Why is Sochi such a unique resort?
Sochi is located in a specially protected area with natural healing resources that have been developed for use in therapeutic and health-promoting treatments.
Natural healing resources include mineral waters, therapeutic mud, the climate and environment and other elements used for the treatment and prevention of diseases and for wellness recreation.
Health resorts the world over are conventionally divided into three categories depending of the natural healing resources that are available: climate, spa treatment and mud therapy. If a resort combines two healing resources, it is described as offering “spa with mud therapy” or “spa and climate therapy” and so on. But if a spa has all (or almost all) known natural healing resources simultaneously it is regarded as unique. This is what visitors will find in Sochi – Russia’s largest health resort. The humid subtropical climate, warm sea, lush vegetation and richly diverse hydromineral base create ideal conditions for a multi-faceted resort offering water, spa mud and both seaside and mountain climate therapies.
Sochi’s topography is extremely rich in variegated landscapes and exotic natural locations. The rolling foothills and coastal lowlands, snowy mountain peaks and rocky gorges, mountain rivers with their canyons and waterfalls, and caves, lakes and forested parks give the resort a scenic quality that makes a tremendous positive impact on a person’s mind and psyche. This diverse topography appeals to tourists and is one of the determing factors in fostering a healing climate.
Sochi’s climate is formed under the influence of the vast warm basin of the Black Sea and the ridge of the Caucasus Mountains that protects the city from the cold northern winds. This results in the world’s most northerly subtropical zone, something unique in Russia, that stretches along the Black Sea coast from Adler to Tuapse.
Sochi’s climate is generally divided into two periods: a warm season from May to October and a cool season from November to April. The calendar winter is mild and frost-free with an average January temperature of around 5–6 degrees Celsius. By March the solar spectrum is noticeably enriched with erythemogenic rays, which makes it possible not only to sunbathe, but to get a persistent southern tan as well. In summer, the heat is softened by cool sea breezes and light winds from the mountain valleys, and clear cloudless weather prevails with an average July temperature of around 22–23 degrees Celsius. Autumn in Sochi is long, warm and dry and is considered the “mild season.” It is neither too hot nor too humid during this period. This kind of climate has numerous benefits for human health and is particularly good for those with cardiovascular ailments.
Sochi receives between 1500–2000 mm annual precipitation and 2200 hours of sunshine per year. Its seaside climate is noteworthy for the purity and freshness of the air which has a high ozone and sea salt content, and the intense solar radiation and absence of sudden temperature changes has an invigorating, healing and strengthening effect on the human body.
These special climactic elements make it possible for Sochi health resorts to offer visitors climotherapy treatments using the sun (heliotheraphy) and the air (aerotherapy)
Heliotherapy. Thanks to Sochi’s geographical location, the sun stands very high in the sky – from 23 degrees above the horizon in December to 70 degrees in June. This results in a high degree of solar radiation providing just the right amount of ultraviolet light that is optimal for the human body.
Solar radiation elicits extremely diverse physiological reactions on the part of various human organs and systems. With the influence of sunlight, highly active biological substances appear in the body, redox processes are enhanced, metabolism increases, the amount of hemoglobin in the blood is elevated, and gas exchange with body tissues improves.
Long infrared and heat waves, which make up around 70% of the sun’s radiation, have a mainly thermal effect on the body. They penetrate the skin and underlying tissues to a depth of 4 cm and cause vasodilation, which stimulates the resorption of cells damaged by inflammatory processes. Short, ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin to a depth of 0.6–1 mm, but their biological activity is significantly greater: they have a bactericidal, vitamin-forming, erythemal and pigmenting effect, strengthening the epidermis, and promoting the energization and formation of enzymes and protective substances. Be warned though – excessive radiation caused by constant exposure to the sun can result in sunburn and even more serious consequences.
The healing qualities of Sochi’s air are due to its purity (almost the complete absence of dust and microorganisms), the amount of iodine, nitrogen and oxygen, and the presence of phytoncides and ionization. The sea air contains oxygen and ozone in an optimal amount for the human body. Staying in the fresh air helps eliminate oxygen deficiency and the sea breeze increases the functional capacity of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, deepens breathing, increases gas exchange and stimulates skin and vascular reflexes.
Air ions, as biologically active particles, significantly improve pulmonary ventilation, stimulate oxygen uptake and the excretion of carbon dioxide, increase the amount of erythrocytes and hemoglobin in the blood, stimulate metabolic processes and the synthesis of vitamins, increase mental and physical performance and activate the body’s defenses. They are present in the air at a distance of 200 meters from the coast. The air’s salt and ion content increases in spring and summer with the increase in wind speed and wave action.
Aerotherapy is carried out in all seasons of the year and includes exposure to the open air during day or night and air baths.
The vegetation endemic to a humid subtropical zone includes a wide variety of plant species. Forests and parks occupy up to 80% of the Sochi area and this green area is of great importance in the health and treatment process. Phytoncides (volatile essential oils) produced by plants have pronounced antimicrobial properties that improve respiratory function, normalize the heart rate and blood pressure, activate tissue respiration, energy metabolism and contribute to the reduction of inflammatory processes in the broncho-pulmonary system. Thus, Sochi’s green and forested seaside is a natural inhaler.
“Thalassotherapy” has recently become popular and involves the complex application of sea air, solar radiation and sea bathing. In other words, it means seaside climatotherapy. This is the main method for the treatment and prevention of diseases at most seaside resorts.
The Black Sea is Russia’s warmest sea. In the Sochi area, the water can reach a average temperature of around 27–28 degrees in August and the swimming season lasts 6–7 months out of the year. Mineralization of the surface layer of the Black Sea is 18.5g/l. With respect to bromine concentration, the water of the Black Sea is similar to the average concentration in the bromine-iodine waters of the Ust-Kachka resort and the iodine-bromine water of Khadyzhensky spring.
The therapeutic use of sea water has been known for a long time. The doctors of Ancient Egypt prescribed sea bathing to their patients and other doctors of ancient times prescribed sea water for diseases of the stomach and bladder and for anemia.
Sea water therapy still occupies one of the leading places in medical treatment at most of the world’s health resorts. When bathing, a person is exposed to a number of stimulants. The combination of the cold effect of sea water – due to the great difference in the thermal conductivity of air and water, hydrostatic pressure, physical activity and the psycho-emotional reaction to bathing actively affects hemodynamics (the movement of blood in the body), causes changes in the blood supply to organs and tissues, imparts a distinct hypotensive effect, and contributes to a decrease in heart rate contractions and increased metabolism.
When swimming in the sea, electrolytes penetrate the epidermis, increasing both cell function and metabolism, the nervous system is normalised and the work of the adrenal cortex is stimulated, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and morphological picture of the blood is normalised, and skin sensitivity to ultraviolet rays increases (this must be taken into account when sun bathing!).
Sochi’s health complexes and resorts make extensive use of sea water for swimming and bathing and offer sea bathing holidays to visitors. Sea water is also used for inhalations, mouthwash, irrigation and rinsing, in various types of showers, and for the preparation of coniferous, herbal, biofoam and other types of sea water baths.