We all know that spending some time in a sauna makes us feel great, but its positive effects actually go far further than that, bringing real health benefits with them.
Saunas have been used for centuries by civilisations across the globe, each finding unique benefits from immersion in steam, most notably in the ancient Roman thermae, remnants of which can still be found throughout Europe.
Then, the saunas were used communally, allowing people of all classes to gather, unwind and relieve stress. In many ways this was the ideal setting, with the calming atmosphere of the surroundings providing the perfect place to relax, combined with the therapeutic benefits of steam. So popular and effective were these spas that the designs of the Roman steam houses are still used by many modern saunas today.
The Romans realised early on that the social atmosphere of the sauna along with the benefits of the steam meant that the sauna was the perfect place to relieve stress and relax. Stress-relief is still one of the most commonly cited reasons for visiting a sauna, with the added strains of modern life giving even more reason to visit.
Stress-relief is just part of a greater overall effect that the relaxation of a sauna can bring- once your body is in a more relaxed state you’ll find it is better-placed to reap the wellness benefits, improving your immune system and assisting physical exercise.
Like the Romans, many people use a trip to the spa as a good excuse to catch up with friends and family so the more you bring with you the merrier, making it the ultimate way to unwind after a long week.
2. Improve sleep
The stress-relieving benefits of saunas can help when it comes to inducing a deeper sleep; in addition to the calm that comes naturally from the steam, everything about the sauna experience lends itself to a good night’s sleep. Because of the nature of saunas, it is very difficult to actually do anything else other than sit back and relax- most mobile phones or books would not withstand a sauna, so enjoy the heat to its fullest!
Prolonged exposure to computer screens (including phones or tablets) have been shown to affect deep sleep patterns, so an evening sauna gives you a great excuse to put down the phone before bed.
For many people it’s normal to feel tired after coming from a sauna, but most attribute this to heat-related exhaustion. This is partly true, but even while you are sat still, your body is working hard in the heat, naturally making you less energetic. That’s why a sauna later in the day is often just the ticket for a great night’s sleep.
3. Remove toxins from your system
Many of the health benefits of a sauna come from removing toxins, dead skin and other products of everyday life that otherwise might not get expelled as readily from your system (often called a detox).
When your body sweats it removes these deposits from your system, giving you the opportunity to replenish them with fresh, clean water. Not only is the hydration great for your body but it means that your body is carrying a larger amount of clean water, leaving you to feel great.
4. Weight loss & calorie burning
Sweat from the sauna does more than just remove toxins from your body; the increased heartrate and production of the sweat burns more calories. The effects of a sauna trigger many of the same responses from your body that you get from exercise, notably from the increased body temperature and sweat production, so it’s only natural that your body also gets many of the same benefits as well.
Of course to get even greater weight loss benefits, taking a sauna after exercising will yield better results still. When following an intense workout with a sauna, this can lead to even greater benefits and serve as a nice, gradual way to let your body recover from physical exertion.
5. Muscle relaxant & workout recovery
Another great reason to get into a sauna after a workout is to aid the relaxation of muscles, meaning that you’ll feel the burn for a much shorter time when compared with letting them recover naturally.
Thermotherapy is a widely-accepted form of relief for muscles for a variety of ailments, whether it stems from cramps, spasms or from the pain associated with a thorough workout. You might also notice relief from stiffness and pain in your arms and legs even from gentle exercise is relieved by the effects of gentle heat.
6. Increase endurance
One of the things that causes endurance athletes to slow down or lag is the immense heat that their bodies succumb to. By spending time in a sauna your body gradually becomes more and more exposed to this heat, improving your tolerance for a warmer internal temperature.
Using a sauna after exercise can have huge benefits when it comes to building up this tolerance level and it doesn’t take numerous visits before you start to feel the benefits; just 5 minutes in a sauna is enough time for your body to adapt to the heat, but for a lasting effect regular visits are encouraged.
7. Great for hair
The heat and steam of a sauna works wonders for your hair, bringing out naturally healthy and glossy qualities. Many recommend complementing this treatment with a cold wash afterwards to lock in the benefits for longer by closing the pores on the scalp.
The oils released in your scalp (called sebum) keep your hair and scalp healthy and hydrated with moisture, this can also help alleviate symptoms of a dry scalp.
8. Skin cleanser
Steam has long been used as a way to naturally improve skin tone thanks to the steam opening up pores and allowing sweat to remove dead skin cells and bacteria. This is a process that occurs naturally within your body anyway, but the heat of the sauna speeds up this process and gives your body a deep cleanse.
The sebum which works wonders for your scalp causes oily, blemish-prone skin if there is dirt deep within your pores, so the sauna brings out its best qualities while doing away with the harmful chemicals that can cause skin issues.
9. Look younger
Qualities associated with ‘youthful looks’ are often a matter of proper hydration and a sauna is a great way to introduce a cycle of water to your body, with the sweat removing toxins from your body and the new water naturally replenishing your natural hydration.
Drinking water after you get out of the sauna will help replace the fluid lost through sweating. Wrinkles are caused by dry skin, so keeping properly hydrated goes a long way to combat the effects of this.
10. Fight illness & boost immune system
The usefulness of saunas even extents to being able to prevent illness- as proven by several studies in recent years. By heating your body’s core, your immune system becomes more active and is able to fight any signs of infection before any illness starts.
Regular users of saunas will feel the continual benefits of this because it encourages your body to seek out and remove potential viruses more regularly. Additionally, the links between stress and immune systems are well-documented, with the naturally stress-relieving benefits of a sauna further helping this.