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Article: The Cardiovascular Benefits of Sauna Bathing for Heart Health: A Comprehensive Review

The Cardiovascular Benefits of Sauna Bathing for Heart Health: A Comprehensive Review

The Cardiovascular Benefits of Sauna Bathing for Heart Health: A Comprehensive Review

Written by Chris Lang

 

More and more people are looking for safe, natural methods to improve their health and wellness. And, if you’re seeking a way to promote wellness while also enjoying blissful relaxation, a sauna could be the answer. Used for generations, saunas are famed for their multitude of health benefits, and recent studies have revealed some promising prospects of using a sauna for heart health.

But how exactly can sauna bathing provide cardiovascular benefits? And what are some of the unique heart health advantages of regular sauna bathing? Well, that’s what this guide is here to uncover. Below, we’ll take a deep dive into the links between sauna use and cardiovascular health, looking at scientific studies into the healing effects of sauna bathing.

Understanding Saunas

Before we dive into the specifics of using a sauna for heart health, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what saunas are and how they work. And, even if you’ve used a Finnish sauna or modern infrared sauna before, you may have a few questions about their specific ways of working.

First, a quick history lesson: saunas have been used for thousands of years, with the earliest examples of the modern-day Western sauna dating back to ancient Finland. Finland is still strongly associated with saunas to this day, but they have also been used in many other countries throughout the ages. And generations of people have enjoyed their soothing, warming benefits.

The classic Finnish sauna, generally known as a “traditional sauna,” consists of a wooden structure housing a room with a container of heated rocks. The rocks are typically heated up using gas or electric radiators, before water is poured or sprinkled over the top. Old saunas used wood and coal to heat up the stones. The released steam, combined with the radiant heat of the rocks themselves, warms the room to very high temperature while drying out the air.

However, a Finnish sauna bath isn’t the only option for those who want to enjoy sauna therapy in the 21st century. These days, we also have infrared saunas. They use infrared light lamps to warm the sauna bather from within. With lower operating temperatures, they’re considered by many to be a more comfortable alternative for sauna users to enjoy. You can learn a bit more about IR saunas with a peek at the Komowa collection.

Last but not least, there are also steam rooms. While not technically the same as saunas, steam rooms have many similarities and may also provide their own unique health benefits. As the name implies, steam rooms operate primarily using steam – they fill a small, enclosed space with steam, creating very high humidity.

Benefits of Sauna Bathing

There are a lot of reported health benefits of sauna bathing, and the list of sauna benefits is surprisingly diverse. Many people find, for instance, that frequent sauna bathing may help them feel less stressed and more relaxed, even minimizing the risk of psychotic disorders. Some also find that a sauna session before bed can help them sleep better.

Sauna usage has also been linked with improved quality of life and general wellness. And you only have to look to Finland, the home of the traditional sauna, for evidence of this – Finland has been consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world, and a large part of the Finnish population use saunas at home or work.

And that’s not all. There are plenty more scientifically-proven benefits of sitting in a sauna. One study discovered that frequent sauna bathing may reduce a person’s risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Other studies have found that those who use a sauna often can enjoy improve cognitive function and reduced brain inflammation.

There are even sauna benefits associated with certain common ailments and illnesses. For example, if you’ve ever wondered, “Is sauna good for a sore throat?” studies have shown that it certainly may help – both infrared and Finnish saunas have been linked with increased white blood cell counts, helping the body battle off infections, like colds and flus.

Sauna and Cardiovascular Health

The health benefits of sauna use aren’t just limited to stress relief and a feeling of wellness. Various studies have also shown links between saunas and heart health, suggesting that repeated sauna treatments could reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease and issues. Let’s take a closer look at how regular sauna use may be good for your heart.

Sauna’s Impact on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

The intense heat of a sauna doesn’t just make people sweat. It also causes their blood vessels to widen, or dilate. And, as the vessels open up, more blood cells can flow through them at a faster rate. Heart rate therefore increases, and blood pressure may be temporarily reduced as a side effect – the effect of sauna bathing may therefore be ideal for those who suffer from high blood pressure.

At the same time, those with low blood pressure will need to be careful – if your pressure is already low, the temporary reduction that comes after a sauna session could be risky for your health. Similarly, patients with heart failure, as well as those at risk of cardiovascular disease, also need to be extra careful, which leads us to the next section.

Sauna Use for Individuals With Heart Conditions

While sauna use can offer heart health advantages, users still need to exercise caution. This is particularly true if you already suffer from some form of heart disease or other cardiovascular problems, like congestive heart failure. With any kind of heart issue or related condition, it’s always best to consult medical professionals before using a sauna.

