The Benefits of Sauna: 9 Reasons To Use A Sauna
We've covered it before, but we get questions all the time about the benefits of using a sauna. With the astronomical rise in popularity of saunas we thought we'd jump into this topic again and cover some of the best benefits of using a sauna on a regular basis.
Although saunas have gained in popularity over the last 5-6 years, they have been here for thousands of years and still remain among the most popular relaxation and health benefits tools. Harvard Health Publications report that the Mayans used these sweat rooms over 3,000 years ago. Even today, every one in three Finns use sweat houses, with the USA having approximately one million units.
Why are saunas so popular you ask?
Well, saunas have several proven health benefits. With proper use, these sweat rooms can improve your immunity, treat some skin problems, help you glow, help you relax, and eliminate stress. And all you have to do is sit there and sweat. Who doesn't want that??
People worldwide have been using saunas for their sweat therapy benefits for centuries. Scandinavian countries, for instance, have been using the rooms for relaxation and weight loss, with the culture starting right from childhood.
So, with that in mind, let's jump into some basics before we talk about the benefits of using a sauna.
What Is a Sauna?
Saunas, at their core, are super simple. A sauna refers to a heated room, typically ranging between 158° and 212° Fahrenheit (70° and 100° Celsius), used to raise skin temperatures to 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) for health and relaxation benefits. Finnish saunas traditionally used dry heat, with 10% to 20% humidity. However, other types, including Turkish saunas, have higher humidity.
Saunas are used to raise skin temperatures and encourage profuse sweating - in a good way! The heart rate increases while the body tries to regulate its temperature. That forms the basis of the sweat room's functioning and its benefits.
Types of Saunas
Saunas come in various types, depending on the process of heat production. Some of the common types include:
Wood Burning Saunas
Wood-burning saunas use wood burning sauna heaters to heat the sauna rocks and rooms. These saunas have higher temperatures and low humidity.
Electric Sauna Heaters
The most popular type of traditional saunas use an electric sauna heater to make the sauna room hot. These heaters are attached to the floor or wall and heat sauna stones you pour water over. Like wood burning sauna heaters, electric sauna heaters produce low humidity and very high temperatures, up to 200 degrees!
Infrared saunas work very differently from traditional saunas, both wood burning and electric. Instead of using a heater to increase the air temperature of the sauna room, infrared saunas use infrared light (the same type of light that's emitted from the sun) to heat your body directly. Although the air temperature in an infrared sauna will only reach around 135-140 degrees it will feel just as hot as a traditional sauna.
Infrared saunas typically don't take as long to heat up because they aren't shooting for 175-200 degrees. They are generally easier to set up and operate as well, which is one of the reasons infrared saunas have become so popular!
Saunas and Steam Rooms: Are They the Same?
Many people use steam rooms and saunas interchangeably. However, the two sweat rooms have varying features and operate differently. While saunas use dry heat (and very little humidity), steam rooms typically have higher humidity and moist heat. However, both rooms promote profuse sweating.
Steam rooms are sometimes referred to as Turkish bathhouses. In these rooms, the temperatures are slightly lower than in saunas, but humidity rates are typically higher.
The temperature and humidity levels differ from one sauna type to the other. However, the overall performance and effects on the body remain the same.
The Benefits of Using a Sauna
Saunas come in various types, but their performance and effects on the body remain the same. Sitting in a sauna or steam room increases your core body temperature, which surges your heart rate. That causes the blood vessels to dilate, your blood circulation improves, your blood pressure lowers, and you begin sweating, and it feels great.
Different reports have indicated that all the activities following your stay in a sauna can lead to several health benefits. According to Dr. Mukai, a Texas Orthopedics Physical Medicine and Rehab Specialist, saunas can a great tool to help relieve chronic pain and fatigue, among other benefits.
Also, to all you athletes out there, Dr. Mukai says saunas may help boost your performance and endurance as a recovery tool. Below are some other proven benefits of using saunas.
1. Saunas Can Help With Weight Loss
Weight loss is among the most common benefits of a sauna. However, the saunas will only help you lose water weight since they encourage profuse sweating. Thus, you'll replace the weight once you drink some fluids after the session (which is advisable). They're great for boxers and wrestlers trying to get under weight though.
However, spending time in a sweltering hot room causes a surge in your heart rate, which may help you burn more calories than resting in a standard temperature room. Likewise, sweating requires energy, and the sauna will help you shed some weight, especially if you're in bad shape.
But this effect is relatively minimal. Ensure you integrate the saunas with other weight loss programs to make them more effective.
