BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:
It has been shown that spa therapy has a lipid-lowering effect. Also, seasonal variations in spa therapy effects have been found for some outcome measures. The aim of the present study is to investigate whether the lipid-lowering effects of spa therapy as a complex health intervention also are subject to seasonal variation.
The effect of 3-week resident spa therapy at the Austrian spa Bad Tatzmannsdorf was studied in 395 patients with moderate musculoskeletal chronic pain over a time of 2 years. Spa therapy included balneotherapy, exercise therapy, and dietary measures. Total cholesterol (CHOL), HDL, LDL, triglycerides (TG), and the CHOL/HDL ratio were assessed at the beginning and end of therapy.
Spa therapy was associated with a decrease of CHOL, HDL, and LDL (p < 0.001). TG and CHOL/HDL did not change. The decrease of lipids was smaller for older patients, females, and normal weight individuals. CHOL decrease showed a seasonal variation independent of weight loss (p = 0.04), being largest in fall (-6.1%) and smallest in spring (-2.4%). CHOL and CHOL/HDL for obese individuals showed the greatest decrease in winter (-10% for CHOL, -9% for CHOL/HDL ratio), whereas corresponding measures increased for normal-weight subjects.
The lipid-lowering effect of spa therapy could be confirmed; it is partly moderated by season. The results suggest that the effect of some components of spa therapy such as exercise therapy, diet, and relaxation may be subject to seasonal variation.