The Health Benefits of Sauna

Every now and then I’ll dive into my DM’s and look for a question that stands out from the rest. 

While 98% of the responses have to deal directly with diet and nutrition, occasionally other topics are brought to my attention.

A couple of days ago a gentleman asked me a question about the gym, but it wasn’t related to cardiovascular or strength training.

“Sean, almost every gym has a sauna, but why should people regularly use it?”

I thought about this topic to myself for a second. 

The sauna is seen by many as simply a room people use to help induce sweating.

The truth is the sauna does much more than meets the eye. Saunas can provide a range of benefits to improve overall physical and mental health.

Let’s take a look at what a sauna is and why regular use may be beneficial to you.

What are Saunas?

Saunas have been a form of therapy for thousands of years. The Mayans first used sweat houses 3,000 years ago and Finnish people used saunas as long as 10,000 years ago.

But just what is a sauna?

A sauna is a small room that uses heat to induce dry or wet heat sessions. Using steam and high heat of up to 212 degrees F, users of saunas begin to perspire. The perspiration is an autonomic response helping to cool the body down. 

Users are advised to only stay in the sauna for moderate durations, as prolonged periods of time can lead to harmful side effects.

In moderation, the sauna can be a useful tool for improving overall health and longevity. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of regular sauna use.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

One of the most profound benefits of sauna use is improved cardiovascular health. Evidence has suggested sauna use may reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease events. 

In one study, the risk of cardiovascular disease decreased linearly as the number of sauna sessions increased per week with no threshold effect. As participants spent more time in the sauna, their risk of heart related diseases kept decreasing.

Both inactive and active individuals appear to benefit from regular sauna use. Participants with low fitness levels have been shown to have a reduced risk of mortality with frequent sauna use (3 to 7 sessions). On the other hand active individuals benefit from regular sauna use as well. A study performed on six male distance runners who used 3 weeks of sauna bathing and they increased run time to exhaustion by 32% which is equivalent to a 1.9% enhancement in an endurance time trial. This was due to increases in total plasma volume and total blood volume.

Using the sauna regularly can improve overall heart health and decrease the risk of cardiovascular related diseases.

Longer Lifespan

Sauna use can also help extend your lifespan. A Finnish study tracked 2,300 middle-aged men over the course of two decades. Each of the men spent on average 14 minutes per visit in a sauna set to 175 degrees F. Of the men who visited the sauna once per week, 49% died, compared to 38% who used the sauna two or three times per week and 31% of those who visited four to seven times per week. The results of the study clearly showed an increased frequency of sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular related mortality. 

Another study looked at 129 patients with chronic heart failure who were treated with infrared dry sauna 5 days per week. Of the patients who used the sauna treatment, only 31.3% died after a 5 year follow-up. Patients who did not use treatment experienced cardiac death at a rate of 68.7%.

Numerous other clinical research trials have also shown promising longevity related side-effects as a result of regular sauna use. Regular sauna treatments can help you live a longer life.

Stress Treatment

Perhaps one of the most common daily side effects of sauna use is helping to relieve stress. People often use the sauna as a daily period of stress relief. The sauna is a place where people can unwind and eliminate all other worries in their lives.

The research is more than anecdotal. In a study performed on 12 healthy males, saliva samples were collected immediately before and after the spa bathing and 30 minutes afterwards. Salivary cortisol levels were significantly decreased following spa bathing. These findings suggest spa bathing to have a moderate effect on stress relief.

The sauna is more than a place to simply induce sweat. It’s effects on health can be immense and profound.

How Often Should You Use the Sauna?

The sauna is meant to be used in fairly short durations (15 to 20 minutes) approximately 4 to 6 times per week. Using it in short intervals is conducive to overall health and a decreased risk of cardiovascular related mortality.

If you are new to sauna use you can simply try sessions of a few minutes until your body becomes accustomed to the heat. After that, you can gradually increase sessions by a couple minutes until you get closer to the 20 minute mark.

My Takeaway

As I thought back to my DM I received, I thanked the person who asked the question. By looking further into regular sauna use, I have now become more aware of its plethora of health benefits. 

It just goes to show you that overall wellness is an all-encompassing subject matter. While nutrition and exercise comprise a major component, there are other secondary factors that can work to improve your overall health as well.

I consider myself to be a person who practices what they preach. I strive to improve my body, mind, and soul daily doing whatever methods possible. 

I want you to do the same.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Let’s reach our goals together.

 

Kindest regards,

Sean Torbati

 

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