Sauna Health Benefits: Are Saunas Healthy or Harmful?
There are few things quite like the relaxing feeling of stepping into a sauna after a hard day, or a tough workout.
While some people swear by them, there are many others who have never stepped foot into one of these miraculous heating units.
Evidence of their usage dates back centuries to Nordic/Scandinavian regions, where they were routinely used for purported health benefits.
Of course, their method of sauna usage differed greatly from what we know today, as the abundance of natural hot springs and makeshift steam rooms were used to get the desired effect.
Today, saunas come in many different forms - from traditional dry wooden sauna boxes to steam and infrared types.
And are these modern saunas actually healthy for us? In this blog post, we will dive into more about saunas to answer any burning questions that may be on your mind.
Different Types of Saunas
While there are a few different varieties of saunas around, they are broadly classified into 1 of 3 types based on the heat source.
An infrared sauna is one that uses light to create heat. This light is called infrared radiation, and it penetrates the skin and heats your body directly, rather than heating the air around you. This type of sauna can be used for many health benefits, such as detoxification, weight loss, improved circulation, relaxation and stress relief, and pain relief.
Additionally, infrared saunas can help increase circulation and improve muscle recovery. This increased circulation helps to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and can aid in the healing process. Infrared saunas are unofficially considered to be the "best" type of sauna.
Steam saunas have been around for a number of years, and can be considered one of the first types to exist. They continue to grow increasingly popular (arguably, the most popular type), and for good reason. A steam sauna uses steam instead of dry heat to create a more intense and relaxing experience.
A steam sauna is typically more humid than a standard sauna, and the steam is created by boiling water in an enclosed area (or via a steam generator).
The steam is then released into the air and circulated around the sauna room. This creates a more intense and relaxing atmosphere than a dry sauna and also helps to open up the pores better.
The humidity in the steam sauna is much higher than in a dry sauna, but this can be adjusted to meet your needs, and the steam can be infused with different essential oils for added relaxation. Steam saunas are a great way to relax after a long day and for benefiting the health of your skin.
A dry heat sauna is an efficient way to relax and detoxify your body. Unlike a traditional steam sauna, a dry heat sauna uses heated air instead of humidity to create a hot and soothing environment. The heat is usually generated by coils that warm the air in the sauna room. This heated air is then circulated around, allowing you to enjoy a more consistent experience throughout your time in the sauna.
People enjoy the feeling this type of therapy provides and many swear by its therapeutic benefits. Specifically, proponents claim that it can help reduce fatigue, improve circulation, and alleviate pain associated with muscle tension.
Dry heat saunas are generally easier to maintain and clean than steam varieties and may be capable of achieving higher temperatures than moist heat models.
How The Body Responds To Heat Stress
Using a sauna has long been linked to many health benefits. These include better heart and lung health, feeling more peaceful and relaxed, and sleeping better. What's not as well known is that regular sauna use can help people become more resistant to heat stress. This is because their bodies get used to being in a hot environment.
Physically, the body starts adapting when it is exposed to heat. This activates the automatic nervous system, which does not normally work in cooler settings. It also sets off a number of processes designed to protect cells from high temperatures.
These include widening blood vessels so that more blood can flow (vasodilation) and increasing sweat rates to help move heat away from our muscles into the air (convection). Hormones are also released, our heart rate speeds up, and molecules inside us help keep electrolyte balance when we're over-hot or dehydrated. By regularly taking part in saunas, people get used to higher temperatures mentally and physically.
This prevents them from getting too stressed out in hot conditions while they're exercising or outside too long in hot weather. Studies have shown that those who use saunas often have a lower chance of passing out from overexerting themselves than those who don't get this kind of exposure. So for anyone who wants an extra layer of protection against extreme temperatures – either for acting purposes or just for personal wellness – using a sauna may be an excellent way for them to prepare themselves ahead of time!
Possible Health Benefits
Reducing Stress Levels
Saunas are fantastic ways to relax, reduce stress, and positively influence your mood and overall well-being. By gently increasing your body temperature in the sauna while you sit back and relax, it has been proven to decrease cortisol levels, which is the hormone released in the body when under stress.
Just a few minutes of leisurely sweating can have an uplifting psychological effect by reducing mental fatigue and worry.
This is believed to be due to the massive increase in dopamine and beta-endorphin levels brought on by heat as well, so don't hesitate to unwind in the sauna after a hard day.
Better Skin Health
Using a sauna can be a great way to improve skin health. The intense heat of a sauna causes your skin to perspire, which helps remove toxins, dirt, and oils from the surface of your skin. Additionally, the heat helps open up your pores, allowing for deep cleansing and better circulation.
As the heat relaxes your body, it also relaxes the muscles in your face, helping to reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging. Additionally, the sauna helps to boost collagen production, which is important for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness.
However, collagen production decreases naturally with age, making it a virtual necessity to supplement with Radiance collagen peptides to maintain the suppleness of your skin.
The intense heat and moisture of the sauna also help to soothe and hydrate the skin, allowing it to look and feel softer and healthier. Furthermore, a sauna session can help reduce inflammation in the skin, as well as reduce redness. As a result, sauna usage is actually one of the best things you can do for your skin health.
Saunas have long been lauded as a great way to relax and unwind, but they offer many other health benefits as well. One of the most noteworthy is their ability to help reduce asthma symptoms. Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder that causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult for the patient to breathe.
