Wet or dry, the health benefits of sauna therapy have been sparking conversation in recent years, though the concept of harnessing heat for healing is certainly nothing new. Saunas have been enjoyed for thousands of years for hygienic improvement, to treat health conditions, as a community gathering place, and for spiritual purposes.
The Global Tradition of Saunas
"Multiple cultures around the world use heat therapy for its benefits and rejuvenating and recharging qualities," says Julia Adamian, MD, section chief of general internal medicine and clinical innovation at NYU Langone Tisch Hospital, referencing the saunas of Finland, Turkish hammams, the sweat lodges enjoyed by American Indian, Russian Banya, and hot springs. "In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) heat therapy can help correct imbalances that lead to physical, mental, and even spiritual pain," says Gudrun Snyder, founder of Moon Rabbit Acupuncture.
Mental Health Benefits
"Simply being in an isolated warm room can be beneficial for mental health. Who doesn’t love feeling enveloped in warmth, putting the phone away, and closing their eyes?" The recent fascination with saunas (#sauna currently sits at 1.8 billion views on TikTok) finds fans praising the hot boxes as a primary component of a healthy routine.
"It is important to note that everyone may not experience the same benefits, and individual responses can vary as with anything you try," says Snyder, who adds that more research is needed to solidify the cause and reality of many of sauna’s positive effects. "It is important to balance the cost and benefit to you."
Exploring Sauna Types
Traditional Finnish Saunas
Most studies center on traditional Finnish saunas, aka dry saunas. ("Sauna" is a Finnish word.) The temperature of these saunas typically features a dry heat that sits between 176 to 230°F with 10 to 20 percent humidity, the latter occasionally increased by pouring water over heated rocks to create additional steam.
Infrared saunas are a touch cooler, providing temperatures between 113 to 140°F via infrared wavelengths rather than water. If someone you know has an in-house sauna, it’s likely of the infrared variety.
Wet Saunas (Steam Rooms)
Lastly, wet saunas, aka steam rooms, sit at around 158 to 212°F and over 50 percent humidity with the goal of increasing your thermal load.
The Health Benefits of Sauna
Whether you plan to enjoy your sauna session as a means of mental unwind, to ease muscle tension post-physical activity, or for the overall health benefits, here’s everything you need to know about the time-honored trend.
Incorporating saunas into your wellness routine can offer a range of health benefits. These include:
Relaxation and Stress Relief: Saunas provide a soothing and calming environment, which can help reduce stress and promote mental relaxation.
Improved Circulation: The heat in saunas dilates blood vessels, improving blood circulation, which is beneficial for heart health.
Detoxification: Sweating in the sauna helps remove toxins from the body, promoting overall detoxification.
Pain Relief: Sauna heat can ease muscle tension and provide relief from conditions like arthritis and muscle soreness.
Skin Health: The increased blood flow and sweating can lead to healthier, clearer skin.
Enhanced Respiratory Health: Inhaling steam in wet saunas can be helpful for individuals with respiratory issues.
Weight Management: While not a replacement for exercise, saunas can aid in weight loss by increasing heart rate and calorie expenditure.
Community and Social Benefits: Saunas have a long history as a place for social gatherings, fostering a sense of community and belonging.
In conclusion, saunas offer a wide range of health benefits, both physical and mental. They have been used for centuries across various cultures, and recent interest in saunas continues to grow. While individual experiences may vary, incorporating sauna sessions into your routine can contribute to your overall well-being. So, whether you prefer a dry Finnish sauna, an infrared sauna, or a steam room, consider adding sauna therapy to your lifestyle for a more relaxed, healthier you.
Remember, when it comes to saunas, "Everything You Need to Know About The Health Benefits of Sauna" is right here.
The Future of Sauna Research
What are the Benefits of a Sauna?
Saunas offer a range of benefits, primarily focusing on relaxation and promoting cardiovascular health. However, it’s important to note that saunas may not be suitable for everyone. A sauna is essentially a room designed for people to unwind in a dry heat environment. Some of the potential advantages include:
Cardiovascular Health: Sauna sessions can simulate the cardiovascular benefits similar to those achieved through exercise, improving heart health.
Relaxation: Saunas create a soothing atmosphere, helping individuals unwind and alleviate stress.
While saunas can be beneficial, it’s crucial to exercise caution. Consuming alcohol before or during a sauna can pose serious risks. As with any wellness practice, it’s essential to consider individual factors and consult a healthcare professional if you have specific concerns.
How Does Sauna Affect the Endocrine System?
Sauna therapy has a notable impact on the endocrine system, influencing various hormonal responses and contributing to overall well-being. Studies have shown that intense heat exposure in a sauna can lead to significant changes in the endocrine system. These changes may include:
Increased Endorphins: Sauna sessions can trigger the release of endorphins, often referred to as "feel-good" hormones, promoting a sense of well-being and stress reduction.
Prolactin Regulation: Sauna use may play a role in regulating prolactin levels, affecting factors like reproduction and immune response.
Catecholamine Response: The sauna experience can lead to changes in catecholamine levels, impacting factors like blood pressure and stress response.
Researchers have also explored the cardiovascular health benefits of Finnish saunas and compared the effects of short exposures to different types of heat stress. These findings highlight the intricate connection between sauna therapy and the endocrine system, underscoring the importance of further investigation in this area.
Why Do Scandinavians Use Saunas?
Scandinavians have embraced saunas for centuries, driven by the perceived advantages of purification, relaxation, and potential weight management. The tradition of sauna usage in Scandinavian countries typically begins in childhood and carries on throughout life. It’s worth noting that current research on the benefits of saunas yields varied results, indicating a complex interplay of factors. Despite the ongoing debate, saunas remain an integral part of Scandinavian culture, deeply rooted in their history and way of life.
What Happens When You Enter a Sauna?
Stepping into a sauna triggers a series of physiological responses. As you enter this heated environment, several key changes occur:
Elevated Skin Temperature: The sauna’s heat causes your skin temperature to rise, creating a warm sensation on your body.
Increased Pulse Rate: Your heart rate accelerates as your body responds to the heat, pumping more blood to help regulate temperature.
Dilated Blood Vessels: Blood vessels expand in response to the heat, enhancing blood circulation.
Sweating Begins: You start to sweat as your body attempts to cool down, promoting the release of toxins and cleansing.
This combination of effects contributes to several potential benefits, with relaxation being a primary outcome. Saunas have long been used as a means to induce a profound sense of relaxation and well-being.
Do Saunas Actually Have Health Benefits?
While saunas have traditionally been associated with relaxation and pleasure, there is growing evidence to support their potential health benefits. Accumulating research indicates that regular sauna bathing may have a positive impact on both acute and chronic health conditions. These benefits extend beyond mere enjoyment, making saunas a promising component of a healthy lifestyle.
What You Need to Know About Saunas
Sauna use, especially in dry saunas, can leave you feeling invigorated. The relaxation and dilation of blood vessels boost blood flow, promoting joint relaxation and muscle tension relief. Saunas may also provide relief for individuals dealing with chronic pain and arthritis, making them a valuable addition to your wellness routine.