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Saunas originated in Finland. The first saunas were pits in the ground that were heated by a fireplace. Nowadays, saunas are built using wood to line the walls. Typically, they consist of a wood box and a heating element that heats a pile of rocks. When using a modern day sauna, you throw water on the rocks to make the sauna feel even hotter with humid heat. In ancient Finland, wood, instead of rocks was used to heat the first pit saunas. This made it very smokey so you had to wait for the smoke to clear before entering. However, they remained hot for 12 hours. Despite its humble origins, the sauna has come a long way. Today, you can find saunas in almost every rec center and spa. Many people are even putting them in their homes. This increase in popularity is no surprise as there are many benefits of a sauna. In addition to the fact that they make you feel more relaxed, exposure to heat can have several health benefits as well. In this article I will outline the benefits of a sauna. 

What is a Sauna?

Saunas today reach an average temperature of 185 degrees F. Although we probably all have the same general idea of a modern sauna, they come in many forms. The most common type of sauna is a room built out of wood with a metal heating element that heats stones. Most saunas take advantage of wet heat because, when the air is humid, the room feels hotter.

Usually, you use a sauna for about 15 minutes. Longer than 20 minutes can be dangerous. You control the heat of the stove with a dial. Some homes will have a sauna-room installed while others may put a removable box style sauna in an extra room. Recently, Amazon has been selling zip up tent saunas that you can place in your living room. They have holes for your hands and head so that your body is the only part that receives the heat. These types of saunas have a small heating element inside so that you can enjoy the benefits of a sauna without having to buy or install a full room in your home. They look hilarious but reviews indicate that they are effective.

Benefits of a Sauna Photo by Karen Stahlros on Unsplash
Photo by Karen Stahlros on Unsplash

Benefits of a Sauna

So, why do people rush to get in the sauna after a hard workout at the gym or dream of installing one in their home? Because there are many benefits of a sauna. Please see below for a list of some of these benefits. 

  • Opens pores and cleans skin 
  • Improves blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Mimics the benefits of physical activity
  • Can improve mental health and promote relaxation
  • Can strengthen immune system
  • Decreases muscle soreness
  • Detoxifies your body

How the Benefits of a Sauna work

When you expose your body to the extreme levels of heat in a sauna, you are applying heat stress. When your body senses its temperature rising, it goes in to a state to protect itself from overheating and cell damage. For example, similar to when you exercise, when your body temperature rises in a sauna, your body forces more oxygen into your bloodstream. This increase in oxygen helps to detoxify your blood. Additionally, extreme heat can raise your heart rate to 120 beats per minute. This is the same rate as moderate exercise. Therefore, many of the benefits that you get from moderate exercise like increased blood flow to the heart and brain and stress relief, you also get from being in a sauna.

Further, when your body is exposed to extreme heat, it releases heat shock proteins. These protect your cells from the damage that causes aging, heart disease, and many of the other problems that are associated with death. These are only a few examples of the mechanism that activate as a result of heat stress. Watch the video below to find out more.  

Risks

Though saunas are generally safe and have many benefits, you should still use caution. Particularly, if you have heart disease or blood pressure problems, you should definitely consult your doctor before using a sauna since the rapid changes in heart rate may cause problems for you. Further, you should limit sauna use to 20 minute sessions to prevent your body from overheating. Also, saunas make you sweat. When you sweat you lose water. Despite the many benefits of a sauna, dehydration is a risk. If you do not drink enough water or use a sauna after drinking alcohol, you could dehydrate your body.  

Conclusion 

There are many health benefits of a sauna. Because of these health benefits, they are becoming more popular and accessible in the average home. Saunas can help improve cardiovascular health, remove toxins, and relieve stress. However, be careful not to overuse a sauna. Overuse can lead to dehydration and bodily harm. Keep your sessions to 20 minutes or less. I hope this post helped to introduce you to the basic health benefits of a sauna. Leave a comment below with your sauna experience or any questions you may have. 

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