by Zack Rajcevic.
Before I talk about the benefits of using a sauna, or the health benefits of using a sauna, let’s start with a very short history of the modern sauna.
The oldest saunas where made in Finland many centuries ago. With migration, Finns brought their knowledge about the benefits of using a sauna to other parts of the globe. As a result, saunas developed a strong presence in many other cultures.
Originally, saunas were just dug into the earth. But with time, saunas evolved to what we have today in gyms, homes and health clubs all over the world.
On average, in Finland today there is one sauna per household. For the population of 5.5 million there are over 3 million saunas.
What are the health benefits of using a sauna?
Your health depends greatly on your ability to remove toxins from your body.
Toxins can be removed from your body via:
- kidneys (hydration and urination)
- bowels (excretion of waste)
- liver (I, II and III phase liver detox and glutathione)
- lungs (filtration and breathing)
- and your skin (sweating and skin brushing)
Your skin, the largest organ of your body acts as a filter for removing toxins and to cleanse your body on daily basis. Your skin throws off up to two pounds of toxic waste a day in the form of perspiration.
As we ingest and retain toxins every day from the air we breathe and the food we consume, a sauna can be one of the safest and most effective methods for inducing a detoxifying sweat.
But there are many other health benefits of using a sauna.
Saunas, cardiovascular health, and blood pressure
The most common reason for sauna use today is mostly for pleasure and relaxation. But some new evidence shows there are far more benefits to a sauna than just relaxation.
NEW research shows health benefits of using a sauna
A number of studies in Finland, published by Mayo Foundation for medical education and research in 2018, showed some amazing benefits of using a sauna, including “regular sauna usage can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and have a positive impact on lowering high blood pressure (BP)”.
First study (Lee et al. and Leukannen eat al.) was conducted on a sample of 100 individuals containing men and women aged between 32 and 75 years, with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. After spending 30 minutes in the sauna, the study reported lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure (BP).
Additionally, the pulse wave velocity showed positive alteration. Pulse wave velocity is the way to measure arterial stiffness or the rate at which pressure waves move down the vessel.
Second study (Gayda et al.) was conducted on people who had preexistent hypertension. Their blood pressure was between 120 and 159 mm Hg. In this study regular exercise was combined with the sauna practice while blood pressure was recorded for 24 hours.
The study showed that regular exercise combined with sauna positively affected systemic BP. This can be a great alternative for patients who want to reduce hypertension while being treated with medication.
A 20 years study (Laukkanen et al.) conducted on 2,315 Finish men showed that more often and longer time spent in the sauna during the week reduces risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), fatal coronary heart disease, cardiovascular health and all-cause mortality.
Frequent sauna use (4 to 7 times per week) when compared with only one session per week was associated with approximately 62% reduced risk of incident stroke.
The study stated “in order to reduce risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes it is recommended to combine regular exercise with sauna bathing”.
“Hormesis” – the role of recovery and stress adaptation
Hormesis represents the positive and beneficial physiological effects of exposing yourself to various mild stressors and toxins. The dosage of the stress is important. Some is good but too much is not.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the one that is in control of stress. On one side of ANS we have the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and on the other side is the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. How fast we can switch from one to another depends on our hormesis.
Alternating between sauna and the cold plunge pool (or the ice room/cold shower) can help in balancing hormesis and can be your detoxification secret weapon.
Spending several minutes in the sauna and then going to the cold plunge pool for 30-60 seconds or rubbing ice on the body in the ice room and repeating this for 4-5 times can significantly boost circulations and help to achieve hormesis.
The duration doesn’t need to be too long. Short burst of mild stress can get you out of the comfort zone to improve overall health and longevity.
Restore electrolyte balance
I am sure after reading this article you will start to use sauna more often. Improving your cardiovascular health, achieving hormesis and detoxification are just some of the benefits that sauna can offer. However, excessive sweating can also deplete electrolytes in the body.
If you ever felt light headed from staying too long in the sauna, it might be because the body was very low in electrolytes like potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and others.
In order to avoid this, make sure you drink plenty of water after the sauna or take an electrolyte powder blend to restore what you’ve lost.
Enjoy the health benefits of using a sauna
Blog post by Zack Rajcevic.
Zeljko Rajcevic or “Zack” is our Operations Manager at West Wood Club, Sandymount
Zack’s passion in life is health and fitness. Zac’s spends most of his spare time outside work studying and researching the science of diet and fitness training. He also loves to write about all things health and fitness.
Zack’s favourite quote is from Charles Poliquin, “if you are not ashamed of your knowledge from a year ago, you didn’t learn anything”
REFERENCES – Benefits of using a sauna
1. Paul Saladino M.D. – book “Carnivore code” – Hormesis
2. Dr Ben Lynch – book “Dirty genes” – Detoxification
3. Dr James Dinicolantonio – book “The salt fix” – Electrolyte balance