10 Health, Wellness and Skin Benefits of Saunas
Throughout history, different societies have experimented with rooms or enclosures featuring both wet and dry heat for its therapeutic, relaxing benefits and even spiritual ceremonies. From the sweathouses used by the indigenous people of both North and Central America to the steam baths in ancient India as well as the Roman empires, many different civilizations have enjoyed these tranquil sites. The word sauna, native to Finland, is one that many are most familiar with today, though temperatures and heating elements, as well as sauna uses can vary widely from the Finish counterpart.
The modern day sauna is common throughout much of Europe and the United States, and it is not surprising that there are many different health and wellness benefits associated with these hot rooms.
What is a Sauna?
For those who have not experienced the benefits of a sauna, it is a room or building that is heated to high temperatures using one of two different methods of heat. (1)
The first is known as a conventional sauna, uses the heated stones that many are familiar with. Water is applied to the rocks at regular intervals to increase the humidity and help retain heat throughout the room. However, the higher the humidity, the shorter the bathing time should be. These saunas also take approximately a half an hour or more to heat up.
The infrared sauna uses an infrared heat source, such as stones, charcoal, or other heaters, but does not rely as much as conduction and convection as the traditional saunas do. Infrared sauna’s generally have higher humidity and a lower overall temperature, and in a single session in this type of sauna can last longer.
However, both of these two types of saunas will show health and wellness benefits as outlined below.
1. Saunas Relieve Stress
There is a reason that saunas and other steam baths have been used for thousands of years by millions of different people: they have great benefits on your mental health. Many sauna users actually state that stress relief is the most important benefit of sauna use. (2)
Similar to meditation, saunas allow the user to retreat to a quiet, warm place to clear their mind from day to day stressors. Saunas also allow users socialize with friends and family if so desired. The high heat can actually help the body to produce more endorphins, essential chemicals created in the central nervous system and produce feelings of happiness, excitement, and satisfaction.
2. Saunas Can Help Detoxify Your Body
There are many different toxins (3) that are naturally made in the body that build up over time, such as lactic acid and sodium, as well as a variety of other substances, such as heavy metals and pharmaceuticals that are stored in fatty tissue in the body.
When you sweat, these toxins are released from the body. Sweating out toxins can also help to ease the amount of the detoxification that is placed on the kidneys, which are the body’s natural way to get rid of toxins in the body.
3. Saunas Can Help Burn Calories
Unfortunately, there is no magical way to shed pounds quickly. However, those who are already overweight might find a great way to boost their weight loss by regularly using the sauna. (4)
Sweating is a natural act by your body to help regulate your temperature, and naturally, it does burn quite a few calories when exposed to such as excessive amount of sweating, as well as helping to increase metabolism.
The high temperature also increases the heart rate, which can also burn calories. However, for a person who is in a normal weight range, the benefits will not be as profound, and for anyone using a sauna, should only be one part of overall bodily health.
For healthy weight loss and management, using a sauna should not replace healthy eating and adequate aerobic exercise.
4. Saunas Can Boost Your Immune System
The science behind this phenomenon is quite interesting. While using the sauna, even for a short period of time, the body is tricked into thinking it is suffering from a fever. While most people believe fevers to be bad, they actually help the body heal from different ailments by producing white blood cells and antibodies. (5)
This means using a sauna can help to fight off bacterial and viral infections you might be suffering from as well as have an increased immune response to future infectious pathogens. (6)
Additionally, when you are suffering from a cold or other nasal and chest congestion, the warm, humid air in saunas can help to open up your respiratory system and drain your passages, relieving discomfort at least temporarily.
5. Saunas Can Help Prevent and Treat Sore Muscles
There is a reason that many gyms and pools utilize saunas, and that is because it can definitely be beneficial in helping with sore muscles. Utilizing heat has been a way that many athletes find temporary pain relief (7) from long-term injury soreness and sometimes for ailments such as scoliosis. However, it is thought that cold packs may be more helpful when helping treat short-term pain and small injuries.
Consult with your doctor or personal trainer if you are not sure if you should be using hot or cold therapy for your pain management needs.
6. Saunas Can Aid in Fighting Acne and Increasing Healthy Skin
As far as organs go, the skin is by far the largest. Therefore, it is no surprise that regular sauna usage can help in healthier, younger looking skin. (8) Saunas work to detoxify the body, and the skin is no exception, and does so by ridding the skin and upper layers closest to the skin of toxins and oils, which ultimately cause acne.
Since saunas can help the blood vessels to expand, more blood is brought to the skin, and with it comes antibodies and nutrients, which can help the skin to appear younger and help fight wrinkles and age marks.
7. Saunas May Help With an Increase in Insulin Resistance
Pre-diabetes and diabetes is a major concern for millions of people worldwide. There are different studies that show that regular use of the sauna can help change the body’s natural response to insulin. (9) Sauna and hot tub use should only be one part of an individual’s treatment of diabetes, and you should always discuss the pros and cons for usage to combat diabetes and high blood sugar.
8. Saunas Can Help Ease Pain Associated With Arthritis
With the warm humidity in saunas, many who suffer from arthritis can find relief by regular use of saunas. While there is no true cure for arthritis, saunas can help to relieve symptoms (10) for the youth and the elderly alike who are suffering from arthritis by increasing naturally occurring cortisol, adrenaline, and endorphins, all of which have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Additionally, use of sauna is also relaxing.
9. Saunas May Help With Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can present symptoms so similar that some believe that these two conditions are one in the same. Regardless, both of these symptoms are not well understood and can be hard to treat, which leads sufferers to believe that there is no end in sight for these debilitating illness.
Thankfully, many have found relief in heat therapy to help manage their symptoms. (11) As mentioned in previous items, the intense sweating in saunas can help to detoxify the body. Such toxins may exacerbate symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Many times, those suffering from these two conditions are unable to reach deep levels of sleep, which can rob them of essential growth hormones to help repair their bodies. Saunas can help increase these levels.
Of course, saunas can help reduce stress, and many people find that lower stress levels can help their bodies heal from these conditions and associated problems.
10. Saunas Make You Feel Good
There is no doubt about it- saunas make you feel better. Whether it is due to improved mental health, physical health, or emotional health, saunas are a great tool when looking to improve overall health and wellness.
While there are many different benefits to utilize saunas as well as various different types of saunas to use, rest assured that this is an addition to your house or an easily utilized part of your gym membership that will be advantageous to use on a regular basis. Barring any major health concerns and used responsibly, saunas can play a key part in your wellness routine.
Safety Concerns for Saunas
It is important to be mindful of how your body is feeling while enjoying the benefits of the sauna. While saunas, in small doses, can be incredibly therapeutic, these rooms can reach temperatures from 110 degrees to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, which, in long sessions, is incredibly dangerous.
Depending on the temperature as well as the humidity level, the most one should spend in a sauna is no more than a half an hour, as well as replenishing liquids such as water and tea lost during extensive sweating.
Furthermore, those who have been consuming alcohol, have high blood pressure, heart disease, or cardiovascular issues, or a history of seizures or epilepsy should be very mindful or avoid using saunas altogether. (12)
Pregnant women should also minimize the use of saunas. Parents should also monitor children’s usage of saunas carefully and never leave them unattended. If you have any questions about whether a specific health concern that you have can be aggravated by sauna use, please consult your doctor for more information.