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Article: Comparing the Health Benefits of Sauna vs Steam Room: Which is Better for You?

Comparing the Health Benefits of Sauna vs Steam Room: Which is Better for You?

Comparing the Health Benefits of Sauna vs Steam Room: Which is Better for You?

Written by Chris Lang

 If you want to take the edge off sore muscles or alleviate stress, a wet sauna can be an excellent choice. Featuring a generator that turns boiling water into steam, these rooms create high temperatures that help you recover from intense activities and clear up your airways.

That’s just a hint of the various wet sauna benefits you can experience through regular sauna bathing. Read on to gain a better understanding of how a wet sauna can help rejuvenate your body.

Understanding Wet Saunas

A wet sauna is a sauna that produces steam through boiling water. It comes with a generator that creates pressurized steam and transfers it to the room to increase the temperature to approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

The main difference between wet and dry saunas is how they produce heat. On the one hand, wet saunas use boiling water. On the other hand, dry saunas typically use hot rocks or stoves.

Sauna vs. Steam Room

Many people think dry saunas and steam rooms are the same, but they’re not. However, the difference between the various terms used to describe saunas is largely due to a rich (and sometimes confusing) vocabulary.

What is commonly called a dry sauna is the Finnish or traditional sauna. These saunas have about 5%-10% humidity in the beginning, which rises to 50%-60% at a later stage of the session. The temperature in these saunas is around 160-190 Fahrenheit. An IR sauna is a separate form of dry sauna that uses lamps to direct light to the skin, which manifests as internal heat.

Conversely, wet saunas, steam rooms, or Turkish baths use steam as the primary heat transfer method. They are cooler (100-120 degrees), but since they’re 100% humid, its effects are exacerbated and you can spend much less time inside.

Health Benefits of Wet Saunas

Now that you understand the basics of a wet sauna or steam room vs. a dry sauna, it’s time to get to brass tacks. Let’s check out the most important benefits of sauna bathing.

Cardiovascular Health

The number-one reason you may decide to visit a wet sauna is to improve cardiovascular health. Many credible institutions, such as UCLA Health, indicate the high effectiveness of regular sauna bathing in reducing and combatting heart disease. Their research shows that frequent trips to the sauna can significantly decrease the risk of complications and death caused by heart disease.

There are many reasons wet saunas might be so good for your cardiovascular system. First, the high temperatures and steam help dilate your blood vessels, resulting in more blood recirculating to your heart. This also helps reduce blood pressure and provides essential body parts with nutrients.

Furthermore, some studies have linked saunas with lower levels of cholesterol. This can benefit your heart by reducing the amount of fat that deposits in your blood vessels.

Skin Health

Another reason a wet sauna makes sense is that it might improve your skin health. The effect is directly linked to one of the health benefits mentioned under cardiovascular improvements. By expanding your blood vessels, the high temperature and humidity ensure more oxygen-rich blood reaches your skin. This helps keep it looking great and healthy.

While it’s true that wet saunas may offer many health benefits for your skin, some types are more effective than others. A Himalayan salt sauna is usually considered the crème de la crème among saunas when it comes to addressing skin problems.

What makes a Himalayan salt sauna so great is that it releases more than 80 minerals into the air through steam. This contributes to overall skin health improvements, including lower cellulite.

Muscle Relaxation

Some studies also suggest that wet saunas are good for relaxing your muscles. Again, look to the cardiovascular benefits to explain this effect. Dilated blood vessels transport more blood to your muscles to help them relax and recover from an intense workout. This can also decrease pain.

Detoxification

Among sauna providers and visitors, there’s a strong belief that a wet sauna helps remove toxins from your body. When you consider the explanation, it might just make sense. As you sweat, the beads supposedly also transport toxins from your organism to produce a powerful cleansing effect.

So, the answer to your question, does sauna remove toxins, is that it’s possible. The increased perspiration can contribute to some toxins leaving your body, especially if you use a wet sauna regularly. Hopefully, future research on the benefits for your health will prove this claim beyond any doubt.

Immune System Support

The ability of wet saunas to support your immune system lies in the heat shock they induce. Namely, the heat may trigger a defense mechanism, resulting in a higher white blood cell count. The more white blood cells you have, the stronger your immune system is.

Stress Reduction

When you go to a sauna, you leave all your troubles behind. You just sit on the bench and allow the heat to relax your mind and body. Once you get out, you tend to feel rejuvenated and less anxious.

Risks and Precautions

Frequent trips to the sauna can support your well-being on many levels, especially if you go to a reliable provider with a proven track record. For example, Komowa Wellness provides state-of-the-art saunas fitted with various amenities to maximize the potential health benefits, such as tempered glass, upper/lower benches for optimal seating, and fine-tune control options.

Still, that’s not to say you should start sauna bathing without carefully considering some of the risks linked to this form of treatment.

Hydration and Duration

As soon as you enter a sauna, your body temperature starts rising. The body reacts to the heat by sweating to try to keep you cool. It’s a natural bodily mechanism, but it also extracts a lot of fluids from your organism. That’s why it’s essential to stay hydrated before and after the experience. You might even be able to bring a plastic water bottle inside.

