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Hydrotherapy, social wellness, and longevity – a re-think for the Spa experience. Written By: Alina M. Hernandez

Image: Libra Edge by Gharieni Group


Our fascination with water is as old as humanity. The idea of “taking the waters,” in all its modalities has encompassed an integral part of health and wellbeing intertwined with social and political norms from ancient times to the now immense post-modern revival of urban bathing, thermal resorts, and the proliferation of water-based treatments. We are in a new era of Salutem per Aquam or Health by Water!

 

We all know that “hydro” means water, and the common interpretation is that, in the Spa and Wellness space, this means a treatment or experience involving water. According to Medical News Today, Hydrotherapy means “using water as therapy in any form.”

 

What about thinking of Hydrotherapy from a much wider lens than just a list of therapies, and their benefits? Taking inspiration from its rich past, looking at the needs of today, and envisioning the future, we look at hydrotherapy from the connectivity to other big megatrends in our industry – the link to social wellness and the longevity quest. Here’s a closer look.

 

Revisiting Hydrotherapy


Bioengineering and applied science


According to the Textbook on Natural Medicine (5th edition, 2020), “Hydrotherapy methods are very diverse, can be applied in many different forms of water, such as solid, liquid or vapor. The thermal, mechanical, and chemical effects of water can be used individually or in combination to stimulate the skin organ, through which the body's systems are affected through a reflex mechanism.”

Hydrotherapy is the translation of a lot of science. It is based on several important bioengineering principles that permit the design and development of aquatic exercise devices, techniques, and programs. Hydrotherapy applies the general physical properties of water, including hydrothermal (conduction, radiation, convection, heat evaporation), hydrodynamics (float, mechanical impact, hydrostatic pressure) and hydrochemistry (aeration of carbon dioxide, minerals, chemicals...).


As a complement to standard allopathic treatment protocols


Many definitions of Hydrotherapy are referenced in terms of a form of therapy or rehabilitation in the allopathic or clinical context. Traditionally it has been thought of as a protocol to “fix” or mitigate an existing health problem. Balneotherapy, for example is the “treatment of disease by bathing in mineral springs.” Water therapy uses include hot or cold, water pressure and flow varying according to treatment outcomes – always with the intention to impact both physical and mental symptoms and issues. These include:

  

  • Injury recovery to muscles and tendons.

  • Support of immune function + DETOX allowing the lymphatic system to do its job better for more efficient elimination of toxins. This can also be delivered through technologies in different “Vichy” showers that apply water pressure from the shower head to massage and apply lymphatic drainage techniques.

  • Relief from stress states and pain symptoms - increasing the release of endorphins in the body – natural anxiety and stress states busters.

  • Hydrotherapy pool-based exercise for those who without the support of water immersion would be unable to exercise outside a swimming pool.

 

Applied to the Spa and Wellness context, Hydrotherapy provides an important center of wellness activities that promotes healing, supports disease prevention, and provides great enjoyment and wellbeing.

 

Hydrotherapy as a unifying element in Social Wellness


Images provided from (left to right): Aufguss Experience - Anada, Cold bucket shower -The Bath House (London), Snow room experience -TechnoAlpin Indoor


According to the latest data, society is fast approaching a time when an average of a quarter of the population will be living alone. This is unwelcome news for the single most crucial factor for wellbeing – Social Wellness! It is also an opportunity to re-think and innovate wet areas in the spa to encourage Social Wellness to flourish.


As the rise of living alone continues, mitigating the loneliness epidemic with Hydrotherapy group spaces that invite health and emotional well-being through social Wellness is a vital component to our wellbeing! Spas have a key role to play in introducing people to the benefits of Hydrotherapy in its many programmatic and group guest treatment experiences - offering abundant opportunities for nudging people into social wellness.


Think the experience of Aufguss, accompanied with music or other “event” sauna elements, and thermal pools that inspire spontaneous conversations around the whirlpools or massage jets. Enter the world of Social Wellness in a spa, and one of its primary drivers is experience with water, in all its forms.

Hydrotherapy activities that promote social wellness include:


Aquatic exercise as a low impact form of physical activity, which typically takes place in a pool using specialist equipment.


Saunas, cryo chambers, snow rooms and showers can be both wet and dry heat saunas, or cold rooms all using various water therapy technologies which involve sitting in a room set to a specific temperature with either humid or dry air.


Water circuit therapy or Contrast Hydrotherapy involves going through a few different forms of hydrotherapy one after the other, alternating between warm and cold water to promote circulation, support healthy metabolic function and help ease symptoms.


Immersion therapies and experiences are those that involve a person immersing themselves in different pools, or natural bodies of water. They include hot tubs with jet massages, thermal pools, whirlpool baths, and Kneipp treatment protocols.

 

 

The Fountain of Youth is more than a number.

If the spa is a place where people go to receive treatment in pursuit of wellness, thanks to its fundamental principles embodied in “Health by Water,” Wellness has been transformed into a contemporary and multidimensional approach to better health. This involves a full faceted lifestyle where emphasis is quality of life or health span. Today, we know that while most people want to live a long life, they want to do so with a high degree of wellbeing.


Add water to improve health spans.

 

According to Medical News Today, most of our human body is water, after all – with ranges between 45 to 75% and settling on an average of 60% - depending on sex, age, and hydration levels. Proof-positive on the symbiotic relationship that we have with water.

 

Studies point to new applications of Hydrotherapy as favorable in the anti-aging mechanism or better tolerance to stress levels Hydrotherapy proved to be a positive stimulus for the enzymatic antioxidant activity of the elderly… inducing better and higher quality of life.”


According to spa historian, Professor JP De Vierville, in “North America, Kneipp therapies formed the foundations for modern Naturopathy,” and are “used in prevention or to help with overall personal wellness – to increase happiness levels…or even help with fatigue, memory and attention.”  


Research from the University of Washington, in Quantum Biology, is showing that structured water helps drive electric and frequency information throughout our body – pointing to even more compelling implications for the benefits of hydrotherapy, and water’s healing properties.


Rethinking your Hydrotherapy Offering


In the quest for elevated guest experiences in the spa space – ones that deliver more fun, delight, and evidence-based benefits to the Wellness seeker, think combining two megatrends to deliver fresh perspectives on Hydrotherapy, within the context of the emergence of Touchless Wellness. This can inspire new guest journeys, mind/body technologies, protocols, and fresh ways to communicate programming to both service providers and their guests.


Combine needs for connectivity with the desire to curate lifestyle choices that support not just living longer but living better.



Written By: Alina M. Hernandez, Award-winning Wellness Innovator/Advisory Board Member, Touchless Wellness Association, and the Gharieni Group


 


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1 Comment


Absolutely love this perspective on hydrotherapy! 🌊 It’s fascinating to see how water can connect us to our past while promoting social wellness and longevity in today's world. Excited for the future of spa experiences that prioritize both healing and community! 💧✨

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