To find out about sauna benefits like weight loss, detoxification, negative ions and blood pressure read on. The benefits of a sauna come about due to the way heat effects your body. Let’s start with a general explanation of what happens and then look at specific benefits of a sauna on your health.
Before looking at the health benefits of a sauna any further I need to confess to not being a doctor, not playing one on TV or having much desire to be one. I wouldn’t mind the paycheck but not if it requires the associated responsibilities. The following information is a result of research on the Internet and in libraries plus personal experience. I do have a science background and a fairly “critical eye”. I am presenting only what I believe to be credible. More reported sauna benefits have been left out than left in. If you have any concerns consult your real doctor before proceeding.
Heat is the most obvious sauna benefit. The organ effected most from the heat is your skin (yes your skin is an organ). The heat causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood demand to the skin. The increased volume of blood vessels occupied by the same volume of blood causes blood pressure to drop. Your heart will beat faster and more efficiently to compensate. This is why time in a sauna includes a mild cardiovascular workout that is comparable to walking.
The heat also causes profuse sweating. Sweating is good; it helps eliminate toxins from the body and stimulates the function of other organs.
Muscle relaxation occurs with the increased blood flow and distribution of oxygen.
As you can see there are some real physiological benefits of a sauna beyond relaxing feeling.
Table of Contents
PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF A SAUNA
One cardiologist is quoted as saying “If you can walk to the sauna, you can use the sauna”. If circulation problems are severe enough to restrict mobility you need to be very cautious about using a sauna, otherwise it’s probably OK. There is quite a bit of evidence that one sauna benefit is the effect it has on your heart. Blood pressure is lowered and your heart gets a gently workout due to increased heart rate. This is only a temporary effect.
Since blood pressure is lowered you need to be careful of sudden movement in the sauna. When lying down be sure to get up gradually to avoid that light headed feeling and the chance of falling.
The quick change in temperature from splashing on cold water or a dive in the lake will restrict the blood vessels in a hurry. This will temporarily but dramatically increase blood pressure. Take it easy with this treatment if you have a concern about high blood pressure.
SAUNA BENEFITS: WEIGHT LOSS
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I’ll start with the good news. You will loose weight from taking a sauna. The bad news is that most of the weight will come right back. We are basically big water balloons, being made up of about 70% water.
Saunas are a great way to sweat some of that water out. This can drop your weight by pounds (a good thing). As soon as the water is replaced it will be retained (a bad thing). You should have some liquids available as soon as your sauna is finished. Many people prefer juice to water so they replace missing minerals as well as water.
Here is some good-good news. Weight loss from a sauna can be more than temporary. The increased heart rate in a sauna will burn calories. Some studies estimate about 300 extra calories (a cookie or two) are burned in typical sauna session. It has been equated to the amount of calories burned when you are walking. Not bad for just lying there relaxing.
SAUNA BENEFITS: SKIN TREATMENT
There is no better treatment for the skin than a sauna. This is a way to clean and rejuvenate your largest organ from the inside out.
The skin is meant to be a pathway for the elimination of toxins and waste material from your body. Creams, deodorants, oils, dead skin cells, etc. will clog skin pores and lock waste in. Skin conditions like acne, pimples and blackheads can be caused by clogged and infected pores.
Heat from a sauna opens the pores and sweat will flushes out the toxins. The newly cleaned out pores have a long lasting effect on the ability of your skin to function.
Dilated blood vessels increase the flow of oxygen and fluids to skin cells. Cleansing eliminates dead skin cells and other material exposing a new layer of fresh, clean, health cells. Your skin not only looks and feels younger, it will also function more efficiently.
SAUNA BENEFITS: IMMUNITY
What does your body do when you get a cold? One defense is to produce a fever. This is effective because many bacteria and virus can only survive in very specific temperature ranges. Your body is changing the environment to damage the invaders.
A sauna produces an artificial fever. Skin temperatures can increase by as much as 3 degrees C internally (much more on the surface). This is in the range of a high fever.
I didn’t come across any definitive studies proving the connection but one controlled study showed a reduction of colds by 30%. Logic suggests that it must have an effect on invading germs.
SAUNA BENEFITS: MENTAL HEALTH
It’s great to have a mental escape from the day-to-day grind. This alone is enough to improve your outlook on life but there is more to the story than that. Endorphins, feel-good chemicals in the brain, are released due to the increase in cardiovascular activity. This combination would give anybody a positive attitude adjustment for the day.
SAUNA BENEFITS: SWEATING
Sweating does 3 main things for your body. It is a first line of defense against infection. Skin helps regulate the body temperature and also helps eliminate toxins. Skin has been called the “third kidney”. Sweating is a major means of eliminating heavy metals from your body. Sweating continued
SAUNA BENEFITS: MUSCLE RELAXATION
Traditional wisdom is that muscle soreness after a workout comes from excess lactic acid. More recent evidence indicates that it is more likely due to microscopically torn and swollen muscle cells. Whichever the case, a sauna will help relax the muscles and ease the soreness. The process of sweating helps rid the muscles of excess lactic acid. Dilated blood vessels increase the flow of oxygen to muscles, reduces swelling and aids in the repair of tears.
SAUNA BENEFITS: NEGATIVE IONS
Negative ions have been found to have a positive effect on the way your body functions and feels. Splashing water on rocks creates lots of free negative ions as the water is quickly turns to steam. In the sauna environment your body can absorb these extra negative ions. Negative ions continued
SAUNA BENEFITS: DETOXIFICATION
“You are what you eat” is not entirely accurate. Some would say it’s more like “you are what you don’t excrete (to use a polite term). We are exposed to and ingest lots of toxic substances in our day-to-day lives. Anything we don’t get rid of has an effect on us for better or worse.
One way to eliminate toxins, especially heavy metals, is to excrete them through the process of sweating. What better way to sweat than in a sauna? Detoxification continued
DO YOU NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS?
Women-There is a lot of evidence that saunas are a benefit for conditions specific to women. Discomfort due to cramping, menopause and pregnancy can be reduced through the regular use of a sauna. There is some concern about the heat of a sauna during a pregnancy. If you are new to the sauna, checking with your doctor and easing into it is the best policy.
Children- The ability of young people to cool their bodies is different than adults. There is no reason to keep them from the benefits of a sauna but some precautions are appropriate. In general children should sauna on the lower benches where the heat is less extreme and sessions should be kept to only 10 minutes or so. A very young child that is not able to communicate discomfort is probably too young for the sauna. In Finland 90+ % of children are introduced to the sauna by the age of 2.
Elderly-Unless you have some specific illness, the fact that you have done more, learned more and understand life better than the rest of us doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good sweat.
THE BEST POLICY IN THE SAUNA
Avoid alcohol, drugs and consult your doctor if you are on medication.
Don’t stay in much more than 20 minutes at a time.
Drink fluids after a sauna.
Leave the sauna if you feel light headed or ill.
Rest afterward and cool down gradually.
Take off your glasses, jewelry, other metal objects and most or all of your clothes before taking a sauna.
No big meals that will require large amounts of blood for digestion beforehand. A light meal is a good idea.
The benefits of a sauna are real, physical and emotional. Important Sauna benefits include looking and feeling better, not to mention a body that functions more efficiently. All this and a little time relaxing too. What could be better?