What Are the Benefits and Risks of a Sauna

Over the past several years, saunas have grown in popularity. There are several different types to choose from. Many users swear by them for a healthy, glowing experience. However, there has been recent debate over whether they pose a larger risk or benefit. 


Regardless of the type of sauna you choose, there are numerous benefits to make note of. We’ve compiled a list of sauna health benefits that will provide insight into them. 


Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Saunas

When deciding to purchase a sauna, it’s important to understand the history, types, benefits, risks, and how to use the room. For an all-inclusive guide that rounds out the pros and cons of this purchase, keep reading. 


History 

There are some discrepancies about when saunas were first invented. The history of these rooms and buildings goes back centuries. Many different cultures have created their own apparatus for cultural, health, and relaxation purposes. 


It is believed that the sauna was first conceived in Finland. This historical room was made from natural resources. Finish people would make a slope in the ground and include a homemade fireplace. Hot, wet stones were used to heat the area. These traditional inventions are still used today, and referred to as savusaunat. 


As time progressed, so did the sauna. It took focus and determination to improve the traditional room. Improvements were seen with the Industrial Revolution and the Korean heritage. 


Over the centuries, many cultures and religions have adopted the sauna. It is known to be used by Buddhist monks, Indigenous people, and the Scottish. 


It is due to the progress of the past that we now have modern-day saunas. They feature new technology. Many fitness facilities and accommodations feature them. In fact, many people have saunas in their house. This could be largely due to the benefits that science has suggested with frequent use. 


Types of Saunas 


There are five main types of saunas. Depending on the method, benefits may vary slightly between each type. 

 

Wet Sauna 

Wet saunas use hot coals or rocks and water to heat the room. This creates a wet steam for a humid room. Generally speaking, a wet sauna causes you to sweat quicker than a dry or electric sauna. 


The wet sauna has been used traditionally. Many cultures have implemented different mechanisms to heat teepees, dugouts, and wooden rooms. 


Unfortunately, the temperature is more difficult to control. They can get extremely hot, causing significant sweating. While using a wet sauna, your heart rate will increase. These saunas are different from a traditional steam room. 


Electric sauna

Electric saunas feature an electric heater. They use dry heat and are extremely common. They are easy to use and convenient. 


To start an electric sauna, you just have to turn it on. The heater will supply heat to the room. You can use this time to relax. One reason these are popular is that there is control over the temperature. As opposed to wet saunas, the temperature can be automatically controlled. Modern electric saunas may even come with remote controls. 


These are energy efficient and easy to find. Installation at home is simple and convenient. 


Infrared sauna 

Infrared saunas have gained momentum and popularity in recent years. They differ from other saunas, as they use infrared or radiating heat. These special bulbs are believed to penetrate deep into the skin. It’s thought that this helps purify and detoxify. 


In an infrared sauna, the room itself won’t heat. Instead, your body will respond to the light waves. The temperatures are often more modest than traditional saunas. It may be easier to breathe in an infrared sauna than a traditional option. 


Due to the unique mechanism, benefits are believed to differ. The light rays will have a different effect on users. However, infrared saunas are more affordable than other options.


Wood-burning sauna

If you’re looking for extreme heat, a wood-burning sauna is a good option. The main heat source is a fire. Rocks can be found near the fire, where you can add water. This is similar to a wet sauna. However, there is no heating element. This means that you won’t deal with electrical issues. 


You can purchase a new-age mechanism or follow a traditional system. Wood-burning saunas aren’t as common anymore. 


Sweat lodge

Sweat lodges are used in many different cultures. Commonly known as a Native American tradition, sweat lodges are also used frequently by the Aztec. These lodges use wood-burning to heat the room. Hot rocks are brought into the area when ready. 


Sweat lodges are still frequently used for religious and cultural ceremonies. They are believed to have both spiritual and physical benefits. Users believe they offer purification and will often say prayers and sing while in use. 


How to Use a Sauna

To reap maximum benefits and maintain safety, there are some tips to follow with sauna use. We’ve included eight suggestions. 


Short sessions

Your time in a sauna should be a work in progress. Beginners should not aim to spend a significant amount of time in a sauna. This can lead to light-headedness and dehydration. We recommend beginner sessions to be 10-15 minutes each use. 


Build up tolerance

As a user becomes more advanced, eventually they can sit for 40 minutes. Specialists suggest advanced users enjoy the sauna three to four times a week. Some users will even sit twice per day. 


It is important to work up slowly to maximum time. Pushing your limits can lead to injury. Be patient and diligent with yourself and sauna usage. Also, begin at a lower temperature if possible. 


Check in with yourself

You are your best monitor during a session. Make sure to check in with yourself. Evaluate how you are feeling. If you are lightheaded, out of breath, or experiencing extreme fatigue, get out. 


Don’t push your limits. Communicate with yourself to ensure your safety in the sauna. 


Wear light clothing 

You can wear light clothing, a bathing suit, or enjoy a sauna nude. Find what’s most comfortable for you. However, do not wear anything that is heavy or unbreathable. Make sure clothes allow for a slight flow of air. Furthermore, make sure you can sweat through it. 

