Swim spas (sometimes called “swimming machines” or “endless pools”) are versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for exercise, relaxation, or simple enjoyment. Created in the 1970s as an alternative to full-size swimming pools, their technology was perfected in the 1980s and brave rise to the swim spas we know today. Much like a hybrid between a swimming pool and a hot tub with a size falling somewhere between the two, they can be used indoors or outdoors, heated or unheated.
One function of a swim spa is the resistance workout achieved from swimming against a current. Due to their limited size, this is accomplished through the use of water jets to accelerate water past the swimmer and theby keep them stationary while they work on their strokes. Tethers are another method to provide resistance, holding the swimmer back as they swim against the pull. With a tether, however, it is important to control the waves created by the motion of the swimmer's body. Both methods are frequently employed by professional athletes, as swimming in place provides more effective exercise than traditional laps. Because of its low-impact effect of the body, water aerobics are the preferred form of exercise for many people, especially those with joint problems.
Another function of swim spas is hydrotherapy. Achieved through the use of heated water and massaging jets, this popular pastime is not only relaxing, but physically beneficial for people suffering from muscle aches or arthritis. Pools made specifically for this purpose will often include built-in, molded seats.
The entertainment value of a swim spa is that of a regular pool or hot tub, and they are an easy way to foster social interaction and provide amusement. Parents of small children appreciate the shallow depths shown, which make the spas a safer alternative to traditional swimming pools.
There are many advantages to swim spas that can not be matched by full-size pools. Their smaller size makes them more cost-effective to install, and if there is a suitable room they can even be put indoors. Due to their smaller size, they are easier to clean and cheaper to maintain since, like a regular swimming pool, chemical additives are necessary to keep the water sanitary, especially in instances of multiple users. The most problematic feature is the cost of heating, which can be quite high in winter for outdoor spas. Ideal temperatures average about 95 degrees for hydrotherapy and 80 degrees for exercise.