If you've ever been in a sauna, then you know first hand how rejuvenating and invigorating a good sweat can be. Sweating is a form of detoxification and there may be no better place to stimulate this process than in the sauna. Sauna therapy developed in the Scandinavian region, specifically Finland, and is used for bathing, healing ailments, and even as a setting for childbirth. To say the sauna is a foundational element of Finnish society would be an understatement, some even view it as a holy place and behave as they would in a church. It's no wonder. More than just a place to feel good, the sweat-inducing heat helps to balance many health problems including hypertension, fatigue, discomfort, and even certain cravings.
Benefits of Using the Sauna
Many formal studies have set out to determine the health benefits of using a sauna, and the outcomes have been very positive.
1. Fibromyalgia Symptom Support
The Department of Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine at Japan's Kagoshima University conducted a study comprised of 44 females who had fibromyalgia symptoms. Three days a week, the participants took part in daily sauna sessions combined with twice a week water exercise sessions. Researchers reported the combination of sauna therapy and water exercise improved the participants' quality of life and fibromyalgia symptoms.
2. Promotes Heart Health
Some critics have unduly fingered the sauna as being too stressful on the heart. But, according to Finland's UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, responsible sauna use is highly unlikely to cause any cardiac problems. In fact, research orchestrated by the Cardiovascular and Prevention Centre at Quebec's Université de Montréal found that exercise and sauna bathing provided a 24-hour window of improvement of symptoms for persons with hypertension. One word of caution, however, is advised before participating in the old tradition of jumping from the sauna into the snowbank as the immediate, extreme cooling can increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
3. Improves Endurance
A New Zealand study comprised of distance runners found that bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32 percent. Additionally, plasma and red-cell volumes after sauna increased by 7.1 percent and 3.5 percent. Researchers concluded that increased blood volume was likely the reason why post-exercise sauna bathing produced a significant enhancement of performance.
4. Might Reduce Incidence of the Cold
Austria's University of Vienna designed an experiment to determine if sauna use impacted the incidence of developing the common cold. Over six months, a group of 50 subjects total was split two ways: 25 persons used the sauna, and 25 did not. At the end of the study, the sauna group experienced much less incidence of common cold than the control group and researchers concluded that regular sauna bathing might reduce the incidence of common colds.
5. Assists Detoxification
Research has repeatedly shown that sweating in a sauna can help detoxify the body of the toxic agents, such as lactic acid, sodium, and uric acid, that routinely accumulate in the body. Toxins stored in subcutaneous fat are released through perspiration. As toxins stored in the fat pass through perspiration, toxins that are stored at deeper levels of tissue throughout the body will move up and continue to be released through sweat. Circulation increases when you're in the sauna and increased blood flow improves blood oxygenation. Enhanced oxygen levels can assist in the dissolution of hidden toxic agents in the blood.
According to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, sauna bathing is an effective component of purification and cleansing protocols and very effective for flushing out fat-soluble chemical and toxins.
Unfortunately, law enforcement officers are often at risk for exposure to harmful substances such as methamphetamine and the toxic chemicals used to create it. This exposure can lead to chronic symptoms that may be disabling. To find new ways to combat this issue, 69 officers participated in a study conducted by the Utah Meth Cops Project. Subjects followed a multi-faceted detoxification program that included exercise, nutrition, and sauna therapy. Following the detoxification routine, significant health improvements were observed. Researchers concluded that sauna and nutritional therapy may improve some symptoms of methamphetamine-related exposure for affected officers.
When Was the Last Time You Visited the Sauna?
Even if regular use of the sauna was only half as good as the evidence suggests, it would still reign supreme as one of the most therapeutic habits you could have. I've been an avid sauna enthusiast for over two-thirds of my life and can honestly say it's one of the most beneficial things for my overall well-being. What do you think of the sauna? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
- Matsumoto S, et al. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Aug;17(3):162-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 25.
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- Gayda M, et al. Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Aug;14(8):553-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2012.00637.x. Epub 2012 May 3.
- Scoon GS, et al. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Aug;10(4):259-62. Epub 2006 Jul 31.
- Ernst E, et al. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds. Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-7.
- Crinnion WJ. Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25. Review.
- Ross GH, Sternquist MC. Methamphetamine exposure and chronic illness in police officers: significant improvement with sauna-based detoxification therapy. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Sep;28(8):758-68. doi: 10.1177/0748233711425070. Epub 2011 Nov 16.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.