Like cold showers, sauna benefits are numerous and can have a dramatic impact on your health, longevity and overall ability to recover from intense exercise and stress. In this post we will cover several key sauna benefits and how to use them to your advantage.
Sauna Benefits and Hormesis
Traditional saunas and infrared saunas are a form of hormetic stress often referred to as "heat shock therapy". This is because saunas expose the body to short and intense heat that trigger the body's respiratory and circulatory systems to give them an intense workout.
Like all hormetic stressors, regular and increasing use (time) of a sauna causes theses systems to adapt and become stronger over time, which is why sauna benefits are believed to be such a powerful detox and recovery tool.
Sauna benefits can be experienced even after only one use!
Checkout these sauna benefits and then get out and start sweating. Most commercial gyms and recreation centers have saunas and you can even buy home saunas very cheapily (see example here).
3 Primary Sauna Benefits You Need to Experience
Sauna Benefits the Body By Helping it Detox
The most obvious sauna benefit is to aid the body in the detoxification process through intense sweating. Saunas raise the body's core temperature, which causes millions of sweat glands to open to induces deep sweating.
It's true that sweat is made up over 99 percent water, but the other one percent has been shown to include some nasty biological and environmental waste products that can can be a real source of stress on the body.
These toxins can include, but are not limited to:
Heavy metals such as nickel, arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, and aluminum
Ammonia and other biological waste products
Parabens, chemical estrogens, carcinogens and other chemicals we coat our skin with when we shower and put on lotion
Chlorine, bromine, and other chemicals our skin comes in contact with or we ingest through our food
Read a Canadian study on the contents of sweat here: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/
Sauna Benefits the Body by Increasing Circulation to the Muscles and Speeding Exercise Recovery
When our bodies get hot, our blood vessels dilate and circulation increases DRAMATICALLY. If our bodies were rivers, this would be the equivalent of a flash flood.
This massive increase in blood and oxygen nourishes the body and speeds up its natural healing processes. This is incredibly important if training for event, you're extra sore from a workout, or recovering from an injury.
Just 10 minutes of sauna use post-workout can greatly accelerate our bodies' recovery rate
Sauna benefits can also include improve immune function and rapid recovery from colds and flus, though the mechanisms for this are a little more complicated (see the video below for an explanation on this).
Sauna Benefits Include Stress Relief and Boosting the Brain
According to Dr. Rhonda Patrick (video below), sauna benefits can include improving overall mood, memory and brain function.
When we are exposed to the extreme heat of the sauna, our bodies release endorphins and other mood-boosting neurotransmitters. This, combined with the increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain create a powerful combination for relaxation.
Sauna benefits also include creating a quiet space for meditation and general relaxation which in and of itself is great for your mood.
Sauna Tip: Try stretching and doing yoga while exposed to the heat. It feels great and helps keep your mind off work, the kids, and the HEAT!
Sauna Benefits the Body by Improving Cardiovascular Health
Sauna sessions are often referred to as the "Lazy Man's Workout" because sauna benefits can be similar to running on the treadmill, without actually having to use the boring treadmill. This is because when we sit in the sauna our heart rates can increase to over 120 beats per minute.
Raising the body's core temperature not only causes the heart to beat faster, but also causes the body's blood vessels to dilate, giving the entire cardiovasular system a workout.
This is similar to the cardiovascular workout provided by a cold shower, only using heat as the catalyst.
Sauna Tip: Don't rush into the sauna. Start with 5 to 10 mins and work up to 30. Also, make sure to have plenty of water before, during, and after each session. Don't sit in the sauna too long though; especially if you are older because it can be very dangerous.
Conclusion: Sauna benefits are robust and can be an excellent tool for detoxing, speeding recovery and improving cardiovascular health. This is why some people believe it to be a powerful anti-aging tool.
If you're gym has a sauna, make sure to get in there at least once a week. More if you can.