By introducing heat and humidity into the airways (hence, via a steam sauna), they can help increase airway expansion and reduce inflammation, making it easier to get air in and out of the lungs. Additionally, heat can help reduce stress and anxiety as previously mentioned, both of which can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Furthermore, the moist heat can also help with the expulsion of mucus buildup, reducing the frequency of coughing.
While saunas may not be a cure-all for asthma, they can certainly help to reduce symptoms and make management of the disease easier.
Regular sauna use can be incredibly beneficial in helping to reduce pain. Through its unique combination of warmth and humidity, the sauna creates an ideal environment for loosening tight muscles and promoting blood circulation to sore areas.
Studies suggest that spending time in a sauna reduces inflammation and stimulates the secretion of endorphins, reducing the intensity of chronic pain. Additionally, many people find the sensations of sweat and relaxation to be calming, promoting deeper sleep where long-term relief from soreness is often sought. With just a few uses per week, saunas offer an easily accessible form of natural pain relief.
Supports Post Workout Recovery
A sauna can be a great way to enhance post-workout recovery. The heat and humidity help relax the muscles, increase recovery rate, and reduce soreness after physical activity. Additionally, it is a great way to detoxify the body by increasing sweat production, which flushes out toxins from deep in the muscles. Sauna use can also provide mental relief as well. It has been found to help with relaxation, reduce stress levels and even improve moods.
By promoting better sleep quality through its relaxing effects, users can also have improved cognitive performance afterward as well. The intense heat of saunas can raise core temperatures and regulate overall body temperature better than any other method, making it ideal for muscle repair after an intense workout session.
Taking regular sauna sessions can thus lead to a decrease in muscle fatigue and injury caused by physical activity. Ultimately, using a sauna regularly can help people reap all the rewards that exercise has to offer while minimizing the adverse effects of overtraining - accelerating post-workout recovery in the process.
May Promote Better Sleep
One of the lesser-known benefits of sauna usage is the promotion of better sleep. By briefly exposing your body to temperatures up to 195° Fahrenheit, your body begins to naturally cool itself in response and a relaxed state is achieved.
This helps to reduce stress, which often leads to better sleep quality. Additionally, some studies have suggested that sauna use may improve deep, or slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is the most restorative of all sleep stages, allowing increased focus and attention when awake.
This may be a simple fix for transient or short-term insomnia and sleep-related issues. If it doesn't help, an effective all-natural sleep aid such as Dreamzzz is recommended for use.
Increases Caloric Expenditure
The use of a sauna to promote weight loss and reduce body fat has been gaining popularity lately, and there are some scientific studies that suggest that it is effective.
It is still a fairly controversial topic, but one study demonstrated that a single sauna session increased the metabolism of individuals for up to a day after their session had ended. In addition to this, regular sauna use is thought to increase circulation, relax muscles and relieve stress which can all have positive impacts on overall health, weight management, and even a person's mental state.
Ultimately, while more extensive research is needed to definitively determine if sauna use can lead to measurable results in terms of long-term weight loss or body fat reduction, many people report success from including it in their routine.
Improved Heart Health
Regular sauna use has been proven to lower blood pressure and improve circulation, putting less strain on the heart. Sweating during a sauna session also helps make arteries that are more effective at transporting nutrients and oxygen around the body. In addition, saunas have been found to reduce various risk factors associated with heart disease, such as cholesterol and triglyceride values.
Finally, researchers have observed that regular users of saunas often display improved heart rate variability (HRV), which is considered an important indicator of optimal cardiovascular well-being.
Stronger Immune System
Sauna use is an interesting point of study with regard to its potential benefit in strengthening the immune system. Recent research points to sauna use as having a positive effect on improving the body's response to environmental factors, reducing inflammation, and boosting overall immunity.
While studies have been done on short-term sauna use, they tend to focus on the potential long-term benefits of regular exposure. While more research needs to be done in this area, there is certainly evidence that indicates saunas may be an effective way of keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
How Long Can You Sit in A Sauna?
It is generally recommended that healthy adults should not stay in a sauna for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time. For people with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, it may be best to limit the sessions to 10 minutes or less.
Can You Use a Sauna Every Day?
You can actually use a sauna every day, although most people will generally limit their sessions to no more than 3-4 times per week. It is also important to remember that the benefits of regular sauna use are cumulative, meaning the most beneficial effects will be felt after multiple sessions over time.
Are There Any Risks to Using a Sauna?
Although generally considered safe and beneficial, there are certain risks to consider when using a sauna. These may include:
It is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session.
However, the importance of electrolytes and microminerals cannot be underestimated. For this reason, it is essential that you take a high-quality whole-food multivitamin/mineral supplement like Fortify to cover all your bases.
The heat produced in a sauna can cause your metabolism to increase, resulting in weight loss. However, when it comes to long-term results, there is no substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise.
It may be a useful adjuvant when combined with the necessary prerequisites.
When it comes to male fertility, excessive heat exposure can decrease sperm motility, morphology, and count. For this reason, it is recommended that men who are trying to conceive should limit their sauna use.
While it isn't necessary to forego them completely, moderation is an important factor to allow you to reap the benefits without risking any negative side effects.
Saunas have been used for hundreds of years and turns out, it was for good reason. There are real-life benefits to doing so, but moderation is important as it relates to duration and frequency.
If you're new to the sauna life, start by using them twice weekly. Observe if they are offering any benefits and adjust accordingly. The idea is to stay healthy and enjoy the time spent in the sauna while doing so.