The Health Benefits of Sauna Therapy
Few things are as relaxing as enjoying time in a sauna. A sauna is a small room used to enjoy heat sessions – either dry heat or steam heat. Saunas can be enjoyed in health clubs, fitness centers, or spas, and are frequently incorporated as part of a spa or relaxation treatment. Saunas have long been lauded as one of the most enjoyable and relaxing experiences, but science and health experts are now saying that there often-untold health and psychological benefits to taking advantage of sauna time. Spending a few minutes in a sauna is an unparalleled investment in your psychological and physical health.
Stress is one of the most detrimental forces in the world. Not only does impact your mental state, but it can have serious effects on your body, as well. Stress leads to headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, stomach upset, heart acceleration, anxiety, and depression. It can also lead to over or undereating, sleeplessness, or, in extreme cases, drug and alcohol abuse. It’s easy to see why stress relief is important for a healthy mind and body.
Saunas can aid in stress relief. Taking a time out from the hectic or crazy everyday happenings, you’re allowing your body and mind to recover from the impacts of stress that it is experiencing. The heat will also relax your muscles, which will in return make you feel calmer and better able to disengage from your worries. Most regular sauna users cite stress relief as the number one benefit they experience. This will not only affect you in a positive way but also those around you, including your family since you will be in a better mood.
Hand-in-hand with stress management is muscle relaxation. Total body relaxation is crucial for stress relief. Muscle relaxation also has physical benefits of its own. Muscle relaxation can help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression while also relieving insomnia or even alleviate chronic pain conditions. With the heat of a sauna, the body tends to release endorphins, which are hormones that relieve pain and boost feelings of happiness and euphoria. The endorphins and the heat help promote muscle relaxation and relieve the aches and pains not only of physical activity but of body tension and everyday activities as well.
Rid Your Body of Toxins
Certain toxins are stored in the layer of fat located just beneath the skin (called subcutaneous fat). These toxins have been clinically shown to be released through sweat, making room for toxins which are stored in deeper fat layers to rise to the top and, in turn, be released as well. This also benefits your circulation in general, which prevents toxins from accumulating in your body and eases the burden on your kidneys and liver.
Anytime you are exposed to heat, you sweat – it’s a physiological fact! Sweating in a clean, steamy environment (such as a sauna), promotes healthier skin. When you sweat, you are flushing out your pores and allowing for natural exfoliation. Sweating can also rid your skin of bacteria, which will reduce breakouts and acne. The heat and moisture-rich environment will also plump your skin and leave it soft, smoother, and luscious-looking following your sauna session.
As you fall asleep, your body temperature falls. Enjoying the heightened heat of a sauna will make this temperature decrease more dramatic, and lead to a deeper, more restful sleep. This is also due in part to the relaxation and endorphin-releasing experienced by sauna usage.
Saunas are also a great way to take time out for socializing. Because it’s not possible to work, or read, or use your phone in a sauna without risking damage to your book or device, it’s a great time to reconnect with other like-minded people. In a digital age where so much communication takes place on devices, through email, or through other technological means, it’s refreshing and – again – relaxing to be able to communicate face-to-face in a low-stress environment. Some relationships that begin as casual sauna conversation turn into lifelong friendships. It may work for you if you are interested in expanding your friendships.
Interestingly, sauna time can also raise your heart rate and give you a cardiovascular workout of sorts. Your heart rate can rise up to 120 beats per minute from the exposure to the heat environment of the sauna. In addition, the heat causes your blood vessels and capillaries to dilate, increasing cardiac output. Saunas can also lower blood pressure, which has numerous benefits in decreasing rates of heart disease and high cholesterol.
As your heart rate increases and your body works to sweat and accommodate the heat increase, you will accordingly burn calories. While a sauna obviously isn’t a replacement for exercise or a healthy diet, it can become part of your arsenal for an overall healthy lifestyle. Research suggests that the average person can burn up to 84 calories during a sauna session!
Exposure to the heat of a sauna promotes the body’s production of white blood cells. White blood cells are the part of the immune system largely responsible for protecting the body by attacking invaders such as bacteria and viruses. They can keep you healthy and, when you do fall ill, make sure that you recover as quickly as possible. By taking advantage of the sauna and increasing your white blood cell count (within the healthy range, of course), you are boosting your immune system and keeping yourself healthier.
Taking advantage of a sauna, whether in a spa or at your local gym, is obviously fun and relaxing. But there are other, deeper, more lasting health impacts to sauna use that make it a worthwhile investment of your time and money. From keeping yourself free from illness to reducing stress, from promoting healthy muscles to eliminating chronic pain, saunas can positively impact almost every aspect of your life – including your social life. Taking advantage of a few minutes in a sauna can create a better rounded, healthier, happier life for yourself.