Saunas are a cultural staple in many places around the world and using them produces several positive effects on both your health and your mental state. Despite this, many people still find the idea strange or foreign. The following will explore what saunas are, as well as the benefits of their regular use.
What Is A Sauna?
In the broadest sense, a sauna is a room that has been laid out so that anyone inside the room will feel high heat. This concept of a sweat-room has existed among humans since ancient times. The goal of a sauna is to make those who enter the room sweat as this has been known to have many physical health benefits. There can also be sacred or spiritual meaning behind saunas, sweat lodges, or steam baths depending on the culture you are participating in. People have considered saunas to have mystical healing properties for thousands of years.
Traditional saunas are small, wooden rooms where wood is burned for several hours, and smoke is released. This results in arid heat (usually between 160 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit). Typically people sit inside the room for five to thirty minutes. Sometimes the water is thrown onto hot rocks to produce more steam. It is not uncommon for people to jump into an ice pool, cold shower, or pile of snow after spending some time in the sauna.
The History Of Saunas
At one point, saunas were extremely popular across all of Europe. During the 1500s, as the plague spread, they became far less popular in all European countries (except for Finland which didn’t suffer the plague in the same way as the rest of Europe). Nowadays, the sauna is strongly associated with Finnish culture and lifestyle. This being said, as researchers find out more and more health benefits associated with a visit to the sauna, more places are beginning to readopt the habit.
Health Benefits Of Saunas
1. Spending Time In A Sauna Is Good For Your Heart
People who spend time in the sauna have lower blood pressure, which in turn, presents a lower risk of heart disease and dementia. A study from the University of Eastern Finland found that thirty minutes spent in the sauna had the same effect on the body as moderate exercise. The sweating that is induced by a visit to the sauna has a natural diuretic effect which lowers your blood pressure. This decreases the workload on your heart.
2. Visiting The Sauna Is Relaxing
Spending time in a sauna helps lower stress and anxiety by relaxing you. In addition to this, because of the moisture in the room, electronic devices can’t really be brought inside, meaning a sauna gives you a break from all that blue light and screen time. In this way, getting a sauna means that you’ll have a quiet place in your home where you can truly unwind from the day and escape the incessant updates of the outside world. Even just a few minutes of this each day can do wonders for your overall mental health. As a bonus, lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to contribute to more balanced hormones overall.
3. Saunas Can Improve Your Skin Clarity And Texture By Removing Toxins
Spending some time in a sauna and sweating can help your skin flush out the toxins that have slowly built up in it because of the chemicals you regularly apply to your skin and the pollutants in the world around you. Sweating is commonly encouraged for those who wish to detox because of this. A single visit can help clear up blackheads and brighten up your skin. Extended use can help you keep your toxin levels down.
4. Saunas Help Improve Your Immune System
That’s right. Even fifteen minutes spent in a sauna increases your white blood cell counts. This, in turn, boosts your immune system which can help you avoid colds, flu, infections, and other illnesses caused by viruses or bacteria. Having a strong immune system is one of the best ways you can proactively take care of your health.
The above four health benefits are just a few of the extremely positive outcomes of occasional or regular sauna use. Most of these health benefits also improve other areas of your life. For example, lowering stress has been shown to promote better decision making, healthier relationships, and higher levels of productivity at work.
Beyond all of the physical and mental benefits, saunas can also provide great social settings for you and your friends or family members. Saunas can be available at spas but are also fairly easy to set up within your own home. Because of the goal of keeping a high temperature in the room, saunas often do not require much space as smaller rooms are more ideal.
Some Precautions To Be Considered
It is important to note that saunas should not be used after drinking alcohol because saunas can increase the effects of alcohol making you feel far drunker, dropping your blood pressure to dangerously low levels (which can result in your passing out), and increase your chances of intense dehydration (meaning terrible hangovers).
As well, if you are pregnant, sauna use is not advised (especially in the first trimester). This is because the extreme and constant temperature within the sauna may not be safe for your baby-to-be. Babies in utero are unable to regulate their own body temperatures meaning extreme heat and extreme cold are dangerous for them. Studies have also found that exposure to hot temperatures from saunas and hot tubs during the first trimester are at a higher risk of experiencing brain and/or spinal cord complications.
Moreover, if you have any preexisting health conditions, it is always best to check with your doctor before using a sauna just in case the heat or profuse sweating negatively interacts with what your body is currently working on. As with any activity, it is important to always listen to your body. If you feel overwhelmed by the heat, leave the room, or visit the sauna in smaller increments.