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Sweat It Out: Exploring the Health Benefits of Saunas

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Saunas go way back, and it’s because they have a multitude of health benefits backed by science. From potentially improving your skin and heart health to boosting your immune system and reducing stress, the heat and steam emitted by saunas can do wonders for your mind and body. 

Carving out time during your week to relax in a heated space, whether after an intense workout or right before bed, can be a rejuvenating addition to your self-care routine. Not to mention, the tight space can be a unique way to socialize or feel part of a community. Don’t be afraid to spark conversation with the other folks sweating profusely by your side. 

We’ll share everything you need to know about saunas and how they can benefit you. (Spoiler alert: Hot yoga has similar effects.)

What is a sauna?

Most people are familiar with saunas, but for those who aren’t, we’ve got you covered. A sauna is a small room or house designed to provide dry or wet heat sessions, usually with temperatures ranging from 158 to 212 degrees F.

The heat is typically produced by heating rocks or other materials, then pouring water over them to create intense steam. Saunas can help with increased blood flow and circulation, relaxation, stress relief, improved sleep, and more. 

Health benefits of saunas 

Couple sitting in a sauna

Saunas offer a wide range of health benefits for your mind and body. These benefits include but aren’t limited to: 

  • Improved cardiovascular health. Saunas may help improve cardiovascular health by increasing blood flow and circulation and lowering blood pressure. Regular sauna use has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduced inflammation. Saunas may help reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to many chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
  • Enhanced relaxation and stress relief. Saunas are known for their relaxing and stress-relieving effects. Heat and steam can promote feelings of calmness and tranquility.
  • Improved skin health. Saunas may contribute to better skin by promoting sweating, which opens up the pores and removes the dead outer skin layer. Regular sauna use has also been associated with a reduced risk of skin aging and wrinkles.
  • Boosted immune function. Saunas can potentially boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells essential for fighting infection and disease.
  • Joint and muscle pain relief. Saunas can potentially relieve pain by increasing blood flow to the affected areas and reducing inflammation. They may be particularly beneficial for people with chronic pain conditions like arthritis.
  • Improved respiratory function. Saunas may benefit people with asthma, allergies, and bronchitis by opening up the airways and reducing congestion. 

How long should you spend in a sauna?

The amount of time you should spend in a sauna depends on a few factors, including your personal tolerance for heat, your health status, and the specific type of sauna you use. In general, it’s recommended that you spend no more than 20 to 30 minutes in a session.

If you’re new to sauna use, starting with shorter sessions of around 10 to 15 minutes is best to allow your body to adjust to the heat. You can gradually increase the length over time as you become more accustomed to the high temperature.

Of course, you should always listen to your body. Exit the sauna immediately if you start to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or uncomfortable. Staying hydrated by drinking tons of water and electrolytes before, during, and after your session can help you tolerate the heat for the recommended time.

Enter with caution

While saunas can feel good for many, they certainly aren’t for everyone. Some tips to keep in mind are to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol consumption before and during your session. In addition, pay attention to how you feel, and don’t stay in the heat for more than 30 minutes at a time. Lastly, if you’re pregnant or you have a known medical condition, such as low blood pressure, avoiding sauna use altogether is recommended. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor before use.