The science behind saunas: Numerous health benefits are similar to those of engaging in medium-intensity exercise
01/31/2020 // Vicki Batts // Views

Spending time in a nice, hot sauna has long been revered as a great way to relax your body and cleanse your mind, but new research has shown that taking a steam bath has some pretty profound health benefits. In fact, the scientists say that in some ways, taking a 30-minute trip to the sauna can be just as beneficial as performing 30-minutes of medium-intensity exercise.

It would seem that going to the sauna is more than just a way to relax: It's a way to give your body support and total well-being, too. While it may not be a full-blown replacement for a healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet and regular physical activity, sauna bathing could be a great addition to your fitness arsenal.

The research was carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Eastern Finland. Their findings were published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, as well as in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

To conduct their research, the team led by Professor Jari Laukkanen studied the effects a 30-minute sauna bath had on 100 participants. Blood pressure measurements were taken from the subjects' carotid and femoral arteries three times: before the sauna, immediately after and again 30-minutes later. Heart rate and pulse wave velocity -- which measures arterial stiffness -- were also recorded.

As Science Daily reports:

Immediately after 30 minutes of sauna bathing, test subjects' mean systolic blood pressure reduced from 137 mmHg to 130 mmHg, and their diastolic blood pressure from 82 mmHg to 75 mmHg. Furthermore, their systolic blood pressure remained lower even after 30 minutes of sauna bathing.


Pulse wave velocity readings indicated a substantial drop in arterial stiffness. During the sauna bath, the participants' heart rates shot up by approximately 20 beats per minute -- which the researchers say is akin to a medium-intensity physical activity.

Commenting on their recent findings, Professor Laukkanen stated, "Emerging evidence suggests beneficial effects of sauna bathing on the cardiovascular system."

“We aimed to investigate changes in arterial stiffness, blood pressure and several blood-based biomarkers. This study demonstrates that sauna bathing for 30 minutes has beneficial effects," Laukkanen continued.

Ultimately, the findings indicate that sauna use can promote a decrease in blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness, while also boosting your heart rate in a way that's similar to exercise.

In addition to the potential cardiovascular benefits of sauna use, steam baths and infrared saunas have gained much esteem for their detoxifying benefits. Infrared saunas in particular are revered for their ability to help promote the release of toxins from the body via sweat. Infrared saunas are known for penetrating deeply into the body's tissues, stimulating a greater release of toxins.

While the liver and kidneys are primary players in your body's detoxification game, sweating is another bodily mechanism that can help remove waste and toxins from tissues. For example, research has actually shown that toxins and heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury are released via sweat.

But for detoxing to work best, it's important to take a shower afterwards -- otherwise, your skin can reabsorb all those toxins you just sweat out!

While going to a sauna for 30 minutes may seem more enjoyable than going for a 30-minute run, it's just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle -- not a replacement for one. For many people, the heat of a sauna is quite enjoyable, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Before starting a sauna habit, you should speak with your naturopath or other health care provider to make sure a sauna bath is right for you.

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