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Article: The Pros and Cons of Saunas: Exploring the Health Benefits and Risks for Your Body and Skin

The Pros and Cons of Saunas: Exploring the Health Benefits and Risks for Your Body and Skin

The Pros and Cons of Saunas: Exploring the Health Benefits and Risks for Your Body and Skin

Written by Chris Lang

Saunas have been around for thousands of years, offering warm and cozy spaces for people to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Generations of people have enjoyed spending time in these steamy little spaces, and many people say they can’t live without them. But before you use a sauna yourself, it’s worth taking a look at the potential sauna benefits and disadvantages you might experience.

Because, even though there are many benefits of sauna use, there are also some potential risks and downsides to take into account. And that’s what this guide is here to explore. Below, you’ll find a thorough breakdown of the pros and cons of sauna bathing, with genuine scientific studies and evidence to reinforce each claim.

Understanding Saunas

Before we dive into the big benefits of sauna bathing, it’s important to have an idea of what a sauna actually is and how it works. So, let’s begin with a definition. The word “sauna” comes from the Finnish language, referring to a room that is heated to a high temperature. Traditionally, this is done by pouring water onto hot rocks, but in the modern era, infrared saunas are also available.

As the name implies, an infrared or IR sauna works by using infrared light to heat the user’s body directly. The infrared heat comes from special infrared heaters fitted inside the unit. It penetrates the skin to warm the muscles from within. This type of sauna has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it works at a lower and more comfortable heat compared to a traditional sauna.

Both of these different types of saunas may be compared to steam rooms. However, while there are some overlapping aspects between the two—they're both small, hot rooms providing a range of potential health benefits—a sauna and a steam room are not the same. The big difference is that saunas make “dry heat” with low humidity, while steam rooms are exceptionally humid.

Sauna Health Benefits

Numerous health benefits have been linked to spending time in a sauna. Traditional sauna benefits include possible reduction of high blood pressure and improvement in circulation and blood flow, for example. Studies have also suggested that saunas can aid in recovery, helping athletes or people who like to keep fit to relax and rejuvenate after an intense workout.

There are even unique potential health benefits associated with IR saunas. For instance, some evidence suggests that an IR sauna session can help to alleviate the symptoms of certain skin conditions. IR rays may boost white blood cell production, which could improve the body’s immune response against viruses and other infections.

There’s also the simple but important benefit of relaxation. Saunas are typically regarded as very soothing, calming places, and many people use them purely to relax. Using a sauna may therefore help people feel more chilled-out and less stressed, and some studies have even concluded that regular use of a sauna can help reduce the risk of psychotic disorders.

According to Harvard Health, among other sources, there are many other possible sauna everyday benefits, which may include an extended lifespan or even reduced risk of heart disease. One sauna survey also found that, after hitting the sauna, an overwhelming majority of people noticed sleep benefits, too.

Sauna Types and How They Work

As explained above, there are multiple types of saunas. They differ in terms of their functionality and may offer varying benefits, too.

  • Traditional: The most traditional type of sauna dates back thousands of years. It involves the use of two simple elements: rocks and water. The rocks are heated to high temperatures, typically using gas or electric power. Then, water is poured over the rocks to produce steam and warm the sauna room with dry heat—high temperatures, but low humidity.

  • Infrared: Infrared saunas are a much more modern alternative to traditional variants. They use infrared technology to produce warmth. Unlike traditional saunas, which warm the room first, and then the people inside it, an IR sauna warms the people directly. The heat from the sauna then spreads throughout the space but at lower temperatures than traditional ones.

  • Steam: A steam room isn’t exactly the same as a sauna, but is often thrown into the same general category. These rooms produce wet heat, with lower temperatures than traditional saunas but much higher levels of humidity. They fill the air with steam, soaking users and warming them in the process. Unlike saunas, steam rooms reduce your ability to sweat.

