The allure of saunas dates back thousands of years, most notably in Nordic culture, and often seen as sanctuaries for both the mind and body. In the modern wellness era, we continue to ask, "Are saunas good for you?"
Grounded in science, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Dry sauna bathing, a practice involving intentional exposure to heat, can significantly improve physical and mental health, enhance health span, and potentially reduce all-cause mortality.
Read on to learn more surprising benefits of sauna use.
What is a Dry Sauna?
Dry sauna bathing involves sitting in a hot, low-humidity environment (typically between 80°C to 100°C, or 176°F to 212°F) traditionally fueled by wood-fired heat. With humidity levels between 10 and 20 percent, your body sweats in response to the high heat, triggering physiological events that can improve your short and long-term health.
Step Into The Sauna and Reap These Six Proven Health Benefits
Enhanced Athletic Performance
Saunas can significantly enhance athletic performance through a multitude of physiological benefits. For one, sauna sessions lead to the dilation of blood vessels, enhancing circulation. This improved blood flow not only carries oxygen and nutrients to muscles—promoting both endurance and assisting in more efficient muscle recovery after intense workouts.
Another notable advantage of concentrated heat in saunas is the stimulation of circulation with oxygen-rich blood flow. This process plays a crucial role in reducing inflammation and swelling, providing potential relief for chronic pain. Such an effect can be especially beneficial for athletes, as it can accelerate the healing of sports injuries and support overall muscle health.
Saunas have also been shown to increase growth hormone levels. This hormone plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including muscle growth, bone strength, tissue repair, and metabolism. Following a specific sauna protocol, such as 30-minute sessions interspersed with five-minute cooldowns, can stimulate the release of growth hormone, further supporting the potential athletic benefits.
In their publication Saunas Sustain Performance for Olympic and Everyday Athletes, the University of South Australia researchers concluded, “...athletes who exercised in cool conditions, followed by seated rest in the sauna, experienced the most positive body changes to improve exercise performance. These included greater blood circulation to muscles which can lead to increased protein muscle synthesis to deliver greater muscle growth, better adaptation to training, and improved fitness levels.”
Improved Sleep Quality
Saunas significantly contribute to better sleep quality through a series of interconnected physiological processes. When using a sauna, the body's temperature rises, triggering the production of endorphins, our natural painkillers. These endorphins induce a sense of relaxation and well-being, laying the foundation for improved sleep.
Moreover, the elevated heat from sauna use is instrumental in sleep regulation. Exposure to such high temperatures initiates a cooling process in the body. This process starts after you exit the sauna and continues through the night, resulting in a drop in body temperature—a crucial signal indicating to your body that it's time for sleep. Incorporating sauna use in your evening routine allows you to harness this natural mechanism, fostering deeper, more restful sleep.
Additionally, heat exposure from sauna use may enhance the amount of slow-wave, or deep sleep, the most rejuvenating sleep phase. Coupled with the release of endorphins, this aspect of sauna use significantly elevates sleep quality, positioning saunas as a priceless tool for those seeking to improve their sleep health.
Assisting Weight Loss
For those contemplating the question, "Do saunas help you lose weight?" The answer is a resounding yes. Saunas can play a significant role in both short-term and long-term weight management.
The intense heat exposure during sauna use stimulates an increase in both heart rate and metabolic rate, which in turn helps in burning more calories—a key aspect of weight loss.
However, it's crucial to note that saunas should be seen as a supportive tool in a weight loss journey, not a standalone solution. Coupled with a balanced diet and regular exercise, saunas can effectively complement your efforts toward weight loss and, importantly, weight maintenance.
Improved Mental, Emotional & Cognitive Health
Saunas offer substantial benefits for mental health, going beyond the immediate perception of relaxation and tranquility. According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, frequent sauna use encourages the release of endorphins and serotonin, hormones that contribute to an elevated mood and a sense of relaxation.
