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Healthy heating

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Healthy heating

Getting into hot water could result in significant health benefits for some people.

Associate Professor Jim Cotter and assistant research fellow Ashley Akerman (School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences), and Dr Kate Thomas and Professor Andre van Rij (Department of Surgical Sciences) are researching the health benefits from heat – such as spa bathing – for people who suffer from peripheral arterial disease.

Cotter explains that sufferers struggle with physical activity because it causes muscle pain and fatigue in the legs, but this becomes a vicious circle as the lack of exercise leads to further deterioration.

He says that heat induced by physical activity is known to provide significant health benefits, and they want to determine the benefits of using heat from bathing as a stressor to improve health and physical capability.

The researchers are working with people who suffer mild to moderate disease. “They spend half an hour in a spa several times a week, get changed to keep warm and perform some resistance exercises,” Akerman explains.

He says that tests of cardiovascular and metabolic health and some physical capability are performed before and after six and 12 weeks of the heat and exercise regime, to see how they fare compared with patients attending a walking-only group.

Thomas, who is also a vascular technologist, stresses that physical exercise is still the best medicine if people are able to undertake it because of the wider health benefits of exercise.

A Lottery Health Research grant is supporting the research.

Photo: Graham Warman