Since the dawn of time, saunas have been used as a form of self-medication. Two to three sauna sessions per week reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 20%. Using it more frequently can reduce the risk by up to 66%.
According to research, people who have dementia, hypertonia, pulmonary diseases, strokes, and various psychic conditions can benefit from spending more time in the sauna. Other benefits include improved blood circulation and immunity, healthier skin, elevated mood and lower blood pressure.
The history of using sauna bathing for wellness is almost mystical, especially in the Nordic countries, writes Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist in Finland. Finland has one sauna for every two people, and it has topped the list of the world’s happiest countries.
Studies have shown that we sleep better and more deeply after a sauna bath. A more relaxed existence can in itself add years to your life. The health benefits of increased sauna bathing include reduced risk from several illnesses among others.
Individual studies have been conducted in Finland and elsewhere in the world, in which the test group has typically consisted of a few dozen people. A study published by the University of Eastern Finland, which found sauna use to be beneficial to the circulatory system and the memory, involved over 2,000 Finnish men and lasted for over 20 years.
Many experts say that if you are able to walk into a sauna by yourself, it is safe for you to use the sauna. However, always keep moderation and good sauna habits in mind. If you do not feel normal or if you have been diagnosed with heart problems, you should first consult your doctor about using the sauna. In general, it can be said that if going to the sauna feels good, then it is good for you. This rule does not apply to joint pains related to rheumatism, as they are often alleviated in the sauna but may come back stronger the next day. You can try to avoid this by cooling yourself properly after the sauna.
All sauna use that does not feel good or causes unwanted effects afterwards is excessive. But those who are used to going to the sauna frequently can easily do so as often as every day. In the study published by the University of Eastern Finland, the greatest health effects were observed when the sauna was used 4 to 7 times per week for approximately 20 minutes at a time. Source
The heat in the sauna accelerates the heart rate and increases the amount of blood pumped through the surface blood vessels in particular. Similarly, the blood vessels expand, which causes blood pressure to decrease. This decrease in blood pressure is temporary and only lasts for a few hours. However, the warming of the tissues apparently releases substances which boost the normal functioning of the arteries and blood vessels. In other words, moderate sauna use can usually be considered to be safe, but as with all matters related to the circulatory system, you should always consult with your own doctor whether sauna use is recommended.
Some people suffering from asthma feel that it is easier for them to breathe in the moist steam, while others do not. It has no effect on the disease itself.
On the contrary, going to the sauna is good for your skin. The increase in surface blood flow caused by the heat transports building materials to the skin’s cells, helping them regenerate and remove metabolic wastes more effectively. Healthy and clean skin retains moisture better and stays elastic.
Having a cold and a fever means that there are viruses in the blood. For example, exercise is not recommended when sick, as exertion may lead these viruses to cause a serious infection in the heart. And as the effects of sauna use to the heart are similar to the effects of exercise, sauna use is not recommended for someone with a cold. By themselves, a stuffy nose or a sore throat are not usually obstacles to sauna use.
In the sauna, the heart rate may increase to up to 150 beats per minute, so sauna goers may not necessarily feel sleepy immediately afterwards. But when the body begins to cool down, hormones are released that make it easier to fall asleep. Studies have also found that sleep may be deeper than normal after sauna use. You can only find the manner of sauna use suitable for you by trying.
Many athletes think that going to the sauna helps to remove lactic acids that have accumulated in the muscles. However, as heat directs blood flow to the surface blood vessels and away from the muscles and organs, sauna use may not be beneficial to muscles in this sense. Nevertheless, you should take advantage of the moments spent in the sauna by stretching your muscles and maintaining your joints’ ranges of motion. It has also been noted that heat therapy performed before exercising may reduce muscle pains caused by the workout.