A weight loss plan involving healthy eating, exercise, and a sauna will give you better results.
2. Saunas Help in Easing Pain
While in the sauna, your blood cells dilate, and the blood flow increases, reducing joint tension and decreasing muscle soreness. This process has been reported to help ease chronic pains such as ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to a 2008 study.
Another study in 2019 indicated that saunas could help with lower back pains. After four weeks of sauna sessions, the patients reported improved fatigue, pain, and stiffness.
While the patients in the studies reported experiencing improvements in their conditions, the results don't statistically relate their improvements to using saunas. Thus, the authors recommend that patients undergo some trial sessions before incorporating it into their treatment regimen.
3. Saunas Are Good for Brain Health
Dr Jari Laukkanen from the University of Eastern Finland (the motherland of sauna!) and his colleagues conducted a study over 20 years ago with over 2,300 participants. In this study, they realized that using a sauna 4 to 7 times weekly, at a temperature of 176° Fahrenheit, for 19 minutes per session decreased the risks of suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Also, the Alzheimer's Association refers to sweating as an essential therapy for brain improvement.
4. Saunas Help With Flushing Toxins
Sweat consists of 99% water and offers an effective way to cool the body. The heat inside the saunas raises body temperature and boosts sweat production. The high degrees in a sauna encourage deep sweat, which helps you eliminate zinc, copper, nickel, lead, and mercury chemicals.
5. Saunas Lower Stress Levels
This one I just know from personal experience. Saunas improve blood circulation, helping the body to relax. This process regulates cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and improves the happy hormone (serotonin) production. These hormones help you relax and boost your well-being, thus, reducing stress levels.
Reports have found that using a sauna can help with some skin conditions, improve skin strength, and cleanse it, giving you glowing skin. For instance, some people who have psoriasis have found relief with the use of a sauna.
Also, the heat from the sauna has been found to help in sloughing off dry skin cells. Sweating also enhances blood circulation, boosting collagen production. With the processes, you benefit from healthy and firm skin. However, this depends on your skin type, given that people with atopic dermatitis may experience worse effects after using a sauna.
But again, heat bathing is an old beauty therapy that goes down the history for its skin cleansing abilities. The deep sweat during a sauna cleanses dead skin cells from the body and replaces them. The process also cleans bacteria from the sweat ducts and epidermal layer of the skin. Cleansing your skin's pores also increases capillary circulation, leaving you with softer and glowing skin.
7. Saunas Help With Relaxation
Is it really possible that a sauna increases your energy, AND helps with relaxation? In my opinion, yes!
One of the most common benefits of a sauna is relaxation. That's because physically calming your body causes the same effect on your emotions and the mind.
During the sauna sessions, your pulse rate rises, and your blood vessels dilate. That increases the blood flowing to your skin and boosts blood circulation in general.
The process activates your sympathetic nervous system to regulate your body temperature. The response then triggers the endocrine glands, making your body less reactive to pain, more alert, and possibly creating a feeling of joy. Your neck and face muscles (which are more active during the day) also relax in the heat.
The relaxing benefits of a sauna are long-lasting and can help you have a good night's sleep, especially after a busy day.
8. Saunas May Improve Your Heart Health
The sauna heat causes the pulse rate to rise by about 30% or more, causing the heart to pump up to double the average amount of blood it thrusts per minute. Most of this extra blood flows toward the skin, away from the internal organs. The benefits have been reported to lower the risks of cardiovascular diseases and improve heart health.
Saunas also help in lowering blood pressure and boosting cardiovascular endurance.
Sweat rooms, especially the infrared sauna, help reduce systemic inflammation and muscle soreness following a workout. They can also help you preserve muscle mass, shorten the duration you take to achieve your fitness goals, and protect you against inflammation. A 2021 study also found that saunas may extend the years you live healthily and with vitality.
The studies followed patients using the infrared saunas two to five times weekly.
Who Should Not Use a Sauna?
Saunas are very beneficial to their users. However, this treatment method is only appropriate for some. Consult your physician before using a sauna if you have one or more of these conditions:
- Asthma and other respiratory complications
- Very low or high blood pressure
- If you're on mind-altering medications like tranquilizers and stimulants
- A heart condition
Benefits of a Sauna: Final Thoughts
Different studies indicate several benefits of a sauna to your health and well-being. The sauna can improve the health of your vital body organs, including the heart and brain.
However, achieving the benefits depends on your situation, and conditions like high blood pressure may make you a wrong candidate.
Thus, ensure you talk to your doctor and evaluate your health before adding a sauna to your health regimen.