You may have heard that stepping into a hot sauna after a session at the gym can be relaxing and detoxifying for your body.
Saunas have been used for thousands of years and are still popular today. A sauna can help people to unwind and relax, and it may have other health benefits.
For hundreds of years, Scandinavians have been using saunas for their alleged benefits of cleansing, relaxation, and weight loss. In Finland, for example, there are roughly 2 million saunas for the country’s 5.2 million people. Sauna use in Scandinavian countries starts in early childhood.
Sweating has long been used as a therapy. The Mayans used sweat houses 3,000 years ago, according to Harvard Health Publications. In Finland, saunas have been used for thousands of years, and 1 in 3 Finns still use them. In the United States (U.S.), there are thought to be over a million saunas.
Current research about the benefits of saunas is mixed. If you’re considering adding the sauna to your health and wellness routine, make sure to evaluate your specific health needs first.
A saunas’ dry heat (which can get as high as 185° F) profoundly affects the body. Skin temperature soars to about 104° F within minutes. The average person will pour out a pint of sweat during a short stint in a sauna.
The pulse rate jumps by 30% or more, allowing the heart to nearly double the amount of blood it pumps each minute. Most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin; in fact, circulation shunts blood away from the internal organs. As a result, blood pressure is unpredictable, rising in some people but falling in others.
What Is A Sauna?
A sauna is typically a room heated to between 70° to 100° Celsius or 158° to 212° Fahrenheit.
Traditional Finnish saunas usually use dry heat, with a relative humidity that is often between 10 and 20 percent. In other sauna types, the moisture is higher. Turkish-style saunas, for example, involve a greater level of humidity.
Sauna use can raise the skin temperature to roughly 40° Celsius or 104° Fahrenheit.
As the skin temperature rises, heavy sweating also occurs. The heart rate rises as the body attempt to keep cool. It is not uncommon to lose about a pint of sweat while spending a short time in a sauna.
Benefits of Sauna
Much has been made of the health benefits of sauna bathing, with good reason. Physically, nothing is more reinvigorating than a deep, healthy sweat every day. Tension fades. Muscles unwind. Mentally, we emerge relaxed, revived and ready for whatever the day may bring.
A few minutes a day is all it takes to look and feel better. The body’s response to gentle, persistent heat is well-documented and proven day in and out by people all over the world, which is why more and more doctors are recommending its purifying benefits.
Saunas Improve Overall Health, Wellness And Performance.
Not surprisingly, sauna bathers most frequently cite stress reduction as the number one benefit of sauna use. Medical studies often determine that stress in our daily lives can negatively affect our health. The vast majority of disease (e.g. heart disease) is at least partially stress-related.
Heat bathing in a sauna provides stress relief in several ways. First, it’s a warm, quiet space without any distractions coming from the outside. As we like to say, “Step into a Finnleo sauna, and close the door on the rest of the world.” Second, the heat from the sauna relaxes the body’s muscles, improves circulation and stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s all-natural “feel good” chemical, and their release provides a truly wonderful “after sauna glow.”
Reduce Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
A study in Finland followed men over the course of 20 years to see how they reacted to cardiovascular disease and other similar issues. As part of that study, it kept track of how often these men used a sauna in a given week.
A surprising result of this study was that men who used a sauna at least once a week was much less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, or sudden cardiac death. In fact, the more they used a sauna, the less chance they had of suffering these illnesses.
It’s thought that these results happen because the sauna has a similar effect to moderate exercise in most people. When you use one, your heart rate increases, and circulation improves. Because of this, the cells in the heart function better as more blood is being pumped to them.
Reducing stress levels when using a sauna may be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
One study, conducted in Finland, followed 2,315 men ages 42 to 60 over 20 years. Findings suggested that people who use a sauna may have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Of the participants in the study, a total of 878 died from cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, or sudden cardiac death. In addition, participants were categorized by how often they used a sauna, including once a week, two to three times a week, and four to seven times a week.
After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, increased sauna use was linked with a reduced risk of fatal cardiovascular-related diseases.
Participants who used the sauna two to three times a week were 22 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death than those who only used it once a week. Those who used a sauna four to seven times a week were 63 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death and 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who only used a sauna once a week.
More research is needed to find out if there is a definite link between sauna use and decreased deaths from heart disease.
Sauna use may also be associated with lower blood pressure and enhanced heart function.
While studies may be promising, sauna use should not replace an exercise program to keep the heart-healthy. There is more evidence to support the benefits of regular exercise. While a sauna shouldn’t be used in place of a health
Using a dry sauna can leave people feeling invigorated. Since the blood vessels relax and dilate in a sauna, blood flow increases, and the experience can help reduce tension in the joints and relieve sore muscles.
Increased circulation may help reduce muscle soreness, improve joint movement, and ease arthritis pain.
Saunas might also help those with chronic pain and arthritis. For example, a study in people with chronic musculoskeletal diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis discovered that sauna sessions improved pain, stiffness, and fatigue over the course of four weeks.
While all patients reported some benefits, the improvements were not found to be statistically significant. Therefore, the authors recommend that patients with these conditions undergo a couple of trial sessions to see whether sauna use improves their symptoms before incorporating it as part of their treatment routine.
Flush Toxins From Your Body
It’s fair to say that most people don’t actively sweat on a daily basis. As many jobs are sedentary, you don’t get the chance to get out there and move as much as you’d like to. That means that you don’t get to sweat as much as you need to.
Yes, you do need to sweat. You especially need to do so in today’s environment. Just by stepping outside your door, you’re exposed to all kinds of harmful elements that you’re absorbing right into your skin. What’s the solution?
