Using a sauna or a steambath is one of the healthiest habits that you could adopt on a daily or weekly basis. You may already associate the sauna and steambath with relaxation and luxury, as most high-end hotels, spas and health clubs include both a sauna and a steam room, yet most American homes do not. But after you consider all of the lesser-known, but equally-important health benefits of saunas and steambaths, you may find yourself visiting these gyms and spas more frequently, or you may decide to install a sauna or a steam bath in your home.
The following are just some of the health benefits that saunas and steambaths provide for the mind and body. Doctors and scientists confirm what the sauna enthusiasts of other countries such as Finland and Russia have known for many centuries:
- The sauna or steambath will improve your overall health and sense of well-being
- The sauna or steambath will bring more oxygen to your cells
- The sauna or steambath will relax your sore and tired muscles
- The sauna or steambath will reduce pain such as lower back pain
- You will lose weight due to the calories burned in perspiration
- Using a sauna or a steambath will reduce the number of colds and flus by half
- The sauna or steambath will improve your heart health
- Using a sauna or a steambath will provide you more energy throughout the day
- Using a sauna or a steambath may relieve conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism
- Your skin will look and feel better and younger, with fewer blemishes and a healthy glow
- Improved circulation, which in turn solves a plethora of conditions (even erectile dysfunction)
- You will feel great; peaceful and relaxed after using a sauna or a steambath
- You will sleep better after using a sauna or a steambath
The specific ailments that are frequently relieved with the use of a sauna or a steambath include: anxiety, muscle tension, acne, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, back pain, fibromyalgia, circulatory problems, erectile dysfunction, lethargy, poor circulation, lower back pain, and many more.
*Note that saunas and steambaths are not identical but the two provide similar benefits. To avoid repeating the phrase “saunas and steambaths” in every sentence, I shall use the terms interchangeably for the remainder of this article.
Detoxification and purification: The Primary Reasons to use a Sauna or a Steambath
The primary purpose of a sauna or a steambath is to cleanse the body through perspiration. The sauna’s heat causes a slight increase in the body’s core temperature, just enough to activate the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism, perspiration. The pores of the skin to open, allowing perspiration to flush out the impurities in the body. Toxemia
What Happens to Your Body in a Sauna or a Steambath?
When you take a sauna, the heat pumps up blood circulation near the skin and stimulates sweating. The sauna elicits about a quart of sweat per hour. Sweating helps the body rid itself of toxins and other unwanted materials and improves general circulation. In the sauna, the temperature your skin rises. Blood vessels dilate, increasing circulation in the skin and decreasing the resistance to blood flow through your veins and capillaries. This causes your blood pressure to go down briefly. Then your heartbeat increases to normalize your blood pressure.
Pain Relief and Muscle Relaxation
After a heavy workout, lactic acid often accumulates around the muscles that have been strained. It is this lactic acid that causes the pain that may linger for days due to improper circulation to those muscle groups. The steambath relieves this pain by pumping more oxygen-rich blood into the muscles, which dissipates the lactic acid. If you often feel tense muscles or “knots” in your back, you will feel similar relief from the increased circulation obtained in the sauna.
Recent scientific evidence also suggests that the sauna can relieve rheumatism and arthritis.
Increased Circulation: Goodbye Cold Clammy Hands and Feet!
The sauna increases the blood circulation to your entire body. This improves nearly every function of the body and mind, but tends to show the most dramatic effect in the extremities, which are the areas most deprived of oxygen when you have poor circulation. The steambath will dilate (open) the blood vessels to allow easier passage. In cold climates, many people know the misery of cold, clammy hands and feet, due to poor circulation. The sauna corrects this problem.
The Sauna: Better than Viagra!!
