What are the Benefits of a Sauna? Saunas have been used for centuries. From Dry Saunas to Steam Rooms, from Finland to Japan, the whole idea is to make you sweat! Longevity, rejuvenated skin and hair, increased metabolism, reduced risk of stroke, and reduced risk of dementia are just a few things that are claimed as benefits of a sauna.
Finland and the Sauna
Around the world when people hear the word “sauna” they think of Finland. “Sauna” means “bathhouse” in Finnish. Sauna in short, is a sweat bath that heats up your body to make you sweat. The word “sauna” has been borrowed by the English-speaking people and many other languages as well.
The Finnish sauna: Peace of mind, body, and soul: a modern guide to sauna usage, planning, and building for full sauna enjoyment is a book written by John O. Virtanen. It is said that he was born in a sauna, in his native land of Finland.
Finnish Saunas vs. Turkish or Russian Steam Baths
He writes that it is a “common mistake” to equate the Finnish sauna with Turkish or Russian steam baths. In an authentic Finnish sauna, the heat emanates from special stones and feels velvety soft to the skin. It is more penetrating than the heat in a cloud of steam. It is something that you must experience to fully appreciate the difference.
The Finns practiced slapping their skin with a vihta or vasta– a whisk of twigs and birch leaves – to increase circulation in the blood vessels and tone the skin. Today it is a common practice to use a washcloth, scrub brush, or loofa.
What are the Benefits of a Sauna after a Workout?
Many gyms are equipped with a sauna, yet they are often ignored. The basic idea is to sit and sweat for about 10 minutes.
There are a variety of ways this benefits your health and fitness. The intense heat increases the blood flow to your skin and causes blood vessels to dilate. This increases the heart rate and is similar in effect to a mild cardio exercise like walking.
The heat can reduce muscle and joint pain as you recover from your workout. Drink a large, cool glass of water after sweating out all that fluid. This will replenish the fluids lost in the sauna. I hope you still have plenty of water in your water bottle! A dehydrated body is asking for trouble.
After Your Sauna…
While sitting in a sauna, the sweat is pouring from your pores. After the pores have opened with sweating, you need to encourage the pores to close again by jumping into a cold lake, like the Finns… or a cool shower will do! As your pores tighten, your blood flows back to your organs enhancing your immune system.
What are the Benefits of a Sauna?
Facilities that offer sauna bathing often claim these health benefits:
#1 Increased Metabolism
According to the Harvard Medical School, the heat of a sauna can elevate your pulse rate by 30%, which means that your blood flow almost doubles. A dry sauna will speed up your metabolism. A higher metabolism is more efficient at burning calories.
#2 Weight Loss
The sauna can’t burn fat or melt belly fat, but it does boost your metabolism. Much actual weight loss attributed to the use of a sauna may be from sweating. That weight is regained when you drink more water to keep from dehydrating.
The lymphatic system serves a very important function. It helps remove toxic substances from the body. With the help of the heart, liver and kidneys, the body is detoxified.
#4 Pain Reduction and Stress Management
Few things are more relaxing or beneficial in pain reduction than heat therapy. Those with arthritis and muscle pain can relax as the heat therapy increases the diameter of the blood vessel and delivers more blood to every part of the body. It can help diminish pain and reduce stress as it promotes feelings of well-being.
Using the sauna regularly, improves the blood flow to your skin. This will aid in new skin growth. It should be able to remove the dead skin cells and invigorate your skin as it does the rest of your body as well.
#6 Skin and Hair Rejuvenation
Spending time in the sauna activates your “sebaceous glands” which secrete a compound call sebum. This is a natural moisturizer and keeps the skin flexible. The excessive amount of sweating done in the sauna, keeps the pores clean.
#7 Improved Cardiovascular Function
Increased Blood Circulation Some research has shown that high temperatures help the blood vessels to expand. This helps to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Use the sauna with caution and consult with your doctor first.
#8 Lower Risk of Stroke
A long-range study with more than 1,600 Finnish men and women, over the course of several years, found that frequent sauna bathing (4 – 7 times a week) was connected to reduced risk of stroke.