Potential Health Risks

While there are clearly some big sauna benefits to enjoy, saunas aren’t without their risks. Some of the possible downsides may include a risk of dehydration due to how much a sauna can make you sweat, along with specific health risks for those with low blood pressure. Some studies have also noted that sauna use can irritate those with certain conditions, like dermatitis.

It’s important for users to weigh the benefits and risks before spending time in the sauna. Not only that, but it’s also recommended for prospective users to take certain precautions, such as staying fully hydrated before entering. Some users should even seek a doctor’s advice before using a sauna, depending on their health at the time.

Dehydration and Sauna Use

The use of a sauna can easily lead to dehydration. As body temperature rises, the body responds by triggering the release of sweat to cool down. This process removes moisture from within the body, gradually leading to dehydration as time goes on. This is why users are so strongly encouraged to drink plenty of water before stepping in and avoid using a hot sauna for too long.

Sauna and Heart Health  

The link between sauna use and heart health has been the subject of many studies and much research over the years. Scientists are still learning more about it. And, as evidenced in the previously cited studies, sauna use may help to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. This is because the heat of a sauna causes the blood vessels to widen, improving blood flow.

However, there are both sauna benefits and disadvantages related to the circulatory system. While time spent in a sauna can indeed temporarily reduce blood pressure, this may not be beneficial to those who already have low blood pressure. Those with low blood pressure or pre-existing heart conditions are therefore urged to speak with their physicians before going to the sauna.

Sauna and Sperm Count

Male sauna users may also be concerned about potential risks to their sperm count when using a sauna. Some studies have shown that using a traditional sauna could indeed pose a threat to sperm production – specifically, the high temperatures reduce sperm mobility and may impair new sperm cell production on a temporary basis. This is something to consider, particularly for men with existing fertility issues.

Tips for Sauna Use

So, how can you enjoy the benefits of a sauna without having to worry so much about the downsides? Well, just like with most things in life, it’s all about responsible and moderate usage. Experts recommend that users control their time spent in a sauna with care, as well as getting hydrated before any session in a sauna.

And remember: if you’re unsure about anything or have any pre-existing health conditions, seek medical advice before you use saunas.

Sauna Usage Recommendations

It’s important to not spend too long in a sauna. Exposing the body to such high temperatures for too long may increase your risk of adverse effects. Instead, a couple of 15-minute sauna sessions per week are all most people need to enjoy the effects. It’s also best to start slow, with just one short session, gradually building up to using the sauna two to three times a week to let your body acclimatize. Get in touch with Komowa Wellness for more expert tips and guidance.

Hydration and Sauna Safety

Regardless of how fit and healthy you are, it’s never a good idea to enter a sauna dehydrated. You’ll start to sweat quite quickly. This can help to remove toxins from the body, but it also causes you to lose lots of water and potentially suffer the effects of dehydration – headaches, drowsiness, confusion. Instead, stay hydrated. Drink water after using a sauna and before, and step out if you’re feeling thirsty.

Seeking Medical Advice  

As this guide has shown, certain people may be at higher risk of using a sauna. Those with low blood pressure, heart conditions, or even certain skin problems could all suffer potential downsides from sitting in a sauna. And it’s important to not take any unnecessary risks, especially when you’re struggling with serious health issues, like cardiovascular problems.

Those with health conditions should therefore seek medical advice before using any kind of sauna. A healthcare professional will be able to provide guidance and advice about if and how you should use a sauna to enjoy its benefits with minimal risk. They may recommend that you only use the sauna for short periods, for example, or, in severe cases, they may advise against any sort of sauna usage.

Conclusion  

Overall, there are plenty of sauna benefits and disadvantages to take into account before using a sauna. The benefits certainly outweigh the downsides for the vast majority of users, but those with certain health conditions need to be extra careful. And even those without major health conditions are still encouraged to practice safe, responsible sauna usage. Contact Komowa Wellness today to learn more about making the most of your sauna time.

 

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