Does the idea of closing yourself in a hot, steamy closet of relaxing bliss sound fabulous to you? Doing so could benefit your health significantly.
Saunas do more than allow you a few minutes of “me” time. Research indicates they can improve anything from your cardiovascular system to your mental health. Before you book your next date with steamy relaxation, learn more about how you can heal your body and soul by doing so.
How Do Saunas Work?
If there’s one thing that Scandinavian countries have in droves besides unique home furnishings, it’s cold weather. The first saunas originated in Finland. They typically consisted of dugout dwellings with a firepit. Stones lined the inside of the fireplace, and users would add water to the hot rock to produce steam, raising the interior temperature of the room enough so they could take off their clothes.
Today, there is more than one sauna for every three people in the nation. The popularity of this type of treatment spread from Scandinavia around the globe, and you can find many kinds of saunas today. There are four principal types of the device:
- Dry saunas: These typically use an electric heater to produce the desired effects.
- Steam/wet saunas: These allow you to toss water directly on the heating element, which is often covered in hot stones.
- Wood-burning saunas: This is the oldest type of sauna, and also the messiest and most time-consuming to operate — you have to keep that fire going, after all. However, if you want the authentic experience, this is the way to go.
- Infrared saunas: These relative newcomers to the sauna market use infrared light to raise your internal body temperature, not so much make you sweat.
Some modern therapists combine modalities when it comes to healing with saunas. Some might incorporate elements of aromatherapy, whereas others might use them to loosen up tight muscles before a massage.
10 Health Benefits of Using a Sauna
In an always-connected world, stepping away from screens and the chaos of society is a welcome enough reprieve. However, saunas offer the following 10 health benefits, as well.
1. Reduce Stress
Anywhere you can sit quietly for a while will lower your heart and respiration rates. However, the addition of the heat component can prove extra soothing. The Finns teach their children to treat a sauna like they would a church. In much of the west, harried parents turn to these warm rooms to escape cries of “mom” for a few heavenly minutes.
2. Sweat Out Toxins
Western scientists claim the verdict remains out as to whether the toxins removed during a sauna session will make a significant health impact. One thing is sure — researchers have found heavy metals and chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) in human sweat. If you have a reusable water bottle, you might know that scientists link BPA to cancer.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
One of the most impressive benefits of using a sauna is the effect on your heart. One research study indicated that people who used saunas two to three times per week had a 24% lower risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and disease considerably.
4. Relax Your Arteries
Arterial stiffness also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, occurs when plaque and other substances build up in the wall. These can eventually block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. The risk of sudden cardiac death decreased by 52% among men who used a sauna for at least 19 minutes, according to one study.
5. Ease Chronic Pain
If you have a chronic inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, get yourself into a sauna quickly. The heat may increase the flow of synovial fluid around swollen joints. Some patients with disorders like fibromyalgia also report significant relief after a sweat bath.
6. Improve Brain Health
Does dementia or Alzheimer’s disease run in your family? If so, you might want to consider investing in a sauna. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland discovered an inverse association between sauna use and cognitive decline. The more frequently study participants used the device, the lower their risk of developing either disorder.
7. Purify Your Skin
If you are plagued with acne, you may have heard the advice to use steam to open your pores. What better way to do so than in a sauna? Afterward, take care to wash your skin with a nonoily cleanser to remove any remaining debris.
8. Decrease Asthma Attacks
Many people with asthma find dry conditions intolerable, while others suffer the most when it is humid. Choose your sauna experience based on your needs. The heat can open up swollen air passages, letting you breathe more comfortably.
9. Open Stuffy Sinuses
Steam is an ideal method for cleaning out clogged sinuses naturally. If seasonal allergies leave you sounding like Elmer Fudd when you speak, a 30-minute session could help you recover your sense of smell without resorting to pills or sprays.
10. Protect Lung Function
A study performed on individuals with obstructive pulmonary disease showed a transient increase in lung function. If you have COPD that leaves you wheezing, talk to your doctor about whether adding sauna sessions to your weekly routine could benefit you.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Sauna? Many
There are multiple benefits of using a sauna, and you don’t have to worry about medication side effects. The next time you want to improve your overall health, get steamy.