Sauna therapy, also known as “sweat therapy,” has been around for thousands of years and has been used for relaxation, detoxification, and healing purposes. Sauna therapy involves sitting in a hot, dry room or enclosed space, usually heated to temperatures between 150 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit, for a period of time, usually around 10-20 minutes. This process causes the body to sweat, which is said to provide a number of health benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of sauna therapy:
- Detoxification: One of the most commonly cited benefits of sauna therapy is its ability to aid in detoxification. Sweating is one of the body’s natural ways of getting rid of toxins, and saunas are an effective way to stimulate this process. The heat of the sauna causes the body to sweat, which helps to flush out harmful toxins and impurities from the body.
- Stress relief: Another benefit of sauna therapy is its ability to help relieve stress. Saunas are a relaxing and peaceful environment, and the heat of the sauna causes the body to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that help to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
- Improved cardiovascular health: Sauna therapy has also been shown to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. The heat of the sauna causes the heart rate to increase, which helps to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. This can lead to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Pain relief: Sauna therapy has also been shown to be effective in reducing pain. The heat of the sauna can help to ease muscle tension and soreness, as well as reducing inflammation in the body. This makes sauna therapy a popular choice for people suffering from chronic pain conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.
- Improved skin health: Sauna therapy can also have a positive effect on skin health. The heat of the sauna causes the body to sweat, which can help to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. This can help to improve the overall appearance and texture of the skin, leaving it looking and feeling healthier.
- Improved immune function: Finally, sauna therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on immune function. The heat of the sauna causes the body to produce more white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections and diseases. This can lead to a stronger and more effective immune system overall.
Overall, sauna therapy has a wide range of health benefits, from improved detoxification to stress relief to improved cardiovascular health. If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your health and well-being, sauna therapy may be just what you need. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new health regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
Surprising Benefits of Sauna Therapy
Improve your health and wellness with sauna therapy. Discover the surprising benefits of sauna, including stress relief, detoxification and improved cardiovascular health.
This article is based on reporting that features expert sources.
The hot air in a sauna isn’t just great for stress relief, it also has some real health benefits.
Sauna use is already a big part of many cultures, particularly in Scandinavia. There are two types of saunas:
- A dry sauna, also called Finnish sauna, that has heated rocks to help temperatures reach between 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry saunas have a humidity level of 10% to 20%, making it easier to tolerate the high temperatures for longer time periods, says Luke Greenwell, owner and physical therapist with RecoverRx Performance Physical Therapy in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.
- An infrared sauna makes use of infrared heaters to heat the body but not the air around it as much. Infrared saunas are still hot, but at 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, they aren’t as hot as a dry sauna. This type of sauna also has lower humidity. An infrared sauna may be best if you can’t handle the higher temperatures with a dry sauna, Greenwell says.
Some cultures use steam rooms or steam baths, such as the Turkish or Russian bath. These aren’t exactly the same as saunas but they have similar concepts. Steam rooms have temperatures ranging from 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 100% humidity.
In the U.S., you can find saunas in some gyms, spas, hotels and physical therapy offices. You can also purchase a sauna to use at home.
The Surprising Health Benefits of Saunas
A sauna session may seem like just a relaxing addition to a post-workout ritual or on a spa day, but long-term sauna use can have some real health benefits. These include:
Using saunas regularly may improve cardiovascular health in several ways, such as:
- Improving blood pressure.
- Reducing the risk of death from a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
- Decreasing cholesterol.
- In those with congestive heart failure, causing a small but notable difference in walking distance ability.
The exposure to heat in saunas increases the amount of blood pumped by the heart, while lowering blood pressure and increasing heart rate variability (the amount of time difference between each heartbeat), meaning sauna use may benefit cardiovascular health.
In small studies focused on patients with rheumatological diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and large joints), regular sauna use was associated with decreased pain and stiffness, according to a review article published in 2018 in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
A randomized controlled trial with 37 people who had chronic tension headaches found that regular sauna use over eight weeks led to a 44% reduction in headache intensity compared with the trial’s control group, according to a 2015 report in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
If you’ve ever used a sauna, you may have walked in and said “Ahhh.” That’s because the heat helps the body to relax. Feeling more relaxed contributes to a healthier body and mind, and you may just feel your stress melt away. Plus, sitting in a quiet, calm environment can help provide a pause when you have whirlwind days, says Shawn M. Houck, a physical therapist with Physical Therapy Central in Yukon, Oklahoma.
“No phone, no computer and no distractions,” he adds.
Researchers continue to study the potential for sauna use to help decrease the incidence of colds, fight off depression and potentially even prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
These benefits usually come from sustained, regular sauna use of at least twice a week, rather than occasional use.
Does Sauna Use Help With Weight Loss?
It’s possible to lose a small amount of weight after a sauna session. However, if you lose a pound or so, that’s probably sweat and water loss.
“It’s not a long-term or sustainable weight-loss method, but it can definitely be used in adjunct to your diet and exercise routine,” says Jayesh Tawase, a physical therapist and clinical director of special projects and outpatient at Theradynamics in New York.
Plus, the relaxation that comes with regular sauna use can have an indirect, positive effect on weight loss, Greenwell says. In other words, many of us tend to put on weight when we’re stressed. When we’re less stressed, we may maintain or lose weight more easily.
Precautions for Sauna Use
As great as regular sauna sessions can be, there are still some risks due to the high heat levels. Here’s when you should avoid sauna use or check with a health care provider first:
- If you’ve had a recent cardiac event, such as a heart attack or unstable angina (a type of chest pain).
- You have a history of complications from heat exposure.
- You use medication or have a medical condition that reduces your ability to sweat, such as anhidrosis.
- You have uncontrolled blood pressure.
- You’re pregnant.
6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Sauna Sessions
Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your sauna sweat sessions:
1. Start slowly and then add more time and frequency. Start with 10 to 15 minutes in the sauna, and build your body’s tolerance from there, Greenwell advises. This can help cut down the risk for effects from overheating, such as dizziness, nausea or fainting. You may decide to start with one session a week and then add more as your body gets more comfortable with the heat. If possible, you could start with a sauna that’s at a lower temperature before increasing your time and heat, Tawase says.
Positive effects from sauna use are associated with at least two to three sessions weekly or even more frequent or daily use. Sauna sessions usually range from 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Stay hydrated. Keep drinking water to replace the fluids you’ll lose from a sauna session. Drinks like coconut water can help replace electrolytes like potassium and magnesium that escape the body when you lose fluids. You can also use food to replace electrolytes, Houck says. Examples of those foods include:
- Peanuts and almonds.
3. Avoid alcohol before, during and after your sauna time. This will only make dehydration from fluid loss worse.
4. Stay careful about avoiding burns. Because saunas are so hot, it’s possible to get burnt when you sit down. Use a towel to protect your skin, and follow any other instructions from those managing the sauna on how to avoid burns.
5. Do some light stretching when you leave the sauna. This can help reduce a buildup of lactic acid (a chemical the body makes when it turns glucose into energy) and boost your overall flexibility, Houck says.
6. Aim to get enough sleep. Using saunas regular may enhance your sleep. Take advantage of this by aiming to get seven or more hours a night and making sleep a priority.
A Final Word
There are lots of reasons to hop into a sauna. If you can’t get to one as regularly as you’d like, then use them when you can. Check with a health care provider first if you have any risk factors, and stay hydrated during and after your sauna sessions.