In terms of duration, you should stay in a wet sauna for about 10-20 minutes so the health benefits can kick in. If you’re an experienced sauna visitor, you can even extend the duration to half an hour.

Precautions for Sauna Use

Like with any form of therapy, you need to be careful with sauna bathing if you have a medical condition:

  • Eczema and psoriasis – The high humidity of wet saunas can help relieve the itchiness associated with these two skin conditions, but it can also aggravate them. To stay on the safe side, limit your sessions to 10-15 minutes, at least in the first few weeks.

  • Elevated blood pressure – If you have high blood pressure, your cardiovascular system is already under stress. A sauna can relieve some of it, but it might also exacerbate your condition. Two or three 10-minute sessions per week are the gold standard for novice sauna goers.

  • Asthma – Regular sauna visits can help remedy asthma by relaxing the muscles in your bronchioles, enabling you to breathe more easily. That said, hot temperatures and high humidity can trigger asthma for some. If that’s the case, it might be better to avoid a sauna.

Infrared Saunas vs. Wet Saunas

Wet saunas or steam rooms might be a common type of sauna, but you can consider many other alternatives. Infrared saunas are the top pick for many sauna goers.

The main difference between infrared and traditional saunas is that infrared saunas don’t use stoves or steam to raise temperatures. Instead, an infrared sauna heats your body directly through infrared rays that penetrate the skin.

Due to this penetration, infrared saunas are often better at promoting certain health benefits. Since the rays run deep into your skin, they can recover your muscles more effectively and reduce overall pain. They may also enhance circulation to a greater extent than standard saunas.

Infrared saunas are also a great home sauna option since they have fewer ventilation needs or external piping requirements.

Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Sauna Use

A wet sauna may help remedy a number of conditions. But as previously mentioned, it can exacerbate certain illnesses and be unpleasant if you don’t use it properly. Coming up are a few tips to help you maximize safety and comfort.

How to Use a Wet Sauna Properly

Proper wet sauna use looks something like this:

  • Easing into the sauna experience – If you’re not used to hot, humid environments, don’t spend 20-25 minutes inside a wet sauna right off the bat. Instead, take it easy in the beginning and start with just two weekly 5-10-minute sessions. You’ll acclimate more easily without enduring too much heat stress.

  • Staying hydrated – Stress can shed toxins, but what it does shed for sure is water and precious nutrients. That’s why you should drink plenty of water before and after each sauna bathing session. Also, avoid alcohol because it increases fluid loss.

  • Consulting your doctor – If you have a heart problem, skin issue, or any other condition, consult your physician before stepping inside a sauna. They’ll determine if it’s safe to go to a sauna in the first place. If so, the physician will recommend the ideal frequency and duration.

  • Taking breaks when overwhelmed – If you feel dizzy or nauseous, immediately get out of the sauna. Either terminate the session altogether or take a break to recover. Forcing yourself to stay inside despite these aches is counterproductive.

  • Talk to on-site professionals – If you need more tips on how to stay safe when visiting a sauna, on-site operators should be your go-to option. They should be polite, professional, and eager to answer all your questions while fine-tuning the experience to help you stay safe and comfortable.

Recommended Frequency

Moderation is key when starting any form of therapy, including sauna therapy. More isn’t necessarily better, which is why you need to use an optimal frequency, which is two to three times per week.

Keep in mind that there are slight variations here. If you’re inexperienced, two weekly sessions might be better in the first couple of weeks. As you get acclimated, you may even bump up the frequency to four weekly visits to a wet sauna.

Aftercare and Recovery

The period after your time inside the sauna is just as important as the very sauna bathing. Some recommend taking an ice-cold shower to lower your body temperature, but this can be risky. If you’ve never exposed yourself to extreme temperature changes, the shock to your heart can be dangerous.

Instead, follow this routine to gradually recover from a sauna and capitalize on the potential health benefits of your treatment:

  • Recover gradually – Rather than take a dip in freezing water, let your temperature drop gradually. Sit on a bench in the locker room or take a relaxing walk until the temperature returns to normal.

  • Drink lots of water – Chances are, you’ll feel thirsty after a steam bath. Don’t ignore this response from your organism. Drink at least one full cup of water to reclaim the fluids lost during the therapy.

  • Eat – While sweating, you may also lose a lot of nutrients. The best way to recover them is to eat shortly after your sauna session. Since you’ve just experienced something healthy, take the same route when choosing your dish. A fruit or vegetable-based meal is your best option.

Make the Most of Your Sauna Experience

Wet saunas have worked wonders for many people with certain health conditions. You can join this lineup if you’re careful. Choose the optimal duration and frequency, depending on your current health, and you should quickly notice improvements.

If wet saunas are too humid for your taste, no worries – there are lots of alternatives. Komowa Wellness provides all sorts of saunas, including infrared and outdoor saunas. Each features a simple yet effective design to deliver a pleasant experience.

 

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