Erectile dysfunction (or E.D.) is the nemesis of many older men (and their wives!). E.D. can have several causes, including poor circulation, and mental stress. The sauna is one of the best treatments for both of these underlying conditions for erectile dysfunction. Factor in the fact that most people feel sexier when they are clean and healthy, and you will understand why one of my best friends, a 75-year-old man has assured me “Michael… the sauna is much better than Viagra!”. It bears mentioning that Viagra is a toxic substance that comes with a plethora of risks, including heart attack and chemical dependence. The sauna will help heal your whole and all of your parts, without any harmful side effects.
Younger, Healthier Skin
Your skin will look and feel younger, as the sauna flushes your clogged pores, which clears the complexion. Because the sauna brings more blood near the surface, and therefore more oxygen, skin cell renewal is increased. Some sauna users like to scrub away the top layers of dead skin cells, and allow these new cells to show through. The result is a brighter, smoother, and more youthful complexion.
Permanent Weight Loss
Saunas and steambaths are frequently used for weight loss. The weight loss has nothing to do with water loss, and everything to do with the number of calories burned. Sure, you will indeed lose some water weight, but you’ll gain that back immediately. To understand the reason that permanent weight loss occurs, you must consider that sweat does not simply “leak” out of the body… the body must push it out.
Perspiration is your body’s natural system for temperature regulation. When the core temperature rises above 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), the body pushes the excess heat into the water inside your body, then pushes that water through the open pores to expel the excess heat. This process burns around 600 calories per hour, regardless of whether that sweat is from physical exertion, or simply from the sauna’s relaxing heat. So your body is exercising even while you feel relaxed!
Relief from Insomnia
The ‘exercise effect’ described above will leave your body ready for a peaceful rest. After a sauna or a steam session, you will fall asleep quickly and easily (when you are ready, that is). Insomniacs often resort to sleep medications, and sometimes perform strenuous physical activity to the point of collapse. But sauna users have no need for these extreme techniques. It easy to fall asleep naturally after taking a relaxing steambath.
Euphoria, and Mental Peace
Saunas and steambaths induce a feeling of euphoria, which includes mental peace and contentment and physical invigoration. The sauna will sharpen your senses and will heighten your tactile sensitivity.
The Best Anti-Depressant
Saunas and steambaths are known to help people with anxiety and depression. After leaving the sauna or steambath, the mind is in a relaxed, lucid state, free of worries. Also, since the body and mind are one, all of the physical benefits described above are at the same time helping the mind and emotions. As well, it is important to note that the sauna offers these benefits without the troubling side effects of chemical anti-depressants.
The Benefits of Light
Natural sunlight is an important factor in a person’s well-being, as there would be no life without the sun. Sunlight includes ultraviolet light, the visible spectrum (all of the rainbow colors from red to violet) and infrared light.
If you live in a warmer climate, you may already get a healthy daily dose of light. But those living in cold climates are frequently light-deprived, since the cold urges us inside, where the light we see comes from light bulbs, which only reproduce a small portion of the visible spectrum (mostly yellow).
Doctors have recently begun prescribing light therapy for a host of conditions. Blue light is known to kill some bacteria beneath the skin, while red light reduces inflammation. Infrared light penetrates through the skin and is absorbed by the muscles, relieving pain and loosening and expelling toxins through the skin. Even ultraviolet light is prescribed by doctors to treat psoriasis. UV light does carry some risks, in that it kills skin cells and stimulates oil production, which will block your pores and can cause skin blemishes. Despite a prominent fear that UV causes skin cancer, recent studies show that those living farther from the equator (those that receive less sunlight) have dramatically higher cancer rates than those that receive more sunlight.
Infrared light has no known risks. In fact, it is the safest form of heat, so safe that doctors use infrared light to heat newborn babies born prematurely.
A little common sense goes a long way. Be sure to replace the water you’re losing. Do not drink alcohol, which is a poison and a depressant that slows the blood and dulls your nerves, counteracting the benefits of the sauna. Ask your doctor for advice if you have a medical condition that causes you to worry whether you are fit to be in a sauna. Saunas and steambaths are supposed to be enjoyable. If you feel ill in the sauna, leave the sauna. Otherwise, enjoy, and be well!