The Burning Truth About The Hot Tub Diet

man in hot tub outside

Have you heard? Apparently, research recently found that lounging in a hot tub for an hour burns the same number of calories as a half-hour walk. While I’m all for shortcuts from time-to-time, research like this really makes my blood boil. Hmm … perhaps that’s a good thing? Maybe I’m burning the same number of calories as a full hour walk with the “passive heating” I’m experiencing from my frustration!

Don’t get me wrong; research is great and seeking to understand how the body is affected by any number of stimulants is fantastic. Passive heating for human health is a newer field of research with interesting insight. Studies through the years have uncovered passive heating’s ability to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke (in men), improve cardiovascular function, treat high blood pressure, improve peripheral circulation in people with type 2 diabetes, and positively affect metabolism through control of blood sugar. Exploring these findings is certainly admirable, and perhaps, life-changing for folks who cannot exercise. But, when articles (even in jest) suggest that a soak is equal to “earned” sweat, the sound bite becomes sexier than the study.

Should We All Chill Out?

“What’s the harm?” you ask. Well, let’s see … there are more obese and under fit people now, than ever before. We are more time-crunched, stressed out, and sedentary than we’ve ever been. And, society heralds the #hack. So, when people read about a new way to bypass moving their bodies to burn calories and try alternative possibilities to lose weight, two things inevitably happen: 1. It still doesn’t work and they become even more disenfranchised, thus the start–stop cycle continues; or they abandon their efforts all together. And 2. They completely miss the point that moving your body is more important than burning calories ever was or will be.

Here’s the reality: Sure, calories in vs. calories out has a lot to do with whether or not you lose (or control) your weight. But, moving your body in any way and as often as you can will do you more good than finding the quickest calorie-burn, regardless of how it’s accomplished. It’s more important for us to continue discussing the connection between sitting and sinking (sinking into the grave, that is). You should be scared SIT-less, not looking for ways to get fit while you’re on your ass.

The Real Secret

I don’t care if you ever run a marathon, or bench press your body weight. I don’t even care if your heart rate ever gets past a moderate intensity. I would just love for you to find something that involves moving that makes your heart sing. See, that’s the issue. We’ve placed all these constraints on exercise. It has to be in this way, for this many minutes, and, oh yeah, no pain, no gain. And that’s just not true.

We’ve made exercise a sport. And all this has done is gotten the fit fitter and the fat fatter. It’s time we started writing more about all the different ways you can “exercise” and expanding our definition of what falls under this heading. Perhaps, even exchange the word exercise for movement. Then, become aware of all the things you get in the moment from moving your body, versus it being a means to an end. People crave immediate results, and as long as we are dangling a carrot far down the path, exercise will be a chore. It’s important it becomes a daily gift. Read NO Sweat and you’ll see what I mean.

Let’s be honest, a good hot tub session now and again—bring it on. And knowing it burns a good number of calories makes me even happier. But, let’s not trade in our afternoon walks for the hot tub and think they are netting the same thing. They’re both relaxing, and both burn some calories, but the walk will give you more years in your life to enjoy many more soak sessions. And that’s what really matters!

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, and BOSU® over the last 20 years. As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable, a member of the ACE Board of Directors, is the owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool, and Balletone®.