#9 Reduced Risk of Dementia
A similar study of 2,315 Finnish men found a lower risk of dementia with a more frequent use of the sauna.
#10 Improved Immune Function
Saunas are good for your immune system. The sauna cannot destroy certain viruses going around, but they can increase your white blood cell count. White blood cells are your defense in fighting infection and sickness.
#11 Relaxation and Improved Sleep
Saunas help you sleep better because their radiant warmth relaxes your muscles. The warmth of the sauna will quiet your mind and release tension in your body.
How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna?
It takes a while for your body to adjust to the high temperatures of the sauna.
- It is advised that for your first session you should not stay in the sauna longer than 5 – 10 minutes at a time.
- Once leaving the sauna you should cool your body down with a cool shower and a glass of cool water to re-hydrate your body.
- After exercising, drink a large glass of water and wait at least 10 minutes before entering a sauna.
- At Maximum, don’t’ use the sauna for more than about 15 minutes at a time.
As with all good things, there are some risk factors involved. Consult with your doctor before heading into the sauna.
Some Risk Factors Are:
The heat in a sauna is intense, which can result in low blood pressure. If you are feeling weak or light-headed, or noticeably uncomfortable in other way, leave the sauna right away and drink plenty of water to re-hydrate your body.
Elevated Body Temperature
To avoid overheating your body do not stay in the sauna for any excessive length of time – about 15 minutes maximum. Cool down with a cool shower and a cool glass of water when exiting the sauna.
What Questions Do You Have?
Is a Sauna Good for Weight Loss?
A sauna may help you burn some calories, but it is not effective as a true weight loss strategy.
Why do I Feel Sick after Using a Sauna?
When you step into a hot sauna, you may become overheated as your body temperature rises rapidly. As a result, you may feel dizzy and nauseous. If you are feeling unwell, leave the sauna and slowly drink a large glass of water. Seek medical attention if the symptoms persist.
Is an Infrared Sauna Good for You?
In general, infrared saunas are considered safe for most people. However, if you have a medical condition or an implanted medical device, you should consult with your doctor first. It is UV that is harmful, not infrared.
Can You Sweat Out Toxins?
While saunas have many benefits, claims that you can sweat out toxins are not backed up by science. Toxins such as mercury, alcohol, and most drugs are eliminated by your liver, kidneys, or intestines.
Sweat is mostly water with a small amount of salt, proteins, carbohydrates, and urea, says Dr. Charles Smith, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, family medicine physician. Sweat does not cleanse your body from toxins, he believes.
Are Saunas Good for Your Lungs?
Saunas can improve respiratory function. It can enhance lung capacity and function. A steam room can help clear out mucus that can make breathing difficult. Many people with asthma find warm air soothing however some people find that heat makes their asthma worse. It is important to know your personal trigger points.
Are Saunas Good for Wrinkles?
Saunas have the potential to temporarily relax the muscles and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Heavy sweating is healthy for your skin to cleanse impurities and make your skin less prone to acne, blackheads, and pimples.
Is a Home Sauna Worth It?
If you have a sauna at home, it will be easier for you to relax and unwind without having to drive to a spa or gym. You will save the premium that is necessary to pay to use that facility. It may be worthwhile to have the opportunity for relaxation and pain relief right in your own home, where you can use it on a regular basis.
Sauna Dos and Don’ts
- Drink plenty of water. Drink at least one full glass of water before and after using a sauna to avoid dehydration.
- Do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs before, during, or after going in a sauna.
- Do not use a sauna if you have high blood pressure. Consult with your medical practitioner first.
- Do not use a sauna if you are ill.
Saunas have been used widely in the Finnish population for many centuries and are becoming more popular worldwide. They have many health benefits to enhance a better quality of life. As with anything good, there are some risks involved. If you have any health concerns, please consult with your doctor before using a sauna.
Please Leave a Comment
Do you use the sauna at a gym or other facility? Would you consider having a home sauna?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. No content on this site should be substituted for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner. The information contained here is for informational purposes only. It is from my research and personal experience.