Humans have been reaping the healing qualities of heat stress (aka hyperthermia) and hot steam for thousands of years. Across the world, almost every culture has its own version of the “sauna,” and whether they call it a Temazcal, sweat lodge, hammam or bathhouse, the same principle applies. Heated air and steaming water are used to relax, cleanse, rejuvenate, and cure.
It is not a surprise that hundreds of cultures independently created their own version of the sauna — this type of heat therapy offers innumerable health benefits. And now, we have the research to prove it. Below we dive into the top Sauna Health Benefits for the cardiovascular system and longevity, the skin, mood, stress, and depression, as well as muscles and endurance.
SAUNA BENEFITS FOR LONGEVITY & CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
Most researchers believe its the hyperthermic conditioning that occurs during and after sauna use which addresses many of the key drivers of cardiovascular disease, muscle atrophy, and cognitive decline.
According to an interview with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Jari Laukkanen, large studies conducted in Finland have shown frequent sauna users (4-7 times per week) are 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes, and moderate users (2-3 times per week) are 27% less likely to die from the same.
This is all great for longevity in the body — but what about the brain? There’s good news on that front as well. Frequent sauna users (4-7 times per week) showed a reduction in the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease by 65% AND they were 40% less likely to die from all causes of premature death — even when all other factors, age, activity levels, and lifestyle, were accounted for.
SAUNA BENEFITS FOR THE SKIN
The heat stress from a sauna widens blood vessels, increases blood flow, and causes us to sweat more easily, which has a number of benefits for our body’s largest organ — our skin.
Anything you’ve been exposed to in your environment can get absorbed by your skin. Likewise, as sweat passes through our skin’s outermost layer (the epidermis), it takes with it dead skin cells and residual heavy metals. As you experience both internal and external detoxification, you should see improvements to your skin with a clearer complexion and healthier glow.
Of course, after you sweat out toxins in the sauna, you'll need to replace the water you've lost. There's no way for your body to refresh it's newly cleaned systems without it!
SAUNA BENEFITS FOR MOOD & DEPRESSION
Research has shown interesting connections between mood, stress, and hyperthermia. People with depression often show elevated biomarkers of inflammation, and the use of saunas have shown directly lower those marks of inflammation.
One study from Japan has shown that repeated thermal therapy on mildly depressed patients resulted in an improvement in appetite and relaxation and reduced body aches and anxiety, compared to the control group.
But wait, there’s more! Evidence has shown that beta-endorphins, which are released when we exercise and are part of the body’s natural painkilling system, are also robustly increased by the use of saunas. They are what often makes us “feel good,” following a sauna session or intense exercise.
SAUNA BENEFITS FOR STRESS
Stress-relieving emotional benefits come from the heat stress of the sauna, explained above, and also the practice of sitting still. Even if you can’t meditate in the traditional sense, using a sauna can have similar effects.
During a sauna session, you're also less distracted by your phone or computer or people needing things from you. It is easier to be present, back away from the busy-ness of the world, and truly relax with yourself. Further, when you're sauna-level hot, it's hard to think about too many things at once. There will always be a drop of sweat reminding you to stay in your body and be in the here-and-now — this, no matter how it’s achieved, has shown to be one of the best ways to beat stress.
SAUNA BENEFITS FOR MUSCLES & PERFORMANCE
Use of sauna hasn’t just shown positive effects on muscle soreness post-workout, it has also shown positive effects on all levels of physical fitness and athletic performance.
One study on athletic performance showed that a post-workout 30-minute sauna session 2 times a week increased the baseline (or how far they could run until exhaustion) of long-distance runners by 32%. Likewise, cardiovascular improvements by sauna use can enhance endurance in trained and untrained athletes.
As for soothing general aches and pains caused by a workout, a sauna session can help with that, too. An intensive workout will cause your muscles to hold onto metabolic waste, known as lactic acid — when that builds up you experience muscle soreness. By increasing blood flow going through your muscle tissue with the heat of a sauna, you discourage the build-up of lactic acid and can decrease post-workout aches and pains.
After a workout, if you feel stable enough, try some light stretching in the sauna. This will encourage more blood flow and faster muscle healing.
As you can see, the use of regular sauna and heat stress is associated with a large number of health benefits, and we’re only finding more as the research continues. From cardiovascular improvements and cognitive protection to mental health and improved athletic performance, the regular use of a sauna provides a lot of the same benefits of moderate to high-intensity exercise.
If you’re looking to improve your overall health, consider adding a home sauna to your life, where you can enjoy the plethora of benefits it offers you in the privacy, comfort, and convenience of your own home. If you have any questions about finding the perfect sauna for your needs and space, please reach out to us or use the chat option on this page and we’ll be happy to help.