What Are Saunas?
Saunas are rooms where people sit and relax in 158° to 212° Fahrenheit (70° to 100° Celsius) heat. Skin temperature can rise as high as 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius), creating heavy sweating and a raised heart rate as the body attempts to cool down. Blood vessels widen and the heart rate may rise to 100-150 beats per minute. Traditional Finnish saunas use dry heat with low humidity, while Turkish saunas use moist heat with high humidity. A person’s body can lose up to a pint of water sweating in a sauna.
What Are the Benefits of Saunas?
- Eases pain in joints and muscles by increasing blood circulation
- Promotes relaxation and aids in stress relief
- Reduction in cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure
- Helps asthma sufferers by opening airways and loosening phlegm
- Beneficial effect on mitochondrial functioning
- Improved physical endurance
- Increase in red cell production
- May reduce psoriasis symptoms
Did you know…?
Mitochondria reside in cells and provide energy for the body. A process called biogenesis generates new mitochondria and removes the deteriorated ones. Chronic illness is a possible result of mitochondrial dysfunction.
History of Saunas
Saunas have been used throughout history in many different cultures to detoxify the body, improve circulation, to create a feeling of relaxation, and for religious ceremonies. The oldest Finnish saunas date back to 10,000 years ago. They were originally dug from the earth and covered with animal skins.
Types of Saunas
- Steam Room – High heat and humidity are the main components in a steam room
- Infrared Room – Special lamps heat the body with light waves. Temperatures are typically lower (140° Fahrenheit/60° Celsius) but the body’s temperature is comparable other types of saunas.
- Wood Burning – wood is burned to heat rocks and the sauna room. Humidity can be generated by pouring water over the rocks.
- Electrically-heated – An electric heater is used to warm the room. This creates high heat and low humidity.
Precautions With Using Saunas
The most common risk with using a sauna is dehydration, which may occur when fluid is lost during sweating. To avoid becoming dehydrated, it’s important to replace lost fluids after using a sauna. It’s also a good idea to drink water before entering a sauna. People with conditions such as kidney disease or low blood pressure should discuss sauna use with their doctor, as the risk for dehydration in these patients is more severe. Also ask your doctor about sauna use if you’ve had a recent heart attack.
Increased temperatures in saunas may cause dizziness and/or nausea for some people.
If you have consumed alcohol within the last twenty-four hours, avoid sauna use. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of arrhythmia, hypotension, dehydration, and sudden death.
It’s important to gauge your time spent in a sauna, especially if you are new to the practice. It’s a good idea to begin with a four-minute session and build up slowly to the maximum of twenty minutes.
Switching between using a sauna and a cold-water swimming pool can be dangerous because it may raise blood pressure.
Do not use a sauna if you are ill or pregnant.
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