For some, saunas and steam rooms are a lifestyle. For others, they are merely a way to relax after a workout. Either way, it can’t be denied that saunas have increased in popularity in recent times.
Modern gyms are often equipped with swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms, while home saunas are becoming more affordable.
But what about the health benefits of saunas? Are saunas just to relax, or do they offer some proven benefits for our mental and physical health?
Please note that the below sauna benefits only apply when using a sauna in a sensible way. You should never stay longer in a sauna than your body can comfortably handle.
1. Relieves Stress
As we all know, life can be pretty hectic, fast-paced and also stressful. A sauna can help to relieve some of these stress symptoms in various ways.
The main reason someone would enter a sauna is to relax. So before entering a sauna, your mind would typically be focused on trying to unwind, and that’s a good starting point. Your mindset is right.
Similar to what happens when you exercise, sitting in a sauna releases endorphins in the body, due to the heat. Endorphins are “happy” chemicals that help to relieve pain and stress and will ultimately make you feel good.
2. Makes You Sleep Better
Similar to how sauna use can relieve stress, using a sauna regularly can also help to make you sleep better.
The higher levels of endorphins and a more relaxed mindset, will most likely have a positive impact on your sleep pattern.
3. Lowers Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
A study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland has shown that regular sauna use can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
According to this study, moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in men. The reasoning behind this is that sauna use increases blood flow to the brain.
4. Cleanses the Skin
A sauna session helps to improve blood circulation and increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are delivered to your organs. And one of the most important organs in the human body is actually our skin.
Sweating also rinses bacteria out of the skin, making it look softer and more rejuvenated.
One thing to keep in mind is that the dry heat in a sauna can also dry out the skin. So make sure you drink lots of water during and after your sauna session and don’t try and stay in the sauna as long as you possibly can.
5. Social Activity
While some people enter a sauna purely for the heat sensation, others use a sauna session as a social gathering.
A sauna is in fact a great way to socialize and to have meaningful conversations. There are no distractions and no noise, it’s just you and your fellow sauna users.
So go ahead, next time you visit a sauna or steam room, start a conversation with the person next to you and see how that conversation evolves.
6. Strengthens the Immune System
The high temperature in saunas triggers the body to produce more white blood cells, and white blood cells help fight colds, influenza and other viruses.
The steam that often occurs in a sauna can also help to clear the nose and lungs, which makes dealing with a cold a bit easier.
7. Relaxes the Muscles
Endorphins, as mentioned above, also help muscle tissue to relax and to recover after a workout. A sauna session helps to reduce muscle tension and to eliminate lactic acids in those muscles.
A sauna session after a workout is therefore considered a positive experience.
8. Flushes Toxins
The high temperature in a sauna makes us sweat. The good thing about excessive sweating is that it opens up the pores and lets out toxins and other impurities.
Sweating is actually a good thing, but due to our lifestyles, we typically don’t sweat enough. Regular sauna use can help change that.
9. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Study has shown that regular sauna use benefits cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of high blood pressure. This study claims that there is a link between more frequent sauna use and decreased risk of sudden cardiac death or fatal cardiovascular disease.
Just as with moderate exercise, the heart has to work a bit harder while being in a sauna. This benefits cardiovascular health in the long-term because the heart gradually becomes stronger.
10. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Another study has shown that regular sauna bathing leads to a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
This is very similar to the effect moderate exercise has on cholesterol levels in the human body. This doesn’t mean you should stop exercising, but it’s good to know that regular sauna use can be a good alternative.