Steam rooms and saunas are more than a relaxing way to finish off your visit to the gym. They provide important mental and physical health benefits.
While these treatments have been used for thousands of years, from ancient Roman baths to modern health clubs, you may still be confused about how they work.
For example, there is a difference between the two. Dry saunas use a heater to create temperatures that can often be as high as 185 degrees. Steam rooms or wet saunas use moist heat similar to your home shower, and usually remain at around 110 degrees with 100% humidity. It’s up to you which you prefer.
Read on for more answers to common questions about why these sessions are good for you, and how to use such facilities safely. Then, you’ll understand why Finland has as many saunas as television sets.
- Protect your heart. Men who take 2 to 3 steam baths per week cut their risk of death from heart conditions by 30%, according to a recent study published by the American Medical Association. Researchers believe the results are related to improved circulation.
- Live longer. Frequent sauna use has also been linked to leading a longer life. While the effects have been studied on men only, scientists believe that the same is true for women.
- Lose weight. Perspiring in a steam sauna will cause temporary weight loss. Remember that you still need to replace those fluids and exercise regularly.
- Sleep well. If anxiety keeps you up at night, you may appreciate a little stress relief. Cooling down after a sauna also increases melatonin levels that encourage deeper sleep.
- Nourish your skin. Both wet and dry saunas open up your pores and provide a healthy glow. Wet saunas are especially effective for detoxifying your bod, and helping to clear up acne and other skin conditions. Whichever method you choose, moisturizing while you cool down will help keep your skin soft.
- Manage chronic conditions. Many steam enthusiasts say they’ve found relief for various symptoms, from migraine headaches to arthritis. As long as your doctor approves, have fun experimenting.
- Watch the clock. Limiting your session to about 15 to 20 minutes is a reasonable period for most healthy adults. Leave immediately if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or sleepy.
- Drink water. You typically lose about 1 pint of water in the sauna, so it’s important to rehydrate. Drink a couple of glasses of water before and after each session.
- Avoid alcohol. It’s important for your body to perspire freely. That means you need to forego cocktails or any medication that could impair sweating and cause you to overheat.
- Remove jewelry. You probably know that you need to remove your clothing and wrap yourself in a towel. While you’re stripping down, take off any rings, watches, and other jewelry too. Metal could burn you when it heats up.
- Cool down. Have you seen pictures of happy Scandinavians plunging into icy water right after the sauna? In reality, it’s much safer to reduce your body temperature gradually.
- Ask your doctor. While dry and wet saunas are beneficial for many health issues, there are certain times when you need to be cautious. Talk with your doctor about any individual concerns including pregnancy or an unstable heart condition.
If you’re eager to steam ahead, you can build a spa at home or contact local health clubs, YMCAs, and community centers. Talk with your doctor about any individual precautions you need to take, and feel good knowing that you may be extending your life and protecting your heart while you’re pampering yourself.