If you’ve never experienced a sauna before , then the photo here pretty much sums it up. This hot, dry environments open up your pores, relax your limbs and unleash a cleansing wash of perspiration all over your body.
What separates the sauna from many other steam baths (such as the tiled steam rooms often found in spas) is the type of heat. Steam rooms feature a moist heat, and tend to operate at temperatures of around 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). To heat it up any further, you have to add more steam (a steam room’s heat source), which can quickly create a scalding environment. Moist heat also feels hotter because the moisture-rich air prevents your sweat from evaporating and cooling your body.
1. Saunas burn calories.
Some individuals may experience high amounts of calorie burn at first – particularly those individuals in poor shape to begin with – over the long term, saunas are simply treated as one of many tools in our arsenal when it comes to burn additional calories.The sweating process itself requires a notable amount of energy. That energy is derived from the conversion of fat and carbohydrates in a bodily process that burns up calories. According to U.S. Army medical research (Ward Dean, M.D.), “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.”The body consumes said calories due to the acceleration of heart activity (the cardiovascular section). As heart activity increases and as these processes demand more oxygen, the body begins to convert more calories into usable energy.
2. Saunas relax muscles and soothe aches/pains in both muscles and joints
Under the high heat provided by a sauna, the body releases endorphins (see health and wellness benefit #1). Endorphins can have a mild, enjoyable “tranquilizing effect” and the ability to minimize the pain of arthritis and muscle soreness other from, say, an intense physical workout. Body temperature also rises from the heat of the sauna.. This causes blood vessels to dilate, therefore increasing blood circulation. This increased blood flow in turn speeds up the body’s natural healing process via soothing aches and pains and/or speeding up of the healing of minor bruises or cuts. After participating in physical sports, use the heat and/or steam of a sauna to promote muscle relaxation by helping to reduce muscle tension and eliminate lactic acid and/or other toxins that may be present.
3. Saunas flush toxins.
Many – if not most – of us do not actively sweat on a daily basis. Deep sweating, however, has multiple proven health benefits. Benefits derived from a deep sweat can be achieved via regular sauna bathing.Due to the heat of a sauna, the core body temperature begins to rise. The blood vessels then dilate, causing increased blood flow (see above). As heat from the blood begins to move toward the skin’s surface, the body’s nervous system then sends signals to the millions of sweat glands that cover the human body. As the sweat glands become stimulated, they produce sweat. Sweat production is primarily designed to cool the body, and is composed of 99% water. However, deep sweating in a sauna can help reduce levels of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury and chemical – which are all toxins commonly absorbed just from interacting with our daily environments.There is no shortage of books from Doctors and practitioners, who describe the benefits of detoxifying our bodies regularly. As many doctors will agree, a big reason for the popularity of saunas is that they are one of the best ways to detoxify our bodies.
4. Sauna cleanses the skin.
Heat bathing is one of the oldest beauty and/or health strategies in terms of cleansing one’s skin. When the body begins to produce sweat via deep sweating, the skin is then cleansed and dead skin cells are replaced – keeping your skin in good working condition.Sweating rinses bacteria out of the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. Cleansing of the pores has been shown to improve the capillary circulation, while giving the skin a softer-looking quality. Dr. Ben H Douglas, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and author of “Ageless: Living Younger Longer,” attests that “Sweating is a way of energizing the skin almost the way exercising a muscle energizes it.”
5. Saunas improve cardiovascular performance.
In the high temperatures of a traditional or infrared sauna, skin heats up and core body temperature rises.In response to these increase heat levels, the blood vessels near the skin dilate and “cardiac output” increases. Medical research has told us that the heart rate can rise from 60-70 bpm (beats per minute) to 110-120 bpm in the sauna (140-150 with more intensive bathing), and can often sink to below normal after the cooling off stage. With regular sauna useage, we not only train our heart muscles and improve the heart rate/cardiac output, but we also help the body’s regulatory system.Even more cardiovascular conditioning takes place when the sauna bathing is taken in multiple “innings”, with sessions in the sauna separated by a cool shower or a quick dip into a cool pool or lake. Each time you rapidly change temperature (from hot to cool or vice-versa), your heart rate increases by as much as 60%, which is very comparable to the increase experienced during moderate exercise.
Dr. Harvey Simon, editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests that sauna users follow these simple precautions as well:
- Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair sweating and produce overheating before and after your sauna.
- Stay in no more than 15–20 minutes.
- Cool down gradually afterward.
- Drink two to four glasses of cool water after each sauna.
- Don’t take a sauna when you are ill, and if you feel unwell during your sauna, head for the door.
- Wear as little as possible
- Try not to eat too much right before your sauna bath
A sauna not only feels good, it’s good for your body. Whether it’s the physiological changes that occur during the warmth of a sauna, or if it’s simply the time spent in the calming and still retreat of the sauna, every seasoned sauna bather agrees – it feels wonderful! As we progress through our stressful everyday lives, the sauna provides a pampering retreat – where we can relax and restore body and soul. Sauna bathing truly makes you “Feel Better”, “Look Better” and “Sleep Better”!
Photo Credit: watertonparkhotel.co.uk