A sauna is a small room or building designed as a space to experience dry or wet heat sessions or an establishment with one or more of these facilities. The steam and high heat make the bathers sweat.
Sauna: Health Benefits, Risks, Precautions and Fun Facts
Health Benefits of Sauna
There are several health benefits with going to the sauna, such as:
Good for the Heart
The reduction in stress levels when using a sauna may be linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular issues and health problems, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and neurocognitive diseases. Saunas help improve “vascular compliance” (how well your blood vessels respond to changes in pressure) and that is important for the health of your heart and how effectively blood travels throughout your body, including to your brain.
Allow Muscles to Relax and Recover
Saunas help relax muscles and soothe aches and pains in both muscles and joints. Saunas reduce inflammation levels in the blood. In most chronic conditions, inflammation goes haywire to cause serious pain and fatigue, and saunas reduce those markers.
Aid in Stress Relief
As the heat in a sauna improves blood circulation, it may also promote relaxation by releasing endorphins. This can improve feelings of well-being and relaxation.
Good for those with Asthma
People afflicted with asthma may find relief from some symptoms as a result of using a sauna. Saunas help open airways, loosen phlegm and reduce stress and anxiety.
Great for the Skin and the Lungs
The dry air does not harm the skin or the lungs. In fact, those with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, report relief from itching.
The Risks and Precautions You Need to Take
- Those with cardiovascular issues should consider consulting a doctor before going to a sauna because switching between the heat of a sauna and cold water in a swimming pool is not good as it can raise blood pressure.
- Sauna use may also cause blood pressure to fall, so people with low blood pressure should discuss with their doctor to make sure sauna use is safe.
- Saunas make the user sweat and this could lead to dehydration, people with kidney issues are at a greater risk. Also, avoid drinking while in the sauna as this can cause extreme dehydration.
What is a Far-Infrared Sauna?
Far-infrared saunas are different from the traditional wood-burning and electrically-heated saunas, these make use of special lamps use light waves to heat a person’s body, not the entire room. Such temperatures are typically lower than other saunas (around 60C), but the person sweats in a similar way. FIRs are typically recommended for people with mobility problems and health issues that make it difficult for them to be in the high temperatures normally found in a sauna.
What are Steam Rooms?
These are different from saunas. Instead of dry heat or lights, a steam room involves high humidity and moist heat.
Myths Around Saunas
There are quite a few misconceptions about saunas, such as the fact that they aid in weight loss. It is possible to lose about a few pounds after using a sauna, but this weight loss is due to fluid loss, not fat.
Fun Facts About Saunas
- There are around 3.5 million saunas in Finland for a population of 5.3 million.
- Previously, the Finnish would go to the sauna every day. At the start of the 20th century, Finnish would go sauna bathing twice a week.
- Sauna is associated with healing, traditional medicine, and wellness. Whilst massage, cupping and body balancing are still practiced in the heat of the sauna, in the sterile heat. Normal sauna bathing is highly effective for the treatment of many ailments and diseases, from colds to cardiovascular difficulties.
- The Finnish had excellent personal hygiene.
- Church-going Finnish still typically sauna bathe the night before religious holidays and events.
All in all, saunas are safe for the body, but there is little evidence that they have health benefits beyond relaxation and a good feeling of well-being.