There’s nothing quite like the lure of water on a hot summer’s day. Watching the sheer joy of children coming down a waterslide or even taking that first big plunge yourself can bring immeasurable satisfaction. Fortunately, in addition to its recreational merits, water has been linked to many therapeutic benefits for both our physical and mental health.
Water-based therapy, also known as aquatic or hydrotherapy, dates back to the time of Ancient Greece when Hippocrates was said to use cold and hot water to treat a variety of diseases. Eventually the Japanese and Romans built therapeutic baths as well, and by the late 19th century, health spas in areas with natural springs were popping up in many parts of the world.
Today, aquatic therapy is commonly used for its numerous physiological effects on the body, including increasing circulation, heart, respiratory and metabolic rate, as well as decreasing blood pressure. For those undergoing therapy, the result can be less pain and muscle spasms and more range of motion, or increased strength, power and endurance.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, water-based exercises are extremely beneficial to people with chronic diseases like arthritis. In fact, research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis have more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy than with any other activities. Exercises using water have also been shown to improve joint pain associated with osteoarthritis.
When it comes to mental health, not only is swimming known to boost our moods, parents of children with developmental disabilities say that it improves family connections. Research also shows that the sounds of waves alter the pattern of our own brain waves resulting in a calmer state. It’s the reason, people often sit by a body of water to meditate or simply relax.
Salt of the earth
With its array of vital trace elements, vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids, it’s not surprising that sea water in particular has been linked to many health benefits. Salt water has been shown to have positive effects on psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. With its natural buoyancy warm sea water is believed to increase circulation and relax muscles, while cool sea water may help to calm nerves.
Salt water can also be beneficial in clearing congestion due to colds and allergies in babies and adults. And for those who can’t make it to the ocean, an all-natural saline solution administered through the nose can be a viable alternative.
Even in health and wellness spas today, salt water is a common ingredient used for head to toe treatments. So don’t be afraid to take the plunge. Your body and brain will thank you.
A toast to water
As beneficial as it is externally, drinking enough water (eight glasses is recommended) is also essential to good health. Water helps with digestion and circulation, flushes out toxins and helps keep the joints lubricated. Many people swear by water as a natural moisturizer for the skin. Research also suggests that water promotes weight loss because it suppresses appetite. Still, be wary of specialty waters that carry only trace vitamin elements and have enough added sugar to negate the health perks.