We have all heard about dry sauna or tried it during a stay in a hotel or a visit to a spa, but what many people do not know, is that there are many incredible benefits behind dry sauna and the huge impact it can have on our overall health.
For thousands of years, several cultures around the world have benefited from the effects of saunas in all its forms, the Finnish sauna, Islamic Hamman, Romans baths, American Indian sweat lodge and Russian banai. The Scandinavians have adopted the sauna culture for 2,000 years, recognizing the benefits that dry sauna has on the human body, such as getting rid of toxins, kill viruses, relaxation, weight loss, blood circulation, healthy skin and much more.
As a curiosity, Finland has around five million inhabitants and 700,000 saunas. That means one sauna for every seven people. This is the plain proof of their love for saunas and it is actually connected to the vitality of the Finnish people.
The benefits of dry sauna go far beyond simple relaxation and sweat. And the benefits are scientifically proven with several studies being performed on frequent users of the dry sauna. You will definitely leave one sauna session feeling younger, healthier, cleaner and more energized, but it really goes far beyond that with a constant use.
How does dry sauna works?
The high heat of a dry sauna induces an artificial fever, which will put every organ in your body into action. While providing a relaxation of the body and the mind, dry sauna will make your organs become active, increasing blood circulation and making your metabolism work faster.
Dry sauna also cleanses your body from the inside out through your skin and sweat. You will rid your body of toxins while providing a healthy and glowing skin afterward.
For you to have an idea, the oldest know medical document, called the Ayurveda and appeared in 568 BC, considered the action of sweating so important to our health that it prescribed a sweat bath and other thirteen methods of inducing sweat to be used in everyday life.
Nowadays, doctors, researchers, and enthusiasts state that aside from relaxation, the sauna can provide relief of a common cold, headaches, arthritis, hangovers and much more.
Sweating and Toxin Release: sweating is as essential to our health as breathing and it is the primary benefit of a dry sauna. It has three main functions; it rids your body of wastes and toxins, it regulates the critical temperature of the body (cools you down), and it improves your skin by cleansing and moisturizing it.
Currently, we try to avoid sweating by all costs, but the truth is, we should all be sweating a lot more for the sake of our health. Do not go and ditch your deodorant, though… Just make sure you give your body time to sweat out all the toxins and cleanse it from the inside out!
During a 15-minute dry sauna session, the sweat produced will remove as many toxins as it would take you kidneys 24 hours to do the same. All the man-made chemicals that are around us, in our food, water, and air will make their way into our skin and bodies and one efficient way of “cleaning up” and getting rid of them, is through sweating.
So instead of making your kidneys and sweat glands work full 24 hours, rush to the sauna for fifteen minutes and get it over with!
Relaxation: a sauna provides space, privacy, and quiet-time. It can be very welcomed into our fast-paced, modern lives, where we have to time and space to forget our worries and relax. A dry sauna will induce you to do so as your body, muscles and tendons relax because of the high heat.
It will also provide a deep tissue relaxation since the heat will provide oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to tissues that are not very well supplied all the time.
Glowing Skin: dry sauna will make your skin healthier and youthful. Because the skin is an organ that eliminates things, it is often called “the third kidney”. Although it is the largest organ in our bodies and far more complex than the kidneys, it is composed of nerves, blood vessels, oil glands, cells, pigmentation, hair follicles, and sweat glands.
Through sweating, you allow your skin to cleanse itself and your body of chemicals and toxins that are harmful to our health. And through the sweat, your skin will be clearer and moisturized, which will provide you a healthy glow and a freshness that you will only experience through this practice.
Weight Reduction: during one hour in a dry sauna, you can burn up to 600 calories if you sweat profusely! It is a high capacity sweat production and it is separate from any water weight that you will lose from sweating – which you must replace after a sauna session so you do not end up dehydrated.
Because of the energy expenditure, dry saunas are far more effective in weight loss than steam rooms.
Mostly, the weight you lose in a dry sauna is water weight, due to excessive sweat. However, producing sweat requires a lot of energy, and since body energy is measured in calories, sweating does use loads of them.
Your heart will need to work harder to speed up blood circulation, which also speeds up your metabolism and all that requires a lot of energy to be produced.
So do not be afraid or embarrassed by sweating, aside from the important means of cooling down your body and detoxifying it, it also helps you to burn some calories.
Artificially Induced Fever: during a dry sauna session, your body creates an artificially induced fever that according to Noble Prize winner Dr. Andre Lwoff, it is exposing your body to high temperatures during an infection that helps to fight the growth of a virus.
During a study, German Professor Dr. Ernst found no cancer patients among marathon runners. By analyzing their sweat, he found it contained cadmium, lead, and nickel.
