Can a massage help you live longer? How spa treatments contribute to longevity

can spa treatments help you live longer

Can spa treatments help you live longer? Can wellness programs contribute to longevity? Here’s a look at the science. 

The body of research suggesting that treatments and services available in spas can not only help increase wellbeing but may also significantly improve health and longevity is growing.

As we know, stress is well known to be correlated with negative mental and physical health outcomes. Chronic stress is associated with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders; cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and obesity, among other things. And research conducted in 2021 by scientists at Yale found evidence that stress is distinctly correlated with shorter life spans.  

Given that, any means of decreasing stress in a person’s life, like visiting a spa, may directly impact healthspan and longevity.  

Here’s a deeper rundown of scientific insights into how three spa treatments can enhance health, increase joy, decrease stress, and potentially extend life.

Can massage help you live longer? The science on three treatments and services

Massage: regulates cortisol and increases immune function

A 2004 research review found that massage is correlated with significant reductions in cortisol levels and increases in serotonin and dopamine production. 

The review encompassed studies on depression, pain, auto-immune conditions (including asthma and chronic fatigue), immune system conditions (including HIV and breast cancer), and stress. They found that massage was connected to an average 31% reduction in cortisol, which is significant. They also found that the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine increased by an average of 28% and 31%, respectively.

Cortisol is essential for various bodily functions, but its excess is linked to health issues like Cushing’s Disease, which can lead to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, weight gain, increased risk of thromboembolic events, and other issues. Serotonin is important for regulating mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual functions, while its deficiency is linked to depression, anger, OCD, and anxiety. Dopamine deficiency is primarily responsible for Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers wrote: “These studies combined suggest the stress-alleviating effects (decreased cortisol) and the activating effects (increased serotonin and dopamine) of massage therapy on a variety of medical conditions and stressful experiences.”

And in a 2023 study, researchers found significant cardiovascular benefits, including reduced heart rate and blood pressure were correlated with 20 minute therapeutic calf massages in 26 healthy female patients. These effects were not only immediate but sustained during 10 and 30 minute post-massage periods. 

Separate research conducted by Tiffany Field at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami has found that massage may improve immune function in breast cancer and leukemia patients.

Saunas: decrease all-cause mortality

In a 2015 study by the University of Eastern Finland, frequent sauna use was linked to a significant decrease in death rates from cardiovascular disease, stroke, and all-cause mortality. The research followed 2,300 middle-aged men over approximately 20 years, grouping them by their weekly sauna usage.

Findings revealed that 49% of men who used the sauna once a week passed away during the course of the study, compared to 38% of those who used it two to three times a week, and only 31% of those using it four to seven times a week.

Moreover, the study found a substantial reduction in the risk of dementia among the most frequent sauna users. Men who used the sauna four to seven times a week had a 66% lower chance of being diagnosed with dementia and a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who went once a week. Regular sauna users also had a nearly 30% reduced risk of developing pneumonia, and using the sauna four times a week cut the pneumonia risk by 40%.

A 2018 review of scientific databases from 2000 onward included 40 studies with a total of  3,855 participants who regularly used dry saunas. The aforementioned Finnish study was included in the review. On top of the evidence that regular Finnish sauna bathing is associated with lower incidence of dementia and cardiovascular disease, and decreased mortality, the reviewers also found evidence that saunas may provide benefits for participants suffering from arthritis, pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The researchers wrote that sauna bathing “may also improve exercise performance in athletes, skin moisture barrier properties, and quality of life.”

Scientists also suggest saunas can help increase metabolism and decrease inflammation. 

Taking the waters: lowers risk of stroke and heart disease

A 2016 study found that taking a hot bath improves health and can burn calories. Researchers at Loughborough University found that bathing was correlated with burning approximately as many calories as a half-hour walk (around 140 calories) and also with improved blood sugar and changes to the inflammatory response similar to that following exercise.

The researchers wrote: “The anti-inflammatory response to exercise is important as it helps to protect us against infection and illness, but chronic inflammation is associated with a reduced ability to fight off diseases. This suggests that repeated passive heating may contribute to reducing chronic inflammation, which is often present with long-term diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.”

A study published in the journal Heart compared people who took baths less than twice a week, with those who took baths nearly every day and found, after controlling for other lifestyle factors, that the more frequent bathers had a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 26% lower risk of stroke. 

Studies also suggest hot bathing may help alleviate chronic pain associated with conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia, and can temporarily lower blood pressure, reduce risk of coronary artery disease, and decrease depression. Bathing is also associated with improved  sleep quality.

All of these things translate to better health and longevity because chronic pain, bad sleep quality, and high stress levels are associated with a variety of negative health outcomes that can increase risk of mortality.  

Research suggests that these spa treatments can have significant health benefits and do more than help us relax; they can reduce stress, improve immune function, and decrease the risk of serious health issues, contributing to a longer life.

Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at

Image by chevanon on Freepik

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.