With that said, studies have provided promising results, even for those with weak or damaged hearts. Indeed, one study of patients with heart failure discovered that those who enjoyed repeated sauna therapy (regular 15 minute sessions) showed improved cardiovascular parameters and lighter symptoms, including lower levels of fatigue, reduced limb heaviness, and improved appetite.

Another study looked at individuals with coronary risk factors. It involved 25 men, all with at least one risk factor, taking daily 15-minute sauna baths. The study concluded that repeated sauna treatment was a factor in improving heart function, implying that those who are at-risk of heart issues can improve their chances of staying healthy by using a sauna on a regular basis.

Sauna Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health

So, let’s say that you want to start using a sauna to enjoy the aforementioned cardiovascular effects and possibly reduce your risk of fatal coronary heart disease. How should you go about it? Well, for newbies to the sauna world, there are some important guidelines and expert recommendations to keep in mind.

For starters, it’s best to begin with a few short sessions spread across the week. Infrequent sauna bathing is safe for the vast majority of people and should give your body time to acclimatize to the sauna’s conditions. You may also want to start off with an infrared sauna, which operates at lower temperatures compared to traditional Finnish saunas, and may therefore be more comfortable for you.

Over time, as you get used to the way the sauna feels, you can build up to longer and more frequent sauna sessions. There’s no need to go too far – up to three sessions per week of up to 20 minutes each should be enough for most people to enjoy sauna heart health benefits – and the most important thing is persistence. Regular, long-term sauna bathing should help you notice the advantages.

Should I use a sauna when sick? In most cases, no. However, it depends on the illness, and it’s best to consult with your doctor for expert advice. You also shouldn’t use a sauna if you’re feeling off or haven’t drunk any water in a while – saunas make people sweat quite a lot, which can trigger symptoms of dehydration.

Sauna and Cardiovascular Fitness

Of course, using a sauna isn’t the only way to promote heart health, and it shouldn’t be seen as such. Instead, saunas should be just one part of a holistic approach to improving cardiovascular health and wellness. A healthy diet, lifestyle, and regular exercise are all also crucial for improving your odds of avoiding major health problems, like heart disease and stroke.

So, along with regular sauna bathing, try to incorporate cardiorespiratory fitness into your regime. Cardio exercises, such as cycling, swimming, and jogging, can stabilize blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, burn off calories, and improve heart health. For those who are less physically able, even a brisk walk around your local area can help your heart.

It’s also important to time your exercise and sauna use correctly, and there are two schools of thought on this matter. Some argue that it’s best to exercise immediately after sauna use, as the sauna warms your muscles and increases your heart rate, just like a warm-up. Others prefer using a sauna after a workout to start the recovery process. You may want to consult a doctor or personal trainer for expert advice tailored to your body and needs. Regardless of which side you lean towards, make sure that you’re hydrating.

Long-Term Benefits of Sauna Bathing

If you want to experience the very best benefits of sauna use for heart health, regular sauna use is recommended. If you only have a sauna session now and then, you’ll still feel some benefits, but your body – especially your heart – may not enjoy much improvement, as many of the studies cited throughout this guide involved participants with frequent sauna use.

Long-term sauna use can offer quite a broad array of benefits, which may also explain why people like the Finns, who bathe in saunas often, tend to lead such happy and healthy lives. Studies suggest that using a sauna often can not only reduce heart disease risks, but also guard against neurocognitive diseases, improve blood pressure, extend lifespan, and improve skin health.

The usage of a sauna for inflammation has also been well-documented. And, by easing inflammation and promoting healthy blood flow, saunas may help the body deal with infections, illnesses, and even injuries more rapidly and efficiently. And it goes without saying that regular sauna sessions are also terrific for helping people relax, de-stress, and cope with the hectic hustle and bustle of life.

Conclusion

All in all, when it comes to saunas and heart health, the evidence is clear to see. Numerous studies propose positive links between regular sauna bathing and a happier, healthier heart. Those who use saunas correctly and often enough may even have a greatly reduced chance of major cardiovascular problems later in life, which could help them live longer.

So, if you’re seeking a simple and proven way to enhance your cardiovascular health, sauna bathing could be an option. Just remember that it’s not a cure-all for heart issues, and should only be used as part of a larger healthy lifestyle, with the right diet and exercise routine. And be sure to check with your doctor if you’re unsure whether saunas are right for you. You can also contact Komowa to learn more about the brilliant benefits of sauna bathing.

 

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