Spending time in a sauna may be just what your body needs.
Saunas have been in use for centuries upon centuries. In some cultures, they are a staple to lifestyle and the promotion of positive well-being.
The purpose of a sauna is to relax (or bath) in a heated environment. Both the heat itself and a state of relaxation can lead to certain therapeutic benefits.
Research has shown that sauna bathing could reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular-related conditions, especially when exercised more than once a week.
A recent systematic review of the evidence indicated clinical effects to be potential and requested further study of health benefits related to using saunas. Meanwhile, that same year, the Mayo Clinic drew further attention to the emerging evidence related to cardiovascular health.
The clinical research, to date, has focused on the change in blood vessels and how that influences circulation and blood pressure. Researchers are also looking into how sauna bathing can play a role in reducing the risk of a stroke.
There has also been acknowledgment in the literature on the connection between cardiovascular health and stress levels.
Stress most often thought of as a mental or emotional effect, but is also biochemical and can have consequences on the internal systems of the body.
Studies have shown that there is a relationship between adverse stress levels and negative impacts on the body. As Healthline details, stress levels influence human health in multiple ways.
Sauna bathing can play a role in stress management. It can help to reduce pain and fatigue, leading to a clearer mind and a greater sense of relaxation. Furthermore, relaxing can be a great way to keep stress levels in check. Also, spending time in saunas is often a social affair. Cultivating positive social connections can help to reduce harmful stress.
Fitness & Athletic Performance
The use of saunas may also improve athletic performance. Pain reduction and joint mobility are significant to physical fitness. There is also compelling evidence for heart rate variability as well as other measures of endurance in and recovery from physical activity.
Incorporating sauna bathing into physical fitness plans is has been touted as an added cardio training session. This area will likely have continued attention in the coming years.
How to Use Saunas
Depending on the type of sauna, effects may vary. A “Finnish style” sauna is often referred to as “traditional” and makes use of dry-heat while other sauna styles may use higher levels of humidity. Infrared saunas focus on lower temperatures and use light to create the heat.
The use of saunas shouldn’t require a strict regime, but doing so after a workout could be optimal.
Chances are you will be visiting a facility to use a sauna and will want to check-in on their protocols for cleaning and sanitation. The installation of a home sauna may also be an option.
Clinical studies have implied that using a sauna 2-3 times a week, if not daily, can reap the rewards. Most experts will still express some level of caution and suggest a moderated approach to sauna use.
You will be raising your body temperature and sweating. Therefore, precautions will be necessary. People with certain medical conditions should consult a provider before adopting the practice of sauna bathing.
If you are new to using saunas, advice may be to start with a shorter duration inside, such as 5-10 minutes. Then, eventually, work up to a longer time ranges, such as 20-30 minutes.
Like many things involving physical wellness, remaining well hydrated is of utmost importance.
Finally, there are also a few considerations for “sauna etiquette.” A good rule of thumb would be to check out the scene first by entering quietly and remaining in at least a bathing suit (or the equivalent amount of dressing) and a sandal style of shoe, such as flip flops.
Healthline provides a full rundown in their 2019 article How and Why to Use a Sauna.
Sauna bathing can influence your overall health and well-being. When correctly incorporated into a lifestyle routine, the effects can be positive in both the clinical sense and therapeutic wellness.