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Article: What Are the Actual Benefits of Saunas for Women?

What Are the Actual Benefits of Saunas for Women?

What Are the Actual Benefits of Saunas for Women?

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas have been used (in one shape or another) for thousands of years. Given their relaxing and rejuvenating nature, their enduring popularity is unsurprising. However, the gradual discovery of their many health benefits is what made these ancient practices explode in popularity.

But are the benefits of sauna for women just as promising?

Now, you might wonder why single out women in particular. Well, unfortunately, women have historically been excluded from healthcare research, to some particularly dire consequences. The sauna world is no different. In fact, the largest, longest, and most promising study on the benefits of sauna bathing was actually conducted solely on men (over 2,000 Finnish men, to be precise).

So, where does that leave women?

Luckily, there are promising studies exploring the sauna benefits for women, acknowledging its positive impact on things like cardiovascular health, stress reduction, and specific chronic conditions.

This article will guide you through these studies, as well as those suggesting that positive effects observed in men might extend to women as well. You’ll also learn which sauna best suits your needs and preferences and how to use it safely to maximize its health benefits.

Let’s begin!

Health Benefits of Sauna for Women

There’s no doubt about it – health benefits with sauna use are abundant. But which of these benefits apply to women, too?

Cardiovascular Health

Before diving into how they lead to improved cardiovascular health, it’s important to understand how saunas work.

When you enter a sauna, your body temperature gradually increases. Your body perceives this increase as a potential threat to your health and thus triggers various physiological responses. One response matters the most in terms of cardiovascular health – increased heart rate.

As your heart starts beating faster, the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to accommodate the increased blood flow and dissipate heat through the skin. However, this increased blood circulation is what brings about most of the cardiovascular sauna benefits for women (and men, of course).

A 2017 study conducted on men and women showed that a sauna session has similar effects as medium-intensity exercises like jogging, cycling, or hiking. While this doesn’t mean you should replace exercising with sauna use altogether, it does imply that regular sauna bathing can lead to improved cardiovascular function.

The Finnish study mentioned in the introduction of this article also found that regular sauna bathing can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and, perhaps more importantly, death from this disease. The same goes for coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. But as this study only included men, we’ll focus on a 2018 study whose participants were 51.4% women.

This study had similar findings – regular sauna bathing has numerous cardiovascular benefits, including lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in women. This study even found that including the frequency of sauna use with other “traditional” cardiovascular factors is essential to predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

Mental Health and Relaxation

If you aren’t familiar with sauna benefits for your health, you might think sauna bathing is only good for relaxation. Lose the “only,” and you’ll be completely right.

In fact, saunas were initially used solely for their relaxation benefits, as they provided a safe space for individuals to unwind. But as beneficial as relaxation is in and of itself, it also contributes to a number of health and wellness benefits.

You see, relaxing in a sauna gives you time to de-stress, rest, and heal. With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that some older studies have found a positive connection between regular sauna bathing and depression. Note that the key word here is “regular,” as genuine mental health benefits can only be realized if you use a sauna consistently.

Of course, you don’t have to be depressed to appreciate the mental health benefits of sauna usage. Even if you only want to reduce stress in your everyday life, a sauna is the answer. Besides helping reduce stress through relaxation, sauna bathing has a more direct impact on this undesirable state.

Past studies have found that using the sauna can help reduce cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels in the long run. Though this positively impacts several body systems, the impact on the endocrine system might be the most vital for women. When cortisol is kept in a healthy range, so are other important hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones. This does wonders for things like menstrual regularity and reproductive health in women.

Sauna and Chronic Conditions

Even a single sauna session can be highly beneficial for most people. But repeated sauna use is what brings the most significant and lasting sauna benefits. Women can battle a number of chronic conditions simply by incorporating regular sauna sessions into their wellness routine.

But which chronic conditions are we referring to?

For starters, high blood pressure.

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension (44% of female participants) concluded that even a single sauna session can help lower blood pressure. This is made possible by blood vessel dilation, which relieves vascular tension. But more importantly, the study found that systolic blood pressure remained low post-sauna, suggesting long-term blood pressure benefits of sauna use.

Chronic pain is another condition regular sauna use might help address. For instance, a smaller 2015 study found that using a sauna regularly can help reduce the intensity of chronic tension-type headaches. All of the study participants reported significant improvements after as little as eight weeks.

With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that celebrities like Lady Gaga, who’s been battling chronic pain for years, consider an infrared sauna a lifesaver. And since chronic pain can strike at any time, investing in a quality home sauna might be the best solution for consistent relief.

There are two more notable chronic diseases that can be positively impacted by regular sauna bathing – dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Tellingly, the most relevant studies on this impact have been conducted with exclusively male participants, but their findings are too significant to ignore.

Namely, these studies have shown that men who sit in the sauna several times a week have a significantly lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the researchers, the increased blood flow to the brain is responsible for this amazing benefit. This is good news for women, too, as a previous research with 55.2% female participants demonstrated that decreased blood flow to the brain leads to cognitive decline and dementia. So, if sauna use has the opposite effect on men, women should be impacted in a similar way as well.

