Saunas have been around for a long time. In fact, some people think that the tradition may be thousands of years old. Often associated with Finland, sauna culture is now widespread across the globe, with people from all walks of life enjoying taking time out of their days to sit for a relaxing sauna session.

In this post we’re going to look at some of the potential benefits (and risks) of regular sauna usage.

Precautions and potential risks

Please remember to always exercise caution when using saunas. Whilst they can be very beneficial when used properly, saunas aren’t for everyone and can present risks for certain people. According to Harvard Medical School, “Saunas appear safe for most people. However, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease should check with their doctors before taking a sauna.”

Harvard also suggests the following safe sauna usage guidelines:
– Don’t sit in the sauna for longer than 15-20 minutes.
– Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair sweating and produce overheating before and after your sauna.
– Drink 2-4 glasses of cool water after your sauna session (saunas cause us to sweat a lot, so it’s crucial to replace the fluids we lose during a session).
– Don’t get into a sauna if you feel ill; and if you feel unwell during your sauna, leave.

You can also find an in-depth review of the health risks and precautions at Medical News Today.

Potential benefits of saunas

Stress reduction

There’s something inherently relaxing about a sauna. Sitting in the heat of the room, completely silent, can feel almost like a meditation. There are no distractions, and often the temperature alone is enough to keep your mind from wandering.

Many people will agree that sauna time is very soothing and relaxing. With this being the case, regular sauna usage could go a long way in lowering stress levels.

May improve cardiovascular health

Some people believe that regular sauna sessions may be good for the heart. One Finnish study, which took a sample of 2315 middle-aged Finnish men, found that (after adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors) increased frequency of sauna use is associated with reduced risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), fatal coronary heart disease (CHD), fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD), and all-cause mortality.

The fact that sauna usage also can reduce stress levels could also play a role in cardiovascular benefits.

Makes you sweat (which is a good thing)

Sweating is healthy, and it plays an important role in a well-functioning human body. Some of the benefits of sweating may include detoxification, reduced risk of kidney stones, temperature regulation, pain reduction, and lower frequency of blemishes.

It’s also said that around 30% of a body’s waste is exuded through the skin. So building ourselves up to a good sweat is a great way to help this process along. Especially considering that modern humans, with air conditioning and climate controlled buildings, don’t tend to sweat as much as theirs ancestors.

Could lower Alzheimer’s risk

Another Finnish study, containing over 2000 middle-aged men and conducted over 20 years, found that “moderate to high frequency of sauna bathing was associated with lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Of course, it’s important to remember that these findings don’t prove that sauna usage is the cause of the reduced risk. There are other factors that could be involved, and more research would be required to assert the findings. 

Relax

Saunas are, of course, very soothing. But if relaxation is your thing, why not take a look at our posts on hot stone and Indian Head massages.