The Wonders of Regular Sauna Use
April 18, 2023
Saunas have been around for centuries in several cultures world wide.
In Turkey they are called bath houses. Native Americans frequented the use of sweat lodges. Russia uses the benefits of sweating in their Banyas, and of course several Nordic countries use saunas as a weekly ritual.
The use of saunas is so deeply entrenched in Finnish culture, they have an estimated 2 million saunas for the 5 million people who live in Finland!
What is a Sauna?
Typically saunas are constructed as wood filled rooms that are heated usually around 176 F to 212 F. Heating these rooms can be from wood fired stoves or electric heaters. Both have the ability to hold stones on top. These stones are useful for adding humidity to the sauna. Cool water drizzled or splash over these heated stones and emits hot steam. Most saunas are a dry heat which separates them from steam rooms.
New versions of saunas have emerged on the market called infrared.
You’ll quickly recognize them by the red lights. These saunas incorporate similar aspects of saunas but by using infrared light. This light allows the use of a cooler temperature (110 F to 135 F) while still providing the amazing therapeutic benefits of sauna use.
While in a dry, steamy or infrared sauna you will get wonderful health benefits especially with consistent use.
Let’s talk about those benefits and how best to get the most out of your sauna time.
Know Before Trying
While saunas are safe for most low risk people, there are some who should check with their doctor before starting a routine of sauna. Those who have had a recent heart attack or stroke should consult before.
Not recommended for anyone with heart disease that causes chest pains or severe aortic stenosis (narrowing of major heart valve), orthostatic hypotension, during pregnancy and children.
Benefits of regular sauna use:
Keep in mind that these are just some of the many benefits that you can gain from sauna use.
By sweating our blood vessels widen to increase blood flow. Our heart rate will start to rise, similar to when we workout. Studies show that regular sauna use can help boost the health of your heart while reducing blood pressure.
There is evidence that suggests that sauna use can affect the cells, arteries, and nervous system, which all impact heart health. These positive rewards can be achieved with a 20 minute (or more) session, 4 times a week!
Muscle Recovery & Pain Relief:
Regular sauna use can aid in muscle recovery by increasing blood flow. When under high heat the body releases the same ‘happy hormones’: endorphins when we exercise. This increase in endorphins can reduce the pain that is often accompanied from a strenuous workout. There’s also a good amount of evidence that consistent sauna use has positive effects in athletic performance.
Improved Cognitive Function:
Impressive evidence has found that with frequent sauna uses we see measurable improved brain health. A 25 year study that had more than 2,300 participants at the University of Eastern Finland found that regular use of sauna (4-7 times per week) at 176 F for 19 minutes lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by 65% and 66% for Dementia.
Detoxifications & Skin Health:
When we sit in a sauna and the temperature rises, so does our core temperature. Sweat beads begin to form, which is a really neat automatic form of air conditioning that our bodies do for us.
These sweat beads are composed of mostly water. The longer we sweat the more toxins we are able to flush out of our systems. Getting rid of toxic metals such as lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury and chemicals that are commonly absorbed just from interacting with our daily environments.
The flushing of these toxins allows our largest organ; our skin, to also flush impurities out while taking in moisture to deeper levels while the pores are open. Stepping out of the sauna you’ll notice a glow, (yes it may be a bit red) but the skin is now plump with moisture!
After reading this and understanding all the wonderful benefits of regular sauna use, you’ll probably be asking, “how often do I need to sauna to receive these effects”?
How Often Should We Sauna?
The short answer is, it depends. This is a practice that takes some getting used to and how easily available it is to you. Also it does take a commitment to intentionally making time or scheduling it in your life.
As an average recommendation we like to say 2-3 times per week works best for most peoples’ schedules. Length of time again varies from person to person. It all depends on heat tolerance and time available.
A good rule of thumb would be as long as it takes to produce a good sweat (which varies), typically 20-40 minutes per session. Working up to these times and frequency is expected, don’t feel rushed to jump into the heat right off the bat.
*pro tip: trying mediating during each session to help calm the nervous system at the same time!
With anything in detoxing, we want to make sure that we are properly rehydrating, especially with electrolytes. A good focus with this is to be slow and steady with sauna use.
Gently guiding the body to detox is a good practice and helps alleviate nasty detoxing side effects.
Learning to enjoy this process will encourage this type of self-care for the long term.
Naturopathic Doctor Denver
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