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Article: Difference Between Sauna Bath & Steam Bath

Difference Between Sauna Bath & Steam Bath

Difference Between Sauna Bath & Steam Bath

Written by Chris Lang

People have been bathing in saunas for centuries, enjoying their benefits for both body and mind. And, as the years have passed, sauna bathing has only become more popular, developing into a truly global wellness practice. But, if you’re new to this world, you may have questions, like what is sauna bath and how does it compare to a steam bath?

Well, this guide is here to provide the answers. Let’s delve into the details of sauna bathing, comparing sauna baths and steam baths and exploring the many health benefits associated with them.

Understanding the Sauna Experience

First, let’s dig into the basics of what is sauna bath and how it compares to a steam room.

Defining Sauna and Sauna Bath

The term “sauna” comes from the Finnish language and originated thousands of years ago. And the classic Finnish sauna consists of an enclosed room with a container of heated stones and a separate container of water. The radiant heat of the hot stones gradually warms the room, producing a very intense, dry heat.

When someone takes a sauna bath, they can sit inside the sauna room and enjoy the heat’s effects on their body and mind. They may also choose to sprinkle or pour some of the water onto the rocks – the water then turns to steam, adding a little humidity to the air, if desired.

Sauna vs. Steam Room: The Differences

A steam room has several things in common with a sauna. It can offer various health benefits and also takes the form of an enclosed, hot space. However, the big difference is that steam rooms, as their name suggests, primarily use steam generators to warm the room. This leads to higher humidity levels and a lower maximum temperature compared to the average dry sauna.

The Types of Saunas

There are several different types of saunas for users to be aware of and choose between. They can differ in terms of their heating methods, benefits, maximum temperatures, and humidity levels.

Traditional Finnish Sauna

When most people think of a sauna, they’re picturing a classic Finnish sauna. This traditional dry sauna uses hot stones to warm the room, treating sauna bathers to very high temperatures and low humidity.

Steam Sauna vs. Dry Sauna

A steam sauna or steam room is an enclosed space that fills up with steam. This creates very high – up to 100% – levels of humidity. They provide very different experiences to a typical dry sauna, with lower temperatures but much thicker, wetter air.

The two types may also differ in terms of possible benefits. Studies have suggested that spending time in a steam room may aid with post-workout recovery. On the other hand, studies into sauna bathing have found that it can offer unique cardiovascular effects, like reduced blood pressure in those with cardiovascular risk factors.

Other Variations of Saunas

Saunas were independently developed in multiple cultures, and modernization led to several sauna types. The smoke sauna, for example, involves burning logs in a room with no chimney, so the smoke circulates and fills the space. There are also infrared saunas, which use infrared light to heat the users’ bodies.

Additionally, saunas can be either public saunas, open to anyone to use at a cost, or private ones, which are enclosed spaces that are designed to fit between one and eight people and can be installed into homes or backyards.

Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing

So, how do saunas help? Well, people don’t just spend time sitting in a sauna for the fun of it. These hot spaces can offer an array of advantages for health and wellness. This section will explore some of the desirable effects of regular dry sauna bathing.

Sauna Bathing and Heart Health

Using a sauna may provide a range of benefits for heart health, and there are numerous studies to back this up. Regularly using sauna facilities has been found to reduce a person’s risk of numerous heart issues, including cardiovascular disease.

Finnish sauna bathing can also improve blood pressure. This is because the heat of the sauna bath causes blood vessels to widen. And, as the blood vessels get wider, more blood can flow through them, delivering oxygen around the body.

Sauna Bathing and Respiratory Fitness

The heart isn’t the only vital organ that can benefit from saunas and steam rooms. Studies have also shown that the lungs and respiratory system can also enjoy a range of advantages from regular and recurring sauna bathing.

One study shows that regular sauna baths may help to minimize a person’s risk of multiple respiratory diseases. Other studies have concluded sauna usage can help to improve lung function, helping users exhale more air on each breath and enjoy better, healthier breathing all around. Older studies have even found links between sauna use and asthma benefits, too.

Potential Benefits for Mental Well-Being

Many people emerge from the sauna