Moreover, the soothing warmth of a sauna session facilitates muscle relaxation and the alleviation of bodily aches, further promoting a state of physical and mental relaxation.
Saunas also stimulate the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein integral to maintaining brain health and resilience. Simultaneously, sauna sessions assist in reducing cortisol levels, the body's primary stress hormone, which may be beneficial in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety—and that’s not all.
A decades-long study published in 2017 revealed a correlation between regular sauna bathing and a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This suggests that, aside from immediate relaxation benefits, sauna use could significantly contribute to long-term cognitive health and mental well-being.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Incorporating regular sauna sessions into a wellness routine can support cardiovascular health in various ways. Here are several science-backed benefits of sauna use for heart health:
First, the heat from a sauna induces dilation of blood vessels, facilitating improved blood flow and aiding in reducing blood pressure. Further, studies suggest that consistent sauna bathing may lower the risk of cardiovascular events, including heart disease and stroke, by fostering healthier blood vessels and enhanced circulation.
Expanding blood vessels not only improves circulation but also allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach all parts of the body, bolstering overall cardiovascular health.
Research also points to the connection between regular sauna use and lower inflammatory markers. Given that chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many heart diseases, this reduction in inflammation significantly benefits heart health.
By inducing a series of beneficial physiological responses, such as improved cardiovascular health, stress reduction, and enhanced mental well-being, saunas might be contributing to a longer and healthier life.
A pivotal study, the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD), tracked the health of more than 2,300 men in eastern Finland. The study's compelling results suggested that participants who frequented the sauna two to three times a week saw a remarkable 27% reduction in cardiovascular-related mortality.
This health-boosting trend amplified for participants who committed to more frequent and prolonged sauna sessions. Impressively, a 50% reduction in cardiovascular-related mortality was observed in men who engaged in sauna sessions four to seven times weekly. Beyond cardiovascular health, regular sauna bathing was linked to a 40% reduction in all-cause mortality.
Further corroborating these findings, a 2018 study by Laukkanen et al. assessed 1,688 participants over 15 years. This research affirmed the dose-dependent nature of sauna benefits—more frequent sauna sessions equated to greater health benefits. These encouraging results persisted even after factoring in various potential influencers like age and activity level, further highlighting the potential life-enhancing role of regular sauna use.
Conclusion: Are Saunas Good for You?
Given the wealth of benefits, the answer to "Are saunas good for you?" is an overwhelming yes!
Not only can dry sauna bathing offer immediate physical and mental health benefits such as stress reduction, improved sleep, and enhanced athletic performance, but it can also contribute significantly to long-term wellness, helping to improve longevity and reduce the risk of cardiac events and all-cause mortality.
The research underscores the power of regular sauna use in mitigating cardiovascular-related mortality, depending on frequency and duration of use. Saunas don't just help us live longer, they help us live better, with a myriad of benefits that touch every aspect of our health.
Despite these surprising benefits, it is essential to remember to use them responsibly and in line with your personal health status and tolerance. As always, we recommend consulting with your healthcare provider before starting any new health regimen, especially if you have a chronic health condition.
Unlock Optimal Health with Sweat Tent™
With Sweat Tent’s portable home sauna tent, these life-enhancing benefits of sauna use are now more accessible than ever before. This portable, powerful, and affordable sauna tent brings all the health-boosting power of traditional saunas to your home, reaching the optimal temperatures needed for improved mood, health, and happiness.
With Sweat Tent, you don't have to break the bank to invest in your health and wellness, you can make a significant, lasting impact on your life, right from the comfort of your home. Step into the world of sauna bathing with Sweat Tent and start reaping the countless benefits for a happier, healthier life.
For more health-related information, how-tos, and where we’re headed, visit the blog. See Sweat Tent in action on Instagram (@sweattents), or share your own experiences with us using the hashtag #sweattent!
Medical disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before adding sauna bathing to your health and wellness routine.