9 Incredible Health Benefits Of Sauna Use
What’s the hottest news when it comes to saunas? Dozens of studies released in the last few years have made it clearer than ever that using sauna can be beneficial for a wide range of health issues, everything from injury recovery to immune system support. The latest body of research confirms what the Finnish – who have a long-lasting tradition of sitting in steam and then cooling off by jumping into ice water or snow – have always known: Saunas are incredibly beneficial. Here are nine of the top health benefits of sauna use.
Hypertrophy And Muscular Maintenance
Heat acclimation has been shown to increase muscle hypertrophy, the enlargement of muscle mass (usually accompanied by an increase in strength), as well as to help maintain muscle in the absence of exercise. In addition, studies have shown that, depending on the frequency and duration of use, sauna can induce a two- to sixteen-fold increase in growth hormone. The muscle enhancing effects of sauna appear to occur even without the addition of strength training or exercise.
Injury Recovery And Pain Reduction
One small study showed that heat applied locally during immobilization prevented the loss of mitochondrial function, increased heat shock proteins levels, and lessened skeletal muscle atrophy by 37 percent compared to a control group. It makes sense, then, that whole-body heat therapy, like sauna, would be even more beneficial. Sauna can also help reduce the pain associated with injuries or chronic conditions by significantly increasing beta-endorphins, the body’s “natural painkillers.”
Brain Functioning And Mental Health
Many patients taking part in sauna studies report an improved sense of well-being, better pain tolerance, and enhanced relaxation. Sauna’s mood-boosting benefits derive, in part, from the release of beta-endorphins and other opioid-like peptides. Heat therapy also seems to have a profound benefit on the physiology of the brain, making it notable as a neuroprotective therapy.
A 2018 study reported that sauna bathing has several cardiovascular health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular issues, some pulmonary diseases, and chronic pain conditions such as rheumatic diseases and headache.
Longevity And Disease Prevention
Some studies indicate that sauna can help you live a healthier, longer, and disease-free life. A 2015 cohort study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that regular sauna use reduces fatal cardiac events and may extend life. A University of Eastern Finland study tracked 2,300 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years, and found that the more sessions per week that the study participants spent in the sauna, the lower their risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease. Men who had four to seven sauna sessions of at least 20 minutes each had the greatest benefits.
Immune System Support
Sauna causes hyperthermia – a rise in core body temperature – which mimics the effects of a fever. As a result, the body’s immune system is stimulated and responds as if fighting off viruses or infections. Sauna also stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which functions as a defense molecule against infectious organisms.
Sauna can increase insulin sensitivity. Having cells that are more insulin sensitive, not insulin resistant, is critical for metabolic health, energy production, preventing blood-sugar-related diseases like diabetes, and more. Heat therapy has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by decreasing plasma insulin levels, lowering fasting blood glucose, and impacting the gene responsible for transporting glucose into skeletal muscle.
Sauna appears to impact athletic performance and endurance by increasing plasma volume, red blood cell count, and blood flow to the heart. As a result, the body experiences better oxygen delivery to muscles, less cardiovascular strain, and a lower heart rate for the same physical output, which positively affects exercise performance and endurance. What’s more, sauna improves heat acclimation, causing you to sweat earlier, at lower temperatures, and for longer periods of time, all of which means your body’s cooling capabilities are improved, as is your resistance to fatigue in hotter temperatures.
Skin Health And Detoxification
Research shows that sauna supports your body’s natural detoxification processes, specifically through enhancing your ability to sweat. Environmental toxins that you might be exposed to daily, whether through the air, water, food, or your surrounding environment, can end up stored for decades in adipose fat tissue, where they can get slowly released over time. When your body heats up, these substances can be excreted and eliminated through your skin via sweat. Sauna-induced sweating has been shown to be effective when it comes to eliminating toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, flame retardants, and more.