HOT TUB VS. SAUNA HEALTH BENEFITS: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
Have you ever wondered about the real differences between soaking in a hot tub and sweating it out in a sauna? You're not alone. While both might seem like tools of relaxation that can help you unwind and destress, there's a lot more to them than that.
With their dry heat and traditional allure, saunas have exceptional detoxifying abilities — a much-appreciated reprieve for our overworked bodies. Conversely, hot tubs are often seen as a way to socialize or enjoy a romantic evening with your partner.
The question is, do these two types of spa experiences truly offer the same benefits? Let's take a closer look at what makes saunas and hot tubs so different and how each can benefit you on your wellness journey.
What are Saunas, and How Do They Work?
Saunas are warm and humid rooms that date back to the Stone Age. Previously, these steamy sanctuaries were a vital source of warmth during the winter's biting cold. People started using these heated spaces to cleanse their minds and purify their souls as time progressed.
Fast forward to today, saunas have become prominent features in health and wellness facilities around the globe.
Also known as Finnish saunas, traditional saunas are among the most sought-after saunas because of their rustic, authentic appeal. They are heated using an electric heater or a wood-burning stove that warms a stack of sauna stones.
A unique aspect of traditional saunas is the use of water. When you ladle water over the hot stones, it evaporates into steam, increasing the room's humidity. This additional humidity, coupled with the naturally high temperatures that reach up to a toasty 195 degrees Fahrenheit, provides a distinctive sauna experience.
Infrared saunas are the modern version of traditional saunas. Rather than heating the air around you, infrared saunas use infrared panels to radiate heat directly into your body. This particular type of heat can penetrate more deeply into your tissues, potentially offering a more intense detoxification process.
The best part? The environment inside an infrared sauna tends to be more comfortable, usually heated to 110 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Steam saunas are all about humidity. Steam saunas, also called Turkish saunas, operate at a slightly lower temperature than their Finnish counterparts, which is typically 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the tradeoff is a thick, soothing steam that works wonders for your respiratory system while giving your skin a healthy glow.
Health Benefits of Sauna
The following are some of the health benefits of sauna:
Improved Blood Circulation
Saunas possess an inherent capability to boost blood circulation. When exposed to the sauna heat, Cleveland Clinic mentions that our blood vessels tend to expand, promoting better blood flow throughout the body.
This increased circulation allows optimal delivery of nutrients and other essential compounds to all body parts, including the brain. As a result, the mind experiences a heightened sense of alertness and clarity.
Enhanced Respiratory Health
Saunas can significantly benefit your respiratory system. The warm, moist air you breathe during a sauna session can help clear your airways, reduce inflammation, and thin out mucus, making breathing easier. Regular sauna use may help alleviate symptoms of chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis.
We could all use a little stress relief, right? Saunas play a significant role in helping to combat stress and promote overall mood enhancement. When exposed to the heat of a sauna, our bodies begin producing endorphins, the feel-good hormones capable of lowering stress levels.
MedicalNewsToday explains that higher levels of endorphins also boost self-esteem, increase pleasure, regulate appetite, and improve overall mood.
Boosted Immune System
Feeling a little sniffly and under the weather? Consider a sauna session to strengthen your immune system! By raising your body temperature, saunas mimic a slight fever.
Studies show that this "artificial fever" stimulates your immune system to produce more white blood cells — our first line of defense against infections. These cells are critical for fighting colds, flu, and other ailments.
Muscle Pain and Soreness Relief
If you're dealing with post-workout soreness, muscle tension, or 'oh-so-familiar' aches and pains from a full day's work, a sauna session can help you recover faster. As explained earlier, sauna heat increases blood circulation to your muscles.
Research shows that this enhanced blood flow facilitates the removal of waste products like lactic acid and introduces fresh oxygen and nutrients. Heat therapy helps loosen stiff muscles, lubricate joints, and improve flexibility.
This is particularly important for athletes constantly pushing their bodies to the limit and anyone sitting at a desk all day.
What Are Hot Tubs and How Do They Work?
Hot tubs have emerged as go-to spots for relaxation and hydrotherapy. They often resemble large tubs or small pools and are typically made from laminated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for its durability and flexibility. These hot tubs come equipped with a spa heater and multiple jets.
