chair. The number of extra calories burned is not significant enough to aid weight loss. However, although losing weight may not be one of them there are other health benefits.
If you are considering investing in a hot tub or spend a lot of time soaking in hot water, you might have some questions about the potential health benefits. Read on to discover how a hot tub can impact your weight loss goals.
Sweating alone will not burn calories
Given the relationship between working out and sweating, it might be reasonable to assume that sweating has a direct correlation with burning calories. However, this is not the case. Different people sweat at different rates depending on several factors:
- Hydration levels.
Because sweat is not an indicator of effort or calories burned, simply raising the body temperature will not have a significant impact on the rate at which the body uses energy.
This is not to say you burn no calories sitting in a hot tub. The average 150-pound person will burn around 34 calories for every 20 minutes spent lounging in hot water. However, this is not a significant increase from the average of 23 calories burned by sitting sedentary on a couch or chair.
Calorie burn can be increased by moving around while in a hot tub, as the water will provide a much higher level of resistance than moving through air. But the bottom line is that having a long soak in warm water will not increase your calorie burn unless you are expending effort and using up your body’s store of energy.
Other health benefits of hot tubs
Hot tubs are not a magic bullet for weight loss. But while they will not rapidly increase your metabolism, there are other health benefits to consider:
- Widens blood vessels
- Takes pressure off joints
- Relaxes muscles
- Eases stress
When viewed holistically, hot tubs can be seen as potential health tools. While they are not very useful for calorie burning, they do provide other benefits.
Widen blood vessels
When heat is applied to the body, blood vessels can expand. This allows a large volume of blood to move through each blood vessel, which in turn allows more nutrients and oxygen to reach limbs and extremities.
Increased vascular function is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular health issues and may help reduce risk overall. This is not to say hot tubs can replace exercise when thinking about long-term heart health, but they can act as a supplement. Particularly for those who have physical limitations that limit their workouts.
Take pressure off joints
The increased buoyancy people experience in hot water can also contribute to joint health. The lack of pressure on sensitive joints such as knees, hips, and ankles can provide relief to those suffering from arthritis and other joint ailments.
The heat of the water, in addition to the decreased pressure on joints, can help increase flexibility and diminish stiffness. This allows for a broader range of motion and more comfort during daily activities.
One well-known benefit of hot tubs is the relaxing effect the hot water has on tense and tired muscles. The heat combined with the massaging action of water jets loosens tightness in the back and legs, loosening and relaxing knots.
There might also be some evidence suggesting that a soak before a workout can help prevent injury by warming muscles and allowing more flexibility. You are warming up pre-workout to get your muscles ready for more intense activity.
Hot tubs can also have a profound impact on mental state. Some research suggests that sitting in a hot tub can help relieve mental stress and release endorphins that improve mood. This benefit is heightened when a friend or loved one joins you for a dip.
Benefits of heat and exercise
Sitting and relaxing in a hot tub alone is not an effective weight-loss strategy. But hot tubs can be employed to help make workouts more efficient and effective in aiding weight loss.
Training in hot water can:
- Reduce impact on joints
- Help train for endurance
- Help with injury recovery
- Have psychological benefits
Also, as mentioned above, aerobic exercises performed in heat can exacerbate calorie burning.
Reduce impact on joints
Running, high intensity tactical training, and other intense workouts on land can put a huge strain on joints over time. Whether you are coping with joint pain or simply want to protect your body, working out in water allows you to exercise without damaging your hips, knees, or ankles.
Additionally, the hot water of a hot tub can have a soothing impact on joints. If pain is preventing you from working out, building a routine, you can do in a hot tub both treats the pain and reduces pressure, allowing you to build muscle and strength.
Help train for endurance
There is a reason hot yoga has become so popular in recent years. Exercising in the heat can help you build endurance more quickly. As you increase strain in the heat, your body acclimates to the new temperature. Your cardiovascular system works overtime to increase blood flow, and over time, becomes more efficient working in all temperatures.
Heat training can also increase your lactate threshold. In other words, working out in the heat can help you increase the amount of lactic acid your body can absorb before it begins to accumulate in the muscles. Lactate is created during aerobic exercise and is the chemical that causes you to feel pain and tiredness in your muscles.
Help with injury recovery
The heat of a hot tub and the movement of water from the jets can help recovery from an injury.
I can certainly confirm this as some years ago I had an accident while policing and broke my upper arm and elbow very badly, requiring lots of metalwork to put it all back together again. When it came out of a cast I had very little movement in my elbow, so, as well as physiotherapy, I also went in my hot tub twice a day and exercised my elbow in the stream produced by having all of the jet power switched to one jet. I regained more movement than my surgeon and physiotherapist expected and quicker too.
If you subject yourself to somewhat extreme conditions, such as heat, while working out, other forms of exercise start to feel easier. Getting yourself comfortable with feeling uncomfortable can help you overcome mental hurdles when doing other workouts. Push yourself (within reason), and you will be able to burn more calories while training.
Staying safe in hot tubs
If you are going to work out in a hot tub or plan to spend a lot of time splashing around and enjoying the benefits of the hot water, be sure to stay safe! You should:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Be sure the hot tub has been regularly cleaned.
- Check-in with yourself – if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, get out and cool off.
- When in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Hot tubs are not recommended for pregnant women or people who already suffer from cardiovascular distress. The widening of blood vessels can decrease blood pressure and put unnecessary strain on the heart. It is always a good idea to check in with a doctor if you have concerns and wait to take a dip until you have the all-clear.
Hot Tub Maintenance Course
I bought this course some months after I bought my first hot tub and was struggling with maintaining it. It was money very well spent and it has paid for itself many times over the years.
There is no question that being in a hot tub can be a relaxing, fun, and enjoyable experience. Sitting in a hot tub will not help you lose weight, but the other benefits to your overall health can make time spent enjoying the hot tub worth it. Hot tubs can keep you relaxed, limber, and ready to take on the world.
Working out in a hot tub can be an effective way to increase the efficiency of your workouts, burn more calories, and meet your fitness goals. Try one out at your local gym or spa to see if it works for you!