 

Drink lots of water

During your session, you will sweat! This means you will lose natural hydration. Though this is healthy, it’s important to replenish. To do this, drink water before, during, and after your session. 


Staying hydrated will make the session more enjoyable. It will also help amplify the benefits. Dehydration is a major health concern, so avoid it when possible. 


Sit down afterwards

After your session, don’t push your body. Give yourself some time to recalibrate your temperature. Take some time to sit in a comfortable position. Drink plenty of water. Enjoy some quiet time until you feel good enough to continue on with your day. 

 

Notify someone

When you’re going into your session, let somebody know. Especially if you are using an at-home sauna. Make sure alarm bells go off if you aren’t heard from in half an hour. These small safety steps will help you avoid injury. 


Remove jewelry

Jewelry can become a burning hazard. Metals will heat up quickly in the sauna. Not only will this damage your jewelry, but it can injury you. Before entering the sauna, remove rings, bracelets, and other jewelry. 


Benefits of saunas


There are several benefits of using a sauna. We will outline seven of our favorites. 


Reduce stress


Saunas offer the opportunity to meditate and enjoy quiet time. The heat provides comfort and relaxation. Because of this, a session is a perfect way to reduce stress. 


Furthermore, a sauna will help release endorphins. These endorphins will automatically make you happier. These benefits are some of the most popular of sauna use. 


Improve sleep


Saunas are suggested for improving sleep. A session will provide relaxation and help release tension in your muscles. This has effects on your muscular system. Furthermore, it will communicate with your brain that it is time to sleep. 


Consider using your sauna in the evening for a drowsy effect. After this, you can crawl into bed and enjoy a relaxing sleep. 


Enhance cardiovascular health 


Heart health is important! Some scientists believe that saunas can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s believed that this is due to the lowering of blood pressure. Saunas also increase heart function and improve metabolism. 


Implementing a sauna routine into your lifestyle can have incredible heart benefits. 


Glowing skin


Did you know that bacteria and toxins are held in your pores? This can create acne and other unsightly blemishes. The heat from the sauna helps to open pores and release toxins. Users say that they enjoy healthy, glowing skin. 


Furthermore, many people report that their psoriasis and eczema has improved with frequent sauna use. 


Improve breathing


Sauna sessions can have a positive effect on lung function. Due to the heat, respiratory conditions are less common. The steam and/or heat will open up mucous membranes. This will cause breathwork to become less laboured. 


Enhance cognitive abilities


Some studies have shown that patients with Alzheimers have improved their conditions with sauna use. This incredible finding suggests that cognitive abilities improve with sauna use. 


Weight loss


Any form of sweating is good for caloric expenditure. A sauna is no different. As you sit in a sauna, you’ll sweat out toxins and calories. You’ll also enhance your metabolism. The average sauna session is believed to burn anywhere between 300-600 calories. 


This is an incredible, low-effort option for weight loss. However, it is recommended that a healthy diet and workout regime is also followed. 


Risks of saunas


Like anything else, you can’t have the good without the bad. There are some risks of saunas. We will cover three of the most common, and provide insight on how to avoid these issues.


Of course, when unsure, play on the safe side and consult a doctor.


Dehydration


As previously mentioned, dehydration is a risk for sauna use. Dehydration occurs from fluid loss. Due to the intense sweating, it’s important to supplement with drinking water. Dehydration can result in nausea and lightheadedness. 


To avoid dehydration, drink water before, during, and after your session. 


Blood pressure


If you have low blood pressure, a sauna will decrease it even more. To ensure safe sessions, speak with a physician before using. 


Some users will move from a hot sauna to a cold swimming pool in fitness facilities. This can be extremely detrimental and raise blood pressure. We recommend leaving ample time for your body to return to base level before switching between extreme temperatures. 

Heat discomfort


If you’re sensitive to heat, a sauna might not be the best place for you. Just like a hot summer day, the heat from a sauna can become slightly uncomfortable. It’s important to continually check in with yourself to ensure you’re comfortable and doing alright in the heat. 


To further avoid heat discomfort, work your way up. Slowly increase the frequency and time spent in your sauna. Take your time to acclimate and get comfortable with this exciting new experience.


When to Avoid a Sauna


To ensure safe usage, make sure to avoid a sauna if any of the following are present: 

  • You have consumed alcohol 
  • You are feverish or experiencing illness
  • You are pregnant 
  • You are taking diuretics 
  • You have pre-existing medical conditions 

Take precautions to be safe. After all, your safety is most important. If you have any concerns about sauna usage, speak to a physician before entering. 


As long as you are cleared to use a sauna, you’ll likely find that the benefits far outweigh the risks. 


Conclusion

If you’re on the fence about using a sauna, don’t fret. There are many benefits with only a few risks. When in doubt, speak to a physician about usage. Saunas have been around for centuries due to healing properties, spiritual rituals, and sauna health benefits. We recommend finding the best sauna type for you and then slowly working your way up for maximum enjoyment.

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