Image above: Australia’s Peninsula Hot Springs, courtesy Global Wellness Summit
When my wife and I visited Saratoga Springs, New York a couple of decades ago, most of our fellow visitors were there for activities like betting at the racetrack or seeing a concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. We, on the other hand, were among the few who wanted to partake of the town’s founding raison d’etre: the mineral baths and waters that came from those springs.
We definitely felt more relaxed after taking a mineral bath. But tasting the waters that bubbled from numerous fountains around town, many labeled for their presumed healthful effects, did very little for us. We wondered whether drinking those waters could be like drinking the Kool-Aid, that phrase that means buying into quackery of one sort or another.
Likewise, the term “wellness” can cover a wide variety of practices and products, some of which we’d also view with skepticism.
In "12 Wellness Trends for 2023," a 150-page report released earlier this month by the Global Wellness Summit (GWS), GWS chair and CEO Susie Ellis says 2019 was the “highwater mark of the hyper-consumerist, product-flooded wellness market [with] “so many evidence-challenged trends a minute.” But now, she says, the wellness market has become “more serious and science-backed, but also more social and sensory.”
The report also goes into depth on, yes, hot springs resorts, which have now become a big travel trend. The group’s researchers predict annual growth rates of 18% through 2025 for thermal and mineral spas.
But exactly what is their medical benefit? The report cites a doctor’s view: “The ever-expanding scientific body supports the use of these waters as an aspect of a comprehensive treatment for a variety of ailments like anxiety, burnout, joint pain, cardiovascular issues and more,” says Dr. Marcus Coplin, a naturopathic medical doctor and medical director of The Springs Resort in Colorado and Murrieta Hot Springs in California.
You might note that this doctor works at a hot springs resort and so has skin in the game. Googling around on this issue brings up many other quotes about the efficacy of hot springs, usually as part of a site promoting a mineral water resort.
So the hard science may not be there yet, but we’re all for the soothing properties of a relaxing environment -- and being in water has been a healing modality since, like, forever.
Plus, many of these resorts now include other experiences, like Colorado’s Durango Hot Springs, where, in summer, guests can enjoy live music while soaking. In the Canadian Yukon’s Eclipse Nordic Springs, formerly Takhini Hot Springs, guests can view the Northern Lights from their tubs.
The Northern Lights and hot springs? Sounds like heaven.