Saunas are more than the fancy compartments observed at the gym or the spa that we often associate with the life of luxury and leisure; they are actually very useful for your overall well being.
So, why are saunas good for you?
Well, they have been scientifically proven to help relieve many ailments affecting the human body as a result of daily living and diseases, including stress, muscle aches, and pain, fatigue, rheumatological disease, mental health disorders, including depression, and more, and they can even be installed in the comfort of your home for therapeutic relief whenever you need it.
Saunas, like steam rooms and hot tubs, utilize heat to help heal the body and relax the muscles.
In doing so, it causes various favorable reactions in the body, including increased circulation, which provides many of the same advantages as a cardio workout but with a few added benefits, including relaxation, skin purification, and pain relief.
However, unlike steam rooms and hot tubs, which use moist heat and produce high humidity, saunas use dry heat emitted from hot stones or a stove to warm the room from 185 to 230° Fahrenheit, which produces a low humidity atmosphere.
There are also infrared saunas, which operate at lower temperatures of between 90 to 140° Fahrenheit, which enables you to breathe easier during your session.
Sauna Use Tips
The key to receiving the maximum benefits of a sauna is to allow yourself to relax fully and long enough to induce sweating.
This means wearing comfortable clothing that will enable you to relax as well as leaving your worries at the door.
You may even want to try meditating during your session to help quiet your mind and encourage your muscles to relax.
You should also be sure to drink plenty of water prior to using the sauna to prevent dehydration, which can make you feel dizzy, fatigued, and weak and deprive you of the benefits of your session.
Re-hydrating after the sauna is also important to help keep your body well-hydrated and to help flush any remaining toxins out of your system.
If you are new to sauna therapy, you may also consider starting with a 10-minute session and then add a few more minutes each time until you become more accustomed to the heat.
However, never spend more than 45 minutes in the sauna because it can cause dehydration as well as various other health risks.
Other Sauna Benefits
Sauna use provides many more benefits beyond relaxation, detoxification, and pain relief; it has also been proven to:
Aid in Weight Loss
As your body heat rises, it causes the blood vessels to widen, which in turn pumps more blood to the skin as well as the heart, increasing your oxygen consumption and heart rate as if you were excising, which helps promote weight loss.
One study even found that participants who engaged in up to 30 minutes of cardio followed by a 15-minute sauna session lost on average more than 1.7 times more weight than those who participated in 15 minutes of exercise alone.
Further research shows that sauna use may also decrease appetite in certain individuals by stabilizing the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for creating hunger.
Instead, participants reported feeling fewer hunger pangs between courses and eating less during meals, which lead to a significant decrease in fat loss over a two week period.
Promotes Heart Health
Sauna use increases endothelial cells and enzymes that help keep the heart functioning properly, which helps decrease the risk of heart disease.
In fact, one study concludes that those who participate in sauna therapy at least 4 times per week have a 50% decreased risk of dying from heart disease.
Meanwhile, another study conducted on participants with chronic heart failure showed that Waon therapy, which is another type of sauna therapy, improved heart function, increased blood flow, endothelial function, and more.
Research further concludes that the results of both studies may be enhanced when combined with exercise.
Encourages Healthy Brain Function
There are several factors at play in the brain that helps keep it healthy, including neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which help you maintain your focus and assists with nerve repair.
There is also the BDNF gene, which helps preserve existing brain cells while promoting the generation of new ones, which helps keep your brain functioning as it should.
It also increases brain plasticity, which helps keep your mind sharp and protects against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as brain atrophy, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Current research shows that sauna use, like exercise, increases BDNF and has been linked to decreased rates of brain atrophy, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and some neurodegenerative diseases.
It has also been shown to increase neuropeptide hormones and neurotransmitter activity, which help improve memory and cognitive function.
Slows the Aging Process
Saunas have been likened to the fountain of youth by some due to the miraculous effects it has on the aging process, which studies show are a result of the activation of two mechanisms: the FOXO3 gene and heat shock proteins.
The FOXO3 gene affects the function of many factors that contribute to longevity, including the stimulation of stem cells, DNA repair, and immune function, which, when activated, have the ability to provide substantial anti-aging benefits.
Meanwhile, heat shock proteins work to repair molecular damage, and they also increase antioxidant power, which helps destroy free radicals, to help prevent future damage.
Increased levels of heat shock proteins have also been linked to long life.
Reduces Muscle Breakdown
Muscle degeneration, which is most often caused by oxidative stress, can cause many issues, including muscle weakness, lax skin, and injuries.
However, studies show that just one sauna treatment at 176°F, 45 minutes per day, a few days per week can increase growth hormone levels, which decrease the degeneration of muscles.
These results increased as the rate, temperature, and duration of sauna use increased.
Sauna use was also shown to improve the absorption of amino acids, which helps increase muscle mass.
Helps With Recovery After Exercise and Injury
During strenuous activity, lactic acid begins to build in the muscle tissues, which can cause you to become sore and achy afterward.
Recent studies show that saunas heat conditioning properties help reduce lactic acid in the muscles, which helps with speedy recovery between workouts.
It also helps prevent premature muscle wear due to overworked muscles, which can also affect kidney function.
If you suffer from an injury or illness that prevents you from engaging in regular physical activity, sauna use can also be used to preserve the muscles as well as encourage muscle growth during long periods of immobility.
Overall, why are saunas good for you? Several studies show that they provide impressive results all on their own; however, when coupled with regular exercise that includes cardio training at least 3 days a week and resistance training in between, along with proper nutrition, heat conditioning compliments your efforts for maximum results.