Sauna Benefits

Sauna Benefits

We tell you about the benefits of saunas and why we recommend taking a day of relaxation with a sauna session from time to time.

What is a sauna?

A sauna is simply a heated room, usualy to temperatures of around 70-100 degrees Celsius (150-200 degrees Fahrenheit).

Traditional saunas use a relative humidity of between 10 and 20 per cent, although other kinds of saunas, such as Turkish saunas, are more humid.

The sauna has been used for thousands of years by humans.

What is Sauna

There’s data that indicates that the Mayas used them three millennia ago. They already knew the benefits of sauna back then…

Although most think of it as a way to relax, it can also bring a range of health benefits that are rarely discussed.

In this post, we’ll explain the benefits of the sauna for your health and what precautions you should take if you’re going to use one.

Health benefits of the sauna

Let’s look at some of the benefits of this practice:

  • Cardiovascular benefits.

The greatest potential of the sauna lies in its potential benefits on the cardiovascular system.

There are some very interesting prospective studies on this, such as this one on Finnish men who were observed for 20 years.

Cardiovascular health

Those who used the sauna often had a lower risk of dying from a heart problem compared to those who didn’t.

Those who used the sauna 4 to 7 times a week had a risk of sudden death that was 63% lower than those who only used it once a week.
  • Improved skin conditions.

At least some pathologies, such as psoriasis.

The downside is that other common skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, may be worsened.
  • Decreased muscle and joint pain.

Sauna and reduction of muscle pain

By iImproving circulation in muscle and joint tissue, pathologies such as osteoarthritis and arthritis can temporarily improve.

It’s also a good way to decrease muscle pain from intense physical exercise (DOMS). Do you want to know what causes these aches and pains? Well click here and we’ll tell you.
  • Decreased stress levels.

Vasodilation and lowering of blood pressure are associated with a relaxation response and a predominance of the parasympathetic nervous system.

It’s the reason you feel so rejuvenated when you leave the sauna.
  • Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s.

This study, published in 2020, looked at the risk of dementia in 2315 Finnish men (yes, saunas are an everyday thing there).

Similar to cardiovascular disease, those who used the sauna 4-7 times a week had a lower risk of dementia than those who only used it once a week.

However, as always, we can’t say for certain that these studies establish a clear causality between both factors (sauna – lower risk of dementia).

Increased longevity

To date, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that saunas help us live longer.

Less stress

However, the sauna can lower stress in your life.

At the very least, it will improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of some pathologies.

Elimination of toxins

This is a widespread myth among sauna users.

Whether it’s because of the feeling of “purification” or well-being it produces, many people think that saunas help to eliminate toxins from the body.

Sadly, the toxins that we can ingest or produce in our body are not eliminated through sweat: they’re eliminated through the action of organs such as the kidneys or the liver.

Benefits in aerobic sport

Some authors have suggested that the sauna acts as an exercise-mimetic.

What does this mean?

That in some way, its effects on physiology emulate those achieved with physical exercise.

This is partly true, as exposure to heat produces vasodilation in most tissues, increased heart rate and thus increased oxygen intake and consumption, as would mild-moderate aerobic exercise.

Benefits of sauna

However, I’m reluctant to equate the sauna with physical exercise.

Physical exercise is something irreplaceable and bring you the same kind of benefits.

Does the sauna help build muscle?

Little data exists on the improvement or enhancement of muscle hypertrophy.

However, there is very interesting data suggesting that post-training heat (and not cold as the mainstream proposes) improves recovery from muscle contraction after training.

The sauna and weight loss

Exposure to heat should be treated as a thermal stressor (in the same way as the famous cold exposure).

As such, certain precautions should be taken:

  • Risk of hypotension.

This is especially important in people who take antihypertensives or have cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure.

If your doctor has recently adjusted your dose of diuretics or antihypertensives, be careful.
  • Risk of dehydration.

People who are frail or at risk of dehydration should refrain from using the sauna. In a very short period of time, water losses can increase dramatically in a sauna.

  • Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol intake increases the risk of dehydration, arrhythmias, sudden death, and hypotension.

Its combination with the sauna can increase the risk of such problems.
  • The right amount of time.

Don’t spend more than 20 minutes in the sauna.

If you’re just starting out, as with any stressor, apply the principle of progressivity, starting with only 5 minutes.
  • Correct hydration.

After the sauna, it’s advisable to drink 1-2 glasses of water.

  • If you’re sick, don’t use the sauna.

Apply common sense and don’t add additional and unnecessary stressors if you have any conditions, either mild or severe.

There are a few myths regarding sauna use, two of the most common being:
  • That sauna eliminates toxins.

This is completely untrue.

The toxins in your body are eliminated by the liver and kidneys, as these organs have specific detoxifying functions.

Sweating does not eliminate toxins: it eliminates water and electrolytes.
  • The sauna makes you lose weight.

It’s the same effect achieved by those who go running in a raincoat in the middle of August.

Yeah, you’re gonna sweat…

And yes, you can lose up to a pound in a short sauna session. But you won’t have oxidised any more fat than you would have by walking the dog.

Dehydrating slightly and losing fat are two totally different things.

Related Entries

  • How Older Adults Should Eat We set out some basic guidelines here.
  • Have you ever wondered why people don’t exercise? We delve into our thoughts on the matter.
Review of Sauna Benefits

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About Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and therefore all his actions are rigorously backed by science.
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