‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is a saying that perfectly describes the way the sauna affects your body. If you have ever been in that hot steamy place, you know that it may feel almost unbearable at first. However what actually happens during a sauna session is that your body goes through an adaptive hormetic effect – mild stress which is comparable to the effect of cold showers, fasting, or even exercise. Let’s dive deep and discover all the benefits of the sauna for your health.
What does using the sauna on a regular basis do to you?
Thermal therapy boosts many processes of your body in a positive way. Here are a few examples:
1It can decrease mortality rate
The studies on heat exposure benefits showed that using high temperatures can lead to a highly positive impact on mortality risks. And the more frequent the sauna bathing, the more robust the health benefits are.
The risk of sudden cardiac death is 22% lower for people who use the sauna two-three times per week and even more so, at 63%, for those who go four to seven times compared to people using the sauna once per week. Fatal coronary heart disease mortality rates are also lowered by 23% and 48%, respectively.
Other evidence shows that regular sauna-goers experienced a significantly decreased risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who only hit the steam room once per week, with moderate (2–3 times weekly) and frequent (4–7 times weekly) use resulting in 24% and 40%, respectively.
2It can lower your resting heart rate
Research has shown that regularly spending time in the sauna can lower resting heart rate. Having a lower resting pulse rate is a very good thing which decreases the risk of cardiovascular problems and extends your life.
Even though your pulse would increase during the sauna session like you are working out, over time your body will adapt to this and lower your resting heart rate. This is likely due to an increase in core body temperature during a sauna session, which triggers the widening of blood vessels, causing your pulse rate to slow down.
3It stimulates your lymphatic flow
The lymphatic system is an integral part of our body’s circulatory network, providing a critical means for removing toxins and waste from the tissue. Acting as both a carrier of nutrients and a filter, this intricate web plays an essential role in keeping us healthy. It is also a backup reserve for the vascular system and it is a place where your immune system hangs out. According to popular nutrition expert Dr. Eric Berg, the effect of using a sauna regularly can mimic the benefits that you can get from moderate aerobic exercise, which is pretty interesting because that happens while you are sitting.
4It can help lower blood pressure
Long-term heat therapy helps decrease resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure. According to a recent study, people who used saunas 2-3 times a week were 24% less likely to develop hypertension compared to those who used the sauna only once per week. At the same time, those who used it four to seven times per week had a 46% lower risk of developing hypertension.
5It increases circulation
According to Harvard Medical School, one’s pulse rate rises 30% or more during a brief sauna session. This lets the heart pump nearly double the amount of blood each minute. Heat therapy also opens blood vessels. All these processes increase circulation which helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
6It can decrease the risk and intensity of an asthmatic event
Sauna use is related to a decreased chance of developing some chronic or sudden respiratory illnesses. Studies indicate that it can improve lung capacity, volume flow, and expiratory force – all of which could give your lungs a much-needed boost.
The studies showed that men that used the sauna two to three times every week lowered their risk of pneumonia by 27% relative to those who used the sauna one or fewer times per week. This was even greater, at 41% lower, for those who used the sauna four to seven times per week. Scientists also found that sauna exposure improves breathing in patients with asthma or chronic bronchitis
7It can strengthen the immune system
If you are tired of feeling under the weather every fall, visiting a sauna might be the perfect option. Bathing in heat relates to reducing the incidence of common colds. One of the studies compared two groups of healthy adults, one of which used a sauna, and the other which did not do any forms of hyperthermic treatments. The results showed that using a sauna one to two times per week for 6 months led to fewer colds after the third month of treatment.
8It increases insulin sensitivity
There have been numerous studies that indicate that routine sauna use can positively affect insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a powerful hormone that optimizes the transfer of glucose into cells and tissues. Having high insulin sensitivity can protect against multiple health issues, including diabetes.
Higher insulin sensitivity can result in lower blood sugar. One study found that men who used a sauna for two weeks had lower fasting glucose levels compared to those who did not regularly take saunas.
9It can decrease inflammation
Another great effect of using a sauna is decreased inflammation. One of the studies found that people who sat in a sauna four or more times a week had significantly lower levels of inflammation markers than those who used a sauna only one time per week or less. However, the research team noted that not all inflammation may be affected by regular sauna use; more studies will need to be done to explore what specific inflammatory conditions are eased by frequent sauna sessions.
10It supports cognitive function
Studies have found that a regular sauna session can improve cognitive abilities and help optimize brain functionality. The researchers at The University of Eastern Finland found that those who took saunas 4-7 times per week were found 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia, and 65% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who just visited the sauna once a week or less.
11It has similar benefits to moderate aerobic exercise
According to one of the studies, soaking up the steam and heat of a sauna session for 25 minutes is like taking part in moderate-intensity exercise, but without the same level of physical strain. Its long-term positive effects on the cardiovascular system are similar to sports activities. However, overall there are fewer health advantages than regular physical activity, so do not skip your training.
12It can decrease pain
According to various studies, sauna use promotes robust increases in beta-endorphins. Beta-endorphins are like your own natural painkillers, stored in the brain and ready to tackle any physical discomfort you might experience. But these powerful little chemicals do not stop there; they can also help make tough times feel a bit sweeter by boosting reward sensations.
13It has an antioxidant effect
The sauna has long been considered a form of relaxation and stress relief for many people, but now some studies are suggesting it can also help generate important biological compounds known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS play an important role in the body’s response to stress and has been linked to decreased risk of inflammation, cancer, and other health problems. Though more research is needed, using a sauna may be a great way to achieve a powerful antioxidant effect.
14Improves recovery from stress and exercise
When it comes to improving performance, aiding muscle cell repair, and enabling a quicker return to work or play, saunas may be just the ticket. The heat from sauna use can help to increase blood circulation throughout your body, which can reduce inflammation and speed up recovery after physical exertion.
Additionally, studies have shown that using a sauna regularly helps to reduce cortisol levels – meaning lower stress and better sleep quality. So if you are looking for something beyond traditional healing approaches to help with your muscle fatigue or nervous system stress, sweating may be one of the best options.
15It promotes better skin health
The benefits of healthy skin often depend on the level and quality of circulation. Having infrared sauna sessions can help boost skin health and regeneration by promoting blood flow. This helps to combat flare-ups associated with numerous skin conditions. Regular sweat sessions can be particularly helpful for those suffering from eczema or psoriasis due to their positive effect on reducing stress levels.
16It increases autophagy
According to Dr. Eric Berg, regular sauna use boosts autophagy – a scientifically proven process of cellular recycling and renewal. Autophagy is also responsible for the recycling of all the damaged proteins. Exposure to heat may enrich this process and facilitate even greater detoxification for those seeking internal well-being.
The effects of regular sauna use
Numerous studies have demonstrated that regular and frequent sauna use has a plethora of health benefits, including an improved immune system and increased circulation. It decreases all-cause mortality risks, lowers blood pressure and helps to fight insulin resistance. Additionally, it can boost cognitive and respiratory health, soothe pain, reduce stress levels due to its relaxing nature, and improve skin health!
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!
In this article, we mentioned one of Dr. Rhona Patrick’s studies. Dr. Patrick is a cell biologist with a Ph.D. in biomedical science who also studies sauna benefits. Watch this interview with her on MedCram YouTube channel, where she explains the benefits of the sauna on your everyday health.