Using a sauna is actually one of the best ways of flushing these toxins from your body. This is because elements such as lead, arsenic and cadmium are all deep in your skin. By spending time in a sauna, you can actually sweat those elements out. It’s a safe and easy way to counteract the effects of these elements in your body.
Saunas have been traditionally used to produce a feeling of relaxation. As your heart rate goes up and your blood vessels dilate, there is an increase in blood flow to the skin. Saunas may also improve blood circulation.
Your sympathetic nervous system becomes more active to maintain a temperature balance in your body. Your endocrine glands begin to get involved in this response. As a result, your body’s reaction to the heat can make you less perceptive to pain, more alert, and give you a feeling of elation. In addition, the heat relaxes your muscles, including those in your face and neck. These muscles are often tense after a long day.
The heat in the sauna helps us to relax and regulates the level of cortisol in our blood. Cortisol is the hormone that is released when we’re stressed, and too high levels of cortisol can lead to a number of health issues such as problems with the immune system and with sleeping. Sauna bathing reduces the levels of cortisol in our blood, and instead, it stimulates the production of serotonin. Serotonin is our “happy hormone” that makes us feel good.
This relaxation effect is one of the biggest benefits of using a sauna. To add to the relaxation effect, practice meditation while in the room. When you soothe your body physically, often the mind and the emotions follow suit. The effect is long-lasting and may even help you get a better night’s sleep.
Saunas Improve Brain Health
A 20-year study conducted with more than 2,300 participants at the University of Eastern Finland by Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his colleagues revealed regular sauna use (4-7 times per week) at 176 degrees F for 19 minutes lowered the risk for both Alzheimer’s & dementia.
In 2016, researchers from Finland published findings of a 20-year study that linked sauna use with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study involved 2,315 healthy men aged from 42 to 60 years.
Those who used a sauna 2 to 3 times per week were 22 percent less likely to get dementia and 20 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who did not use a sauna. Those who used a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 percent less likely to get dementia and 65 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who used a sauna once a week.
However, the results do not prove that a sauna causes a risk reduction. It may be that people with dementia do not use a sauna. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Sauna cleanses the skin.
Heat bathing is one of the oldest beauty and/or health strategies in terms of cleansing one’s skin. When the body begins to produce sweat via deep sweating, the skin is then cleansed, and dead skin cells are replaced – keeping your skin in good working condition. Sweating rinses bacteria out of the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. Cleansing of the pores has been shown to improve capillary circulation while giving the skin a softer-looking quality.
A dry sauna dries the skin during use. Some people with psoriasis may find that their symptoms reduce while using a sauna, but those with atopic dermatitis may find that it worsens.
Saunas Burn Calories
Some sauna sellers often make outlandish claims to promote saunas as an end-all weight loss tool. While some individuals may experience high amounts of calorie burn at first – particularly those individuals in poor shape to begin with – over the long term, saunas are treated as one of many tools in our arsenal when it comes to burning additional calories. The sweating process itself requires a notable amount of energy. That energy is derived from converting fat and carbohydrates into a bodily process that burns up calories.
According to U.S. Army medical research (Ward Dean, M.D.), “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.” The body consumes said calories due to the acceleration of heart activity (the cardiovascular section). As heart activity increases and as these processes demand more oxygen, the body begins to convert more calories into usable energy.
There are all kinds of ways in which you can try and lose weight these days, but have you thought about how a sauna can help? It’s been found that it can help you lose weight by using one. This is because your heart rate increases while you’re in a sauna, thanks to the dry heat. It’s been suggested that spending 20 minutes in a sauna can help you lose up to 500 calories.
This happens because your body’s metabolism speeds up in a similar way as it does when you exercise. Again, this will replace exercise in your lifestyle, but it’s a fantastic way to help you keep your weight under control.
Everyone who steps foot in a sauna will experience an increase in their circulation. This happens because the heat causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to widen. This helps blood make its way around your body much more freely.
Why is this such a benefit? Because it can help and improve certain health issues. For example, better circulation can help with muscle soreness, which athletes and other keep fit enthusiasts could benefit from. As well as this, it can improve joint movement, therefore increasing your mobility if you have issues with your joints. Finally, improved circulation can help with arthritis, decreasing pain and increasing mobility. It’s surprising how much improving your circulation can do.
Saunas Bring Out Recreational And Social Benefits
While the social benefit is rarely talked about, it’s actually quite important. The sauna can be a private, personal area of relaxation and solitude. However, it can just as easily be a relaxing environment for socializing with family, friends and soon-to-be friends. The sauna room environment is conducive to open, intimate and quiet conversation.
Saunas Just Feel Good
A sauna not only feels good, but it’s also good for your body. Whether it’s the physiological changes that occur during the warmth of a sauna, or if it’s simply the time spent in the calming and still retreats of the sauna, every seasoned sauna bather agrees – it feels wonderful! As we progress through our stressful everyday lives, the sauna provides a pampering retreat – where we can relax and restore body and soul. Sauna bathing truly makes you “Feel Better”, “Look Better”, and “Sleep Better”!
Saunas Vs. Steam Rooms
You might be wondering what the difference is between a sauna and a steam room. Both types of rooms are used to promote sweating, but they use different types of heat to accomplish it. Saunas use dry heat produced from a stove or hot rocks to escalate the room up to 195°F (90.5°C) with very low humidity.
On the other hand, steam rooms involve moist heat. Therefore, they operate at lower temperatures, usually around 110-120°F (43-49°C) and 100 percent relative humidity.