Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Why The Spa Is Good For You

Indulge your body and soul

I love going to the spa. It’s relaxing and rejuvenating...and I get to indulge my inner princess. Are you with me on this? For most of us, the spa is a little slice of heaven. And a major guilty pleasure.

So, what if I told you that you don’t need to qualify the “pleasure” part of that phrase with the “guilt” part? What if I told you going to the spa was more than just an indulgence? That it’s actually good for you?

I know—pinch me, right? But it’s true: researchers are starting to discover that spa treatments have bona fide health benefits.

Massage therapy has the most research behind it; multiple studies are uncovering a slew of benefits. Research has shown massage therapy to:

  • improve sleep
  • help you recover from a hard workout
  • improve stress & anxiety
  • reduce depression
  • improve cognitive function
  • boost immunity
  • ease headaches
  • reduce blood pressure

Sounds good, right? Now...what of other spa treatments? A recent analysis of the therapeutic use of mineral baths has shown benefit for: chronic low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.

More? Reflexology has been shown to decrease PMS symptoms.

Even more? Aromatherapy was shown to improve insomnia and depression among female college students.

But are we surprised at all this? I, for one, am not. That’s because this is not new for humanity: the earliest civilizations recognized the health boon of spas. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures regularly engaged in ritual purification and bathing in hot or cold springs.  Health spas and resorts became a fashionable trend in the 17th and 18th centuries (think Bath, England, as an example). At various points in history, physicians have routinely prescribed spa attendance and mineral bathing practices. 

But somewhere along the way we lost that health connection. North American spas today seem to focus primarily on aesthetics & pampering. But not exactly on preventive health or medical treatment, per se. In contrast, European spas have retained the health aspect. In fact, spa treatments are often covered by the national health insurance plan in France. (Sigh. Yet another reason to come back to this life re-born as a French woman, no?)

But you don’t need to hop a plane to Europe to enjoy the benefits. My prescription: book that spa visit, for your own good health. (And leave the guilt at home.)