Are Saunas Good for You? Here Are 4 Benefits of Sweating it Out in a Sauna
We love the feeling of stepping into a hot sauna after a hard workout or stressful day and feeling tension melt away—but did you know saunas may also improve your mental and physical health? You may just add sauna bathing to your self-care routine after reading about these surprising benefits.
Why are saunas good for your health?
It turns out that aside from helping you feel more relaxed, saunas may actually provide some serious health benefits. But how? Though it may sound a little counterintuitive, saunas place stress on the body, triggering an adaptation that allows you to better cope with the heat and stimulating the body’s natural repair process. That’s right, physical stress can be beneficial!
4 health benefits of saunas
Now that you have a basic understanding of how saunas can improve your health, let’s look at 4 health benefits of saunas:
1. Saunas can improve cardiovascular function
According to biochemist Dr. Rhonda Patrick, one of the preeminent researchers on the effects of saunas and human health, sauna “bathing” has a similar effect on the cardiovascular system as aerobic exercises. Research shows that an intense sauna session can increase your heart rate to 150 beats per minute and increase your cardiac output (the amount of blood the heart pumps per minute) by 60 to 70%!
Regular sauna use can increase your heart rate and cardiac output, similar to aerobic exercise.
One study found that men who used the sauna 4 to 7 times per week were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes than those using it just once per week. In fact, frequent sauna users were found to be 40% less likely to die from all causes of premature death, regardless of their health, diet, and lifestyle. Now that’s a serious benefit!
The high temps in saunas can also improve blood pressure by causing your blood vessels to dilate, or open up, and improve lung function by increasing breathing capacity.
2. Saunas can increase longevity
According to Dr. Patrick, saunas can increase one’s lifespan by activating certain genes that produce heat shock proteins. Heat shock proteins are able to help protect your cells’ proteins from unraveling, a condition known as protein aggregation. Protein aggregation is associated with some of the leading causes of premature death, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart failure, and plaque build-up in the arteries.
In sum, by creating more heat shock proteins, saunas can protect us from everyday stressors that damage our cellular structure. It’s no surprise that many centenarians have high levels of heat shock proteins!
3. Saunas can improve mental health
Research suggests that regular sauna users (those who use the sauna 4 to 7 times per week) are 77% less likely than those using it only once a week to develop mental disorders like anxiety and depression. In one randomized controlled trial, participants who underwent 4 weeks of sauna sessions experienced reduced symptoms of depression, such as improved appetite and reduced body aches & anxiety.
Sauna bathing can increase appetite, reduce body aches, and improve anxiety.
One reason for this improvement in mental health is that saunas mimic the “feel-good” response we get when we exercise by increasing the body’s production of beta-endorphins. Saunas have also been shown to help lower the level of cortisol—the chemical associated with stress and tension—in the body.
4. Saunas can boost immune function
Saunas can improve immune function by decreasing inflammation in the body. Inflammation causes our immune systems to ramp up, which can lead to skin redness, swelling, and/or fever. Chronic inflammation is responsible for some of the leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Another way that sauna bathing can boost your immune system is by elevating your body’s white blood cell count. Though too few or too many white blood cells can be an indicator of an immune deficiency, having more white blood cells can help the body produce antibodies that are used to attack invading bacteria, viruses, and toxins. By overheating the body, saunas can increase monocyte, neutrophil, and lymphocyte count—white blood cells that have the capacity to help break down bacteria, remove dead tissues, create new blood cells, and promote the secretion of certain growth factors.
Do hot tubs offer the same health benefits?
Though hot tubs, steam rooms, and infrared saunas each offer their own health benefits, they may not provide the same level of benefit since they operate at lower temperatures. That said, there’s no reason you can’t alternate using these methods with dry sauna bathing!
How much time should you spend in a sauna?
To reap the sauna benefits discussed above, you’ll want to try to stay in a 175 to 195°F sauna for about 20 minutes (30 minutes for a lower-temperature sauna). But, if you begin to feel dizzy, out of breath, or nauseous, it’s time to get out. Many people like to get in a cold bath or shower after sauna bathing, which can provide additional benefits. After you’ve let your body temperature return to normal (and assuming you feel up to it), you may choose to begin another sauna session.
When to avoid the sauna
While saunas can be a great tool for reducing stress and improving overall health, don’t use a sauna if you:
- Have poorly-controlled high blood pressure.
- Are at risk of a stroke or heart attack.
- Have trouble breathing.
- Are obese.
- Have recently consumed alcohol or drugs.
Upgrade your self-care routine with board certified Sacramento surgeon Dr. Clark
For the ultimate self-care routine, complement your sauna bathing with non-surgical treatments like laser hair removal, Botox & fillers, and body contouring. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Christa Clark and her aesthetics team can help you look your best in Granite Bay with a full range of medical spa treatments and more. Schedule your complimentary consultation online or call (916) 242-2662.