As sweating profusely (like in a dry sauna) will help you detoxify your body and get rid of chemicals such as those cited above along with mercury, sodium and sulfuric acid, these athletes excrete potential cancer causing elements through their sweat.
Together with other scientists, they have concluded that sweating profusely at least once a day is recommended to keep good health.
Heart Health: since sitting in a dry sauna has the same effects as a mild exercise, your heart gets a gentle workout while the heat improves you blood flow. In a Japanese study, it was found that sitting in a dry sauna is particularly helpful for congestive heart failure.
After analyzing fifteen patients who used daily sauna sessions for four weeks, the found that thirteen of them (with serious heart failures) has significant decreases in blood pressure, improvements in the heart’s pumping abilities, oxygen uptake and exercise tolerance.
Another clinical study made in Finland analyzed the use of a dry sauna and heart-related diseases and deaths in the country. In cold and dark climates, such as in Finland, where they can have up to seven months of winter, darkness, and extremely low temperatures, people will often be less active. This results in obesity rates going up, depression and an increased risk of heart failure and heart-related diseases.
It is important to keep in mind the context of this geographic risk to understand the results and the value of this study. It was published in Jama International Medicine, and it included 2.315 middle-aged men and they were studied during 21 years.
The main goal of this study was to see how the heart health of these men changed according to their sauna habits. The investigators compared usage from once a week, two or three times a week, and up to four or seven times a week.
The results showed by the study were
Those who used dry sauna two or three times a week had 22 percent less chance of having a sudden cardiac death and a 23 percent lower risk of dying from coronary artery disease when compared with those who used it once a week.
Those who used dry sauna four or more times a week had 63 percent less chance to experience sudden cardiac death and a 48 percent lower risk of dying from coronary artery disease when compared to those who used it once a week.
Those who spent more time in a dry sauna (more than 19 minutes per session when compared to less than 11 minutes per session) were 52 percent less likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death.
Such lower risks of sudden cardiac death and coronary artery disease was due to the decrease of other heart-related risks such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and older age.
So, how do saunas lower heart disease risk?
Firstly, by relaxation. For example, Finnish people use the dry sauna for both mental and physical relaxation. With that time to relax and not do anything else, lowers your stress levels and anxiety, improves your ability to accomplish tasks as well as creativity, decreases blood pressure and your risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms.
It stimulates your heart rate. Because we are exposed to high temperatures, our heartbeats can go up to 150. This imitates exercise, so a dry sauna can give you the cardiovascular benefits of exercises and stimulate your heart.
It lowers your blood pressure. Just like exercise, in a sauna our blood pressure decreases. Other than that, very small blood vessels that are vital to our bodies’ functions dilate and relax. The constant relaxation of these blood vessels is what can prevent us from stroke, coronary artery disease, and abnormal heart rhythms.
As the Finns tend to have saunas in their homes and share it with their friends, it builds stronger relationships and makes you more social. Several studies show the importance of creating bonds and connecting with others, so having a sauna session with your friends and family can only improve your longevity.
The Additional Benefits:
- Mild Depression.
- Chronic Fatigue.
- Skin Conditions (rashes, psoriasis, eczema, etc.).
- Improves Circulation, Metabolism, and Flexibility.
- Immune-enhancing effects.
- Recovery from Muscle, Ligament or Tendon Injury.
- Recovery from Addiction
- Environmental Detoxification.
Sauna Safety Measures
Be cautious when making use of a dry sauna. Although there are not side effects, if you have an existing disease, this may not be a good choice for you. You can lose up to 1.1 pounds of sweat in a session and it needs to be replaced in order for you to stay hydrated.
People with pre-existing kidney disease, hypotension, heart disease or a tendency to faint should avoid this amount of fluid loss unless they have spoken with their doctors about it.
People who are over 60 years of age should also consult a doctor before making use of dry saunas to make sure their bodies can resist the heat and get all the benefits instead of unwanted side effects.
A word of caution, alcohol is a diuretic and makes you lose fluids even when dehydrated, so it is definitely a bad idea to combine sauna sessions and a beer (or any other alcohol beverages, obviously).
The regular use of saunas has shown only great benefits, relaxation, stimulation of the heart, social bonding, youthfulness, toxin reduction, skin cleansing and rejuvenation, weight control, cellulite reduction, allergy reduction and much more.
Do not be afraid of sweating it all off! Sweating is not only in, right now, it has been proven to be, for sure, one of the healthiest things your body can do. The feeling of relaxation and well-being after a good sauna session sweat cannot be beaten by anything else.
The fact that science has backed up all the benefits of the use dry sauna is definitely an invitation to start this new practice and give your mind and your body all the relaxation it needs. Get your heart ready and sweat it all out!