You may not have heard yet about the concept of turning your backyard pool into a healing spa but don’t be surprised if someone you know gives it a go soon. Mineral pools are becoming increasingly popular, as users swear by them for benefits ranging from relieving joint pain to promoting healthy skin and improving sleep.
So Starts at 60 decided to check out what the buzz was about. Put simply, mineral pools are swimming pools that use more gentle and natural minerals in the pool water instead of salt or chlorine to maintain cleanliness.
John O’Brien, who, as the founder and CEO of Poolwerx, has seen a few pools in his time, says the best mineral pools use a combination of magnesium chloride, potassium chloride and sodium chloride that, as well as offering the potential health benefits explained below, don’t irritate the eyes or have the strong smell chlorine has or cause the slightly sticky feeling on the skin that salt-water pools can create.
Other mineral pool fans say additional benefits of mineral pools include even clearer water and less corrosion on your pool accessories and surrounds.
One of the main benefits associated with mineral pools is the skin-calming powers they can offer, O’Brien says, adding that “people often say their eczema or psoriasis doesn’t flare up like it would in an ordinary pool”.
Leading nutritionist Michaela Sparrow agrees, explaining that unlike chlorine pools, mineral pools contain no chemicals that can be drying on the skin.
And if you regularly suffer from aches and pains, mineral pools are said to help with joint pain too. How? Most mineral pools contain potassium chloride, which is known to be good for soothing the skin and treating aches, and magnesium chloride, which, according to O’Brien, “is the key mineral for easing muscle tension and cramps”.
Sparrow says similar, noting that muscle cramps are often a sign of a magnesium deficiency so soaking in a mineral pool is a good start.
“Mineral pools contain magnesium chloride [so] this is essentially like having a giant Epsom salt bath,” she says, because it takes our skin about 30 seconds to absorb anything we come into contact with. That means soaking in a mineral pool will increase magnesium levels in the body.
Epsom salt is the common name for magnesium sulphate, which contains magnesium just as magnesium chloride does. The difference is that magnesium sulphate comes in a salt-like form (they’re not actually salt), while magnesium chloride is usually in flake form, and that magnesium chloride is usually naturally derived, while magnesium sulphate can be artificially produced. Some health experts say that magnesium chloride is easier for the body to absorb.
Either way, magnesium is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, Sparrow says, including “acting as a gentle muscle relaxant”. Magnesium is also known to have a mood-lifting effect, while several studies have found that magnesium helps regulate sleep quality.
Sparrow does caution, though, that a mineral-pool soak doesn’t mean you can skimp on eating a variety of magnesium-rich foods, which are also super-important as our bodies don’t naturally make the mineral.
Pool maestro O’Brien says any pool can be transformed into a mineral pool. “The process if fairly straightforward,” he says. “You don’t need a new pool or new equipment and you don’t need to empty out your pool and refill it.”
He says it’s as simple as calling out a pool technician to your home, who will first test the water chemistry of your pool before advising you on the best process to turn your ordinary pool into a mineral pool.
“The process may differ from pool to pool,” he says, explaining if you use a mineral additive (a blend of naturally occurring minerals), your pool will be transformed overnight. “The minerals are dispersed evenly throughout the pool.”
If you opt for mineral salts, however, the process can take up to a couple of months. “The process is more gradual, and conversion depends on the size of your pool,” O’Brien adds.
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