Are Saunas Good For You in 2021?

Posted by : Rocky Mountain Saunas Team

Hot saunas can relax and detoxify your body. They have been used by Scandinavians for hundreds of years. From early childhood, Scandinavians use saunas for relaxation, cleansing, and weight loss. Finland, for example, boasts 2 million saunas for a population of 5.2 million people, which shows how popular the practice is. 

If you are considering whether using a hot sauna could benefit you, make sure to consider your personal health and wellness needs first. 

STEAM ROOMS VS SAUNAS

What is the difference between steam rooms and saunas? These rooms both create heat to encourage sweating but use different types of heat. Steam rooms use moist heat, adding 100 percent humidity to the environment. They are maintained at lower temperatures, around 110-120°F (43-49°C). Saunas use hot rocks or stoves to promote dry heat at a higher temperature, around 195°F (90.5°C).

SAUNA BENEFITS

Being in a hot sauna leads to increased skin temperature, higher pulse, and dilated blood vessels as your heart pumps more blood. As this happens, you also begin to sweat. This experience has some benefits for your body.

RELAXING 

When your heart rate rises and blood vessels dilate, there is increased blood flow in your skin. This can improve blood circulation.

The high temperature in a sauna activates your sympathetic nervous system to balance your body temperature. As your body and endocrine glands react to the heat, you can become more alert, feel elation, and perceive less pain. Tense muscles in your body, including in your face and neck, are relaxed by the heat too. 

Relaxation is a primary benefit of sauna use. Meditating while in the sauna can enhance relaxation. Soothing your body in a sauna can lead to a corresponding calmness in your emotions, thoughts, and mind. These effects last even when you leave the sauna and can improve your sleep. 

PAIN RELIEVING

The relaxing and dilating of your blood vessels in a sauna increases blood flow, which soothes sore muscles and decreases joint tension. This can be invigorating. 

Saunas may also be helpful for those with arthritis or chronic pain. A four-week study involving people with ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic diseases found that use of a sauna lessened pain, fatigue, and stiffness. All of the study patients reported benefits from the sauna sessions, but the effects were not statistically significant. With that in mind, people with these conditions should try a couple of trial sessions before committing to sauna use as a regular treatment. 

 

SAUNA RISKS

 

DEHYDRATION

After a short time in a sauna, the average person loses a pint of sweat. Make sure you drink enough water before and after entering a sauna so you don’t become dehydrated. Spending extended periods of time in a sauna can also increase the risk of dehydration. 

Severe dehydration is a serious medical emergency, so monitor your water intake and immediately leave the sauna if you get very thirsty, develop a headache, or become dizzy/lightheaded. Severe dehydration can lead to complications including heat stroke, kidney failure, low blood pressure, seizures, hypovolemic shock, unconsciousness, and coma. 

When you finish your sauna session and leave the sauna, drink enough water so your body is rehydrated.

WEIGHT LOSS

When you sweat in a sauna, only fluid weight is lost. As soon as you eat or drink, the lost fluid is replaced, which makes you gain the weight back. If losing weight is your goal, exercise and a healthy diet will help you do it. 

TOXINS

There isn’t any evidence suggesting that sweating in a sauna releases bodily and skin toxins. Sweating only prevents your body from overheating, while your liver and kidneys are responsible for detoxification. 

This is another reason why keeping yourself hydrated is important. Your liver and kidneys need enough water to work optimally. Drink enough water after you leave the sauna to help them do their job. 

FERTILITY

Research has found a link between sauna use and men’s fertility. A three-month study involving men from Finland who used saunas twice a week for 15 minutes each time found that sauna use significantly reduced sperm production. 

Fortunately, the effect was determined to be reversible. Additional research will be needed to further understand saunas’ effects on fertility. 

WHEN YOU SHOULD AVOID SAUNAS

People with some health conditions should not use saunas and steam rooms. People who are pregnant or have heart disease, asthma, high/low blood pressure, epilepsy, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol should check with their doctors before sauna use. 

A Journal of Forensic Science study found that deaths from sauna use are extremely rare (fewer than 2 per 100,000 people). 51 percent of deaths analyzed in the study were determined to be from natural causes and 25 percent from heat exposure. Of all deaths occurring in saunas, half of them involved people who were under the influence of alcohol, most of whom were alone at the time. 

NEXT STEPS

There are both risks and benefits associated with sauna use. For healthy individuals, using a sauna is generally safe. Still, there is not much evidence that suggests that their health benefits go beyond relaxation and general feelings of wellness. 

Though many people include saunas as part of a wellness routine, what’s best for them may not be best for you. Consider your own health and lifestyle before sauna use. When combined with exercise, a healthy diet, and enough water, saunas can improve muscle aches and pains, relaxation and sleep quality, and blood circulation. 

If your goal in using a sauna is to relieve stress, keep in mind that being exposed to high temperatures for too long can strain your body. Plan for 15-minute sessions and gradually increase to a maximum of 30 minutes each time. 

Before entering a sauna, make sure to remove jewelry, glasses, metals, and contact lenses. Remember to monitor your experience for signs of dizziness, feeling unwell, or headaches--these are signs that you should exit the sauna immediately. Finally, rehydrate with one or two glasses of water once you finish your sauna session.