Saunas have been around for centuries and always been popular in Scandinavian countries. But they’re having a moment in the UK. Sauna sites are popping up everywhere and have been recently labelled as “the new pub”. Not only do sauna’s have a pretty long list of physiological and psychological benefits, they’re also proving to be a popular social activity.
What are the benefits of using a sauna?
Here are five benefits of using a sauna:
1. Relieves stress and promotes relaxation
One of the most significant benefits of using a sauna is that it helps to relieve stress, promote relaxation. Sauna bathing releases endorphins and other peptides like dynorphins, whilst also providing a space for mindfulness or social interaction. One study in 2018 found that saunas reduce the stress hormone cortisol by as much as 10 to 40 percent. Plus, the heat from the sauna helps to relax muscles and increase circulation, which in turn reduces tension and promotes relaxation.
2. Improves cardiovascular health
Another benefit of using a sauna is that it can improve cardiovascular health. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, regular sauna use was found to be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because the heat from the sauna helps to improve blood flow, which can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
3. Detoxifies the body
Saunas can also help to detoxify the body through stimulating sweat glands. Studies have found that sauna use is effective in removing toxins such as heavy metals from the body, similar to exercising. This is because the heat from the sauna helps to open up pores and stimulate sweat glands, which can help to flush out toxins.
4. Improves skin health
Finally, saunas can also improve skin health. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, sauna use was found to be effective in improving skin health by increasing blood flow to the skin and promoting cell regeneration. The increased circulation means that more nutrients are being delivered to the skin. Always remember to cleanse your skin after sweating though!
5. Helps with muscle soreness and recovery
Finally, saunas are also known to help with pain relief and muscle soreness. The heat from the sauna helps to relax muscles and increase circulation, which can reduce pain and stiffness. Some fitness lovers swear by a sauna after a workout to help with recovery and help reduce systemic inflammation. One study also found that sauna bathing can help reduce lower back pain.
Some people like to combine sauna bathing with cold water plunges for heightened benefits to heart health and increased focus.
How often should you use a sauna?
Start taking a sauna a few times per week. You can increase this as you become more experienced.
“Start with taking a sauna a few times per week for three months” suggests Samantha McKinney, R.D
Start with5 to 10 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a weeks
Start by sitting lower in the sauna, as heat rises so it’ll be a little cooler low down
If you’re using the sauna after exercise, wait at least 10 minutes before going in
The most common time frame is for 15-20 minutes at a time
Make sure you cleanse your skin after sauna’ing to remove sweat
The same benefits apply to steam rooms if you’d prefer moist heat
Saunas offer many health benefits, including stress relief, improved cardiovascular health, pain relief, detoxification, and improved skin health. So, the next time you're looking for a way to relax and improve your health, consider taking a trip to the sauna.
The heat in a sauna can contribute to dehydration, so make sure you stay hydrated before using a sauna and if you begin to feel too hot always step out of the sauna straight away! If you have skin conditions such as eczema, consult a doctor before using a sauna.
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