Regular Sauna Use and Women’s Health

As you can see, regular sauna use offers numerous benefits for women’s health. Let’s round up these benefits and mention a few others women might appreciate.

Long-Term Benefits

While the studies on the health benefits of saunas are diverse, most of them agree on one thing – the only way to reap these benefits is to use a sauna regularly. By regular use, most of these studies mean four to seven times per week.

Women who incorporate regular sauna use into their routine can experience a variety of long-term health benefits:

  • Improved cardiovascular health

  • Stress reduction

  • Hormonal balance

  • Pain relief

  • Improved cognitive health

Regular sauna use can also do wonders for women pursuing an active lifestyle. An older study found that sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes boosts the production of the human growth hormone (HGH), which helps women build muscle in the long run.

Of course, we must also mention the skin benefits of sauna bathing. From stimulating collagen production and thus keeping the skin more firm and elastic (bye-bye, aging!) to reducing symptoms caused by various skin conditions (e.g., psoriasis and eczema), frequent sauna bathing promotes overall skin health and resilience.

Potential Risks and Precautions

One look at the many benefits of sauna for women, and you’ll immediately want to jump into one. But before you do, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential risks.

Not all people can use saunas safely. If you have any medical condition (e.g., heart disease), you must consult a healthcare professional before using the sauna. Only then will you know if you can use it and if so for how long.

But even if you’re completely healthy, you should take specific precautions to ensure your sauna session is nothing but enjoyable:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the session to avoid dehydration.

  • Limit the time you spend in a sauna.

  • Exit the sauna room immediately if you start feeling ill.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol before a sauna session.

  • Avoid using the sauna when ill.

Practical Tips for Sauna Use

To reap the full sauna therapy benefits, you should pay attention to how long and how often you use the sauna.

Best Practices for Sauna Bathing

As previously mentioned, the best results from sauna bathing have been reported with regular sauna use (four to seven times per week). This means that using the sauna every day is not only safe but also encouraged.

However, there must be a limit to how long a single sauna session lasts. With a traditional sauna, you shouldn’t sauna bathe for more than 20 minutes at a time. As for the infrared sauna, this number is slightly higher due to its lower temperature (30 minutes at a time).

Naturally, you shouldn’t start with such lengthy sessions. Start with shorter sessions (five to 10 minutes) and lower temperatures (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and work your way up from there. You can always adjust these parameters to your comfort and needs but don’t forget to remain consistent.

Sauna Use in Different Life Stages

When it comes to sauna use, women have more considerations to keep in mind. While much of the same rules apply to women and men in adolescence and senior years (approach sauna use with caution), there are two life stages unique to women.

First up – pregnancy. Though sitting in a sauna might sound like a great way to relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy, women aren’t advised to sauna bathe while pregnant. This has to do with some previous findings that suggest that increasing body temperature during the first trimester of pregnancy may result in birth defects. Also, pregnant women are more prone to dehydration, dizziness, and lower blood pressure, making a sauna an inherently unsafe environment.

For women going through menopause, saunas are the complete opposite. These cozy environments can help alleviate a number of menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and pain. Regular sauna exposure can also support heart health, which is especially important during menopause when hormonal changes impact cardiovascular well-being.

Sauna Types and Their Specific Benefits

This article has covered why you should use a sauna and how you should use it. All that’s left is to determine which sauna you should go for. Though there are several types of saunas, two are discussed most frequently – traditional and infrared saunas.

Traditional vs. Infrared Saunas

The modern concept of Western saunas originates from Finland. That’s why traditional saunas are often referred to as “Finnish saunas.”

In traditional saunas, wood burning is used to heat the air, which, in turn, heats the sauna users. These saunas are characterized by high temperatures (up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and low humidity (below 20%). More modernized versions of these saunas use electrical heaters instead of wood burning to achieve more precise temperature control.

Though an infrared sauna achieves similar outcomes, its method of heat delivery differs significantly. Instead of heating the air, this sauna relies on infrared lamps to heat the sauna bathers’ bodies directly. That’s why these saunas operate at a lower temperature, typically up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

This direct approach is what makes infrared saunas slightly more effective in areas like pain relief and skin health.

Choosing the Right Sauna

When it comes to choosing the right sauna, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It all depends on your health needs and preferences.

Arguably, the biggest difference between a traditional sauna and an infrared sauna is the temperature. Women with lower temperature tolerance will have a more comfortable experience in an infrared sauna. These saunas also come in different types (e.g., the ozone infrared sauna), allowing you to choose the best type of sauna for your individual health and wellness goals.

Sauna Magic for Women’s Health

One look at the many benefits of sauna for women is enough to convince anyone that it’s not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for holistic well-being. After all, there’s virtually no system a sauna can’t impact positively. From protecting your mental health to offering an invaluable helping hand during menopause, saunas are indispensable allies in the pursuit of women’s wellness and health. Invest in a quality at-home sauna from Komowa, and this pursuit becomes a daily ritual of self-care in the privacy of your own home.

 

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