Health gurus around the world praise saunas and steam rooms for their health benefits. But what exactly are the benefits of using saunas and steam rooms on a regular basis?
Before we get into these health benefits, I want to establish that, although similar, saunas and steam rooms aren’t exactly the same things. Both heat small rooms to high temperatures in order to provide relaxation and health benefits to its occupants. Saunas have a dry heat generated by hot coals or a closed stove, while steam rooms use generators to boil water and fill the room with steam. Saunas, with temperatures between 180 and 195 degrees, are considerably hotter than steam rooms that have temperatures of 100 to 120 degrees. However, the high humidity levels in steam rooms cause them to feel hotter than saunas.
Now, onto the health benefits of saunas and steam rooms:
Benefit #1: Improve circulation
The high temperatures in both saunas and steam rooms cause your heart to beat more quickly, which increases blood circulation. Just sitting in a sauna or steam room has been compared to walking on a treadmill in terms of its effect on heart rate and circulation. Additionally, a 2012 study found that moist heat, such as heat created by steam rooms, is particularly effective in dilating blood vessels and capillaries and increasing circulation. This improved blood flow can be beneficial in reducing blood pressure and keeping the heart healthy.
Benefit #2: Ease stress
Using saunas and steam rooms can cause your body to release endorphins and reduce cortisol levels in the body. When cortisol levels drop, you feel more relaxed and less stressed. High cortisol levels can lead to anxiety and depression, heart disease, memory and concentration issues, trouble sleeping, and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. By reducing stress levels, spending time in saunas and steam rooms can help prevent these issues.
Benefit #3: Healthier skin
Saunas and steam rooms can help clear your pores and promote healthier skin. The heat from saunas is particularly effective in bringing blood flow to the surface of the skin. This can make your skin healthier and more robust. Meanwhile, the warm condensation in steam rooms is effective in rinsing away dirt and dead skin that can cause acne. While saunas and steam rooms each have their own mechanisms of doing so, both promote healthier and clearer skin.
Benefit #4: Reduce joint stiffness and muscle soreness
Saunas and steam rooms are both useful in workout recovery. The heat makes muscles more pliable and elastic, which can be beneficial in reducing soreness from workouts. Additionally, steam rooms can be very effective as part of a warm-up before a workout. Studies have found that applying heat to a joint before a workout can help prevent injuries, particularly in women.
The myth of “sweating out toxins” in your body
You may be under the impression that saunas and steam rooms can be used to “sweat out toxins” in your body. Unfortunately, neither has the ability to release toxins you have ingested, such as drugs or alcohol, from your body. On the bright side, there are still many documented health benefits of saunas and steam rooms, as I discussed earlier.
Risks and limitations
While saunas and steam rooms have many health benefits, it is very important that they are being operated safely and responsibly. Because staying in a sauna or steam room for an extended period of time can lead to dehydration, make sure you drink plenty of water before entering a sauna or steam room and do not stay in the sauna or steam room too long. Although saunas and steam rooms can help lower blood pressure over time, they should not be used by people with pre-existing high blood pressure or other heart diseases. Others who should avoid sauna and steam room use include pregnant women, people with epilepsy, and those taking antibiotics or any mind-altering drugs.