Study: Spas Can Make You Physically, Emotionally Healthier


A new study shows that a week-long spa retreat offers more than just relaxation and pampering—it can improve one's physical and emotional health. 

New research from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital evaluated 15 participants before and after their visit to We Care Spa, a health and wellness spa in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., and found the program was safe and helped to improve the participants’ health. Their complete findings will be available in the December issue of Integrative Medicine, A Clinician’s Journal.

“Programs such as these have never before been formally evaluated for their safety and physiological effects,” says Andrew Newberg, MD, director of research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and lead author on the study.

The authors' pilot study is one of the first to attach scientific data to the outcomes of a health and wellness spa stay. The week-long program included diet modification, meditation and colonic hydrotherapy, voluntarily participation in low-risk Hatha and Vishnu flow-yoga programs, and a juice-fast cleansing very low calorie diet of about 800 calories per day. Stress management was provided through daily structured meditation and yoga programs as well as time for personal meditation encouraging deep breathing, heightened awareness and a calming effect.

The study evaluated 13 women and two men between the ages of 21 and 85 with no history of significant medical, neurological or psychological conditions, and the results showed that undergoing a spa program resulted in a weight decline of an average of 6.8 pounds, a 7.7% decrease in diastolic blood pressure as well as a decrease in mercury, sodium and chloride levels and a 5.2% decline in cholesterol level and mean Body Mass Index (BMI). Cholesterol level decline seemed to be curiously associated with a decline in HDLs, the good-for-you, high-density lipoproteins, which is of some concern, though they remained within the range regarded as beneficial. Hemoglobin increased 5.9%. No statistically significant changes in liver or thyroid function and no EKG changes were noted.

No serious adverse effects were reported by any individual, but the study noted changes in the participants’ sodium and chloride concentrations, suggesting that those interested in going to a spa program should check with their physician to make sure they do not have any medical problems or medications that could put them at risk for electrolyte disturbances.

Improvements in anger, tension, vigor, fatigue and confusion were also noted as was a statistically significant improvement in anxiety and depression levels measured by the Speilberger Anxiety Scale and the Beck Depression Index. Participants also reported significant changes in their feelings about spirituality and religiosity.


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