For years we’ve been told that saunas are good for our health. But what we don’t often hear about are the misconceptions surrounding their use. In this article we reveal the sauna benefits and myths you need to know about
For some time, we’ve been told there is a positive correlation between sauna use and circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular and immune functions. For example, regular sessions may stabilize the autonomic nervous system, reduce blood pressure/inflammation, lower oxidative stress, eliminate the circulation of bad cholesterol and reduce arterial stiffness/ vascular resistance.
Furthermore, saunas could also stimulate physiological responses in the body similar to what we experience during exercise. This means there could be additional cardiovascular benefits when pairing workouts with sauna sessions.
In fact, a recent study conducted by sports scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Medical Center Berlin showed a rise in blood pressure during sauna sessions which was similar to what is experienced during short, moderate exercise.
Why are saunas so relaxing?
Many scientists believe that the feelings of relaxation, improved mental health and overall well-being experienced from saunas are likely due to a surge in endorphins.
What Is Finnish Sauna Bathing?
Finnish Sauna Bathing exposes the body to high environmental temperatures (80-100 degrees C) for a brief period of time. According to some studies, most people are able to tolerate the heat well (even those who may suffer from cardiovascular disease).
Do saunas really reduce blood pressure?
The Sauna and Cardiovascular Health project provides new insight into how the body is affected by short sauna sessions. The study analyzed the effects of a 30-minute sauna bath in 100 test subjects. Immediately after the session, participants experienced a reduction in mean systolic blood pressure from 137mmHg to 130 mmHg and a decrease in diastolic blood pressure from 82 mmHg to 75 mmHg.
A third study — conducted by the University of Eastern Finland — showed that sauna bathing could also prevent the risk of high blood pressure. The men who engaged in sauna use four to seven times per week were 50 per cent less likely to have elevated blood pressure when compared to those who had just one session per week.
What about Infrared Saunas?
Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about Infrared Saunas. So you may be wondering, what’s the difference and are they better?
Basically, an infrared sauna uses light to create heat, whereas a traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air. In comparison, an infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you. Therefore, the only significant difference seems to be the amount of heat produced, potentially making infrared saunas more tolerable. In fact, there is no concrete evidence showing that one type of sauna is better than the other (according to the Mayo Clinic).
Does sweating release toxins?
You’ve probably heard that sweating releases toxins, which may lead to better skin, improved mood and even weight loss. However, according to an article published in the Los Angeles Times, the primary purpose of sweat is to cool your body down when it overheats. Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, professor of dermatology at St. Louis University, says the liver and kidneys filter toxins from our blood, not our sweat glands. Therefore it’s actually quite the contrary to what we may think: “heavy sweating can actually prevent detoxification,” she says.
Although further research is needed on this topic, there’s no denying that sauna use is a great way to relax, reduce stress and improve your mood; especially in the winter.