The jets are more than just simple outlets; they are designed to create a particular pressure and water flow that leads to bubbles. The included control panels allow you to easily manage the water temperature, filter cycles, lighting, and jet pressure.
You will feel the jets' soothing water massaging your body as you enter the tub. This helps alleviate muscle tension and soreness while also boosting blood circulation. If you're worried about cleanup and maintenance, don't be!
Many modern high-end inflatable hot tubs come with built-in hard water treatment systems. This unique feature conditions the water, reducing limescale build-up, which possibly leads to skin irritation and other problems.
Health Benefits of Hot Tubs
Once deemed the ultimate luxury, hot tubs offer a range of health benefits, which includes:
If you're an insomniac, a restless sleeper, or just someone who can't seem to shut down those racing thoughts at night, consider immersing yourself in the soothing warmth of a hot tub.
The heat helps relax your body and increases your core temperature. As your body cools down after a hot bath, it signals the brain that it's time to sleep, making it easier to drift off into a peaceful slumber.
In fact, a study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews found that bathing in water heated between 104 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit one to two hours (preferably 90 minutes) before bedtime greatly enhanced sleep quality.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
In our fast-paced world, managing stress and anxiety is crucial. While warm water immersion isn't a quick fix for mental health issues, it can help you cope with stress and make you feel more calm.
Studies have found hydrotherapy can reduce cortisol levels, a hormone released in response to stress. Warm, soothing water also triggers the release of oxytocin and endorphins — aka the hormones that promote feelings of well-being and happiness.
Relieves Symptoms of Arthritis and Joint Pain
For those juggling the discomfort of arthritis and joint pain, hot tubs may provide respite. MedicalNewsToday highlights that warm water and buoyancy also take pressure off your joints, helping relieve pain and discomfort. Furthermore, the heat enhances blood circulation, reducing inflammation and swelling while assisting with stiffness.
Lowered Blood Pressure
A relaxing soak in a hot tub can potentially help lower blood pressure. Research shows warm water encourages blood vessels to expand, improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. However, those with heart conditions should consult their doctor before taking a hot or cold plunge.
Soothes Muscle Soreness
One of the most significant benefits of owning a hot tub is that it can help soothe sore muscles. While the warm, bubbling water provides a massage-like experience, research points out that hot water also increases blood flow and delivers essential nutrients to the damaged tissues. This helps loosen stiff and tense muscles.
Sauna vs. Hot Tub: Which Is Better for Health?
When it comes to sauna vs. hot tub health benefits, you might find that saunas edge out just a little bit more in terms of health perks. Saunas deliver an intense, dry heat — the perfect avenue for inducing a healthy sweat. This sweat session isn't only beneficial for cooling down your body, but may also help your body get rid of toxins for ultimate detoxification.
Similarly, both saunas and hot tubs offer cardiovascular benefits by increasing your heart rate, but something truly unique about sweat rooms is that when you use them after exercise, they help strengthen your heart muscles, which ultimately reduces the risk of heart-related diseases and strokes. (via UCLA Health).
While hot tubs help soothe sore muscles, saunas often pull the double duty of aiding not only muscular discomfort but also joint pain and improving flexibility. According to the Arthritis Foundation, heat treatment, such as that offered by infrared saunas, can help reduce arthritis pain. Sauna light therapy also helps balance negative energies, while meditating can help calm your mind.
Usually, having trouble breathing might make us feel uptight and uneasy, but saunas can work wonders for your respiratory health. On the other hand, hot tubs do not offer any such therapeutic benefits and can even be dangerous if used incorrectly.
It's also worth mentioning that you should never stay in a hot tub for more than 15-30 minutes at a time. Overexposure can increase your risk of folliculitis — an infection that targets hair follicles, leading to itchy, red bumps. Additionally, it can cause dehydration and dizziness.
Safety Considerations for Saunas and Hot Tubs
Saunas and hot tubs are popular ways to relax and enjoy the benefits of warm water. However, they also have some safety considerations you should know before using them.
Here are some of the main points to keep in mind:
Saunas and hot tubs can increase body temperature, affecting blood pressure, heart rate, and blood vessels. This can be dangerous for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions. If you have any of these, consult your doctor before using a sauna or a hot tub.
Saunas and hot tubs may also harbor bacteria and other germs that can cause infections. These include skin rashes, ear infections, diarrhea, and pneumonia. To prevent these, ensure the sauna or the hot tub is well maintained and cleaned regularly. Check the water quality and temperature before entering. Avoid swallowing the water or getting it into your mouth. Shower before and after using a sauna or a hot tub.
Saunas and hot tubs are not recommended for pregnant women, as they can raise the body temperature too high and cause congenital disabilities. If you are pregnant, avoid using a sauna or a hot tub, or limit your time to less than 10 minutes and lower the temperature.
Saunas and hot tubs can also cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke if you stay in them too long or don’t drink enough fluids. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after using a sauna or a hot tub. Avoid alcohol, as it can dehydrate you further and impair your judgment. Do not use a sauna or a hot tub if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or unwell.
Best Saunas for Optimizing Health Benefits
The following are some of the best saunas available on the market:
Almost Heaven Salem Standard Barrel Sauna
The Almost Heaven Salem Standard Barrel Sauna is designed to take your self-care game up a notch. This barrel sauna comes equipped with a powerful Harvia 4.5kW electric heater that can heat your space to 180 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour, so you won't have to wait to enjoy your detox session. This sauna boasts impressive durability and sturdiness, as it is assembled using 1-3/8″ thick ball and socket lumber.
The unit's welcoming tempered glass door is a design feat and comes with a long handle that makes it easy to enter and exit your steamy sanctuary. Thanks to its opposite-facing benches, you can enjoy your sweat session with your loved ones.
This sauna features LED lights that can help set the perfect ambiance for unwinding after a long day. The sauna stands on durable polymers, preventing wood from rotting or moisture damage. Best of all, this sauna comes with an incredible five-year warranty on electric heat and a lifetime warranty on the sauna room itself. That's a testament to its top-notch quality.
TheraSauna Classic Far Infrared Sauna
Crafted using aspen hardwood, the TheraSauna Classic Far Infrared Sauna is non-toxic and hypoallergenic, so you won't have to worry about allergic reactions. This infrared sauna comes with high glass-content, solid-ceramic TheraMitters™. These panels are strategically positioned at the proper watt/density for consistent infrared emission, ensuring efficient penetration and detoxification.
With its SoftTouch™ control panel, you can easily adjust the settings according to your needs. Safety is at the forefront of this sauna as it meets or exceeds ETL and CE safety requirements. Thanks to its interior reading light, you can immerse yourself in your favorite book or magazine as you relax and rejuvenate.
On top of all these amazing features, this sauna has a compact design, so you can easily install it anywhere in your home.
FAQ: Hot Tub vs. Sauna Health Benefits
Is it better to go into a hot tub or sauna after a workout?
Hot tubs and saunas are both great options for post-workout use. Generally, hot tubs are more relaxing and speed up recovery by reducing soreness and stiffness, promoting circulation, and easing muscle pain and tension.
Is a sauna cheaper than a hot tub?
The cost of a sauna vs. a hot tub can vary widely based on size, materials, and features. Saunas tend to cost less initially than hot tubs, but both will incur ongoing costs for electricity and maintenance.
Is sauna or hot tub better for muscles?
When it comes to muscle relaxation, hot tubs might just have a slight edge. The heat from the hot tub penetrates deeply into your muscles while the bubbles gives a massage-like feeling, alleviating tension and aiding recovery.
Is it okay to use a hot tub every day?
Using a hot tub daily can be wonderful for your physical and mental health. However, it's essential to remember a few safety rules. Never exceed 15 to 20 minutes in the hot tub at a time. Also, ensure the water temperature doesn't exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid health complications.
Is a hot tub hotter than a sauna?
Actually, it's the other way around. Saunas are usually heated to temperatures between 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, while hot tubs typically sit at a cozy and comfortable 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot Tub vs. Sauna Health Benefits: The Takeaway
Regarding the hot tub vs. sauna debate, the ultimate decision comes down to your personal preferences, health needs, and lifestyle. If you're yearning for a communal yet relaxing experience, hot tubs may have your name written all over them.
Conversely, a sauna may be your ticket to serenity if you desire a private wellness retreat or an environment to purify your skin and ramp up your cardio health. You could even consider incorporating both into your routine and enjoy double the luxury and wellness benefits.
Check out MySaunaWorld's traditional and infrared sauna collection to install a personal sauna at home. For more information, feel free to contact us. Our friendly staff will be happy to answer any questions and help you find the perfect model for your needs.
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