At the local gym, pool, or athletic club you might have seen a sauna on offer. While it might at first seem like nothing more than a way to pamper yourself — sitting in a hot room, relaxing — there are actually many health benefits of using a sauna. From improving overall circulation to giving you glowing skin, it seems that adding some sauna time into your routine might be the hidden secret to improving your health.
What Do Saunas Do?
At its core, the purpose of a sauna is to get you to sweat. Some saunas work by heating the entire room, either from electricity or burning wood. Infrared saunas are different, as they use light waves to heat a person’s body rather than the entire room. According to Medical News Today, “A sauna use can raise the skin temperature to roughly 40° Celsius.”
“As the skin temperature rises, heavy sweating also occurs. The heart rate rises as the body attempts to keep itself cool. It is not uncommon to lose about a pint of sweat while spending a short time in a sauna.” With drains in the floor to drain out water, saunas are kept very dry — and it is this dry heat that is believed to be so beneficial.
What Are the Benefits?
According to Harvard Health, “the dry heat has profound effects on the body.” As your body temperature rises, you begin to sweat, and your pulse rate increases by more than thirty percent.
Because saunas promote relaxation, they have been shown to improve cardiovascular health over time. A study in Finland showed that “Participants who used the sauna two to three times a week were 22 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death”, and what’s more is that people “who used a sauna four to seven times a week were 63 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death and 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who only used a sauna once a week.”
In addition to being beneficial to the cardiovascular system, sauna use can also promote healthy skin. Harvard Health explains that the dry heat has been proven to help itchy skin caused by chronic conditions like psoriasis, and the heavy sweating has been claimed to help flush out impurities in the skin.
There is also some evidence pointing to the fact that saunas can improve respiratory conditions, as well as prevent future issues from arising. Studies have shown that lung function can be improved by sauna usage, and many people claim that it is a remedy for the common cold as well.
How Much Should You Use a Sauna?
According to Healthline, too much exposure to high temperatures can strain the body, so it’s best to start small and work your way up. The general recommendation is to begin with fifteen-minute sauna sessions and then work your way up incrementally as your body becomes used to it. Thirty to forty five minutes is a good baseline, aiming for three or four sessions per week for maximum benefits.
When you use a sauna, keep in mind the dehydrating effects that the hot air will have on your body. Make sure to have a water bottle handy so that you can re hydrate after sweating it out. This will make sure that you’re reaping the benefits from your sauna sessions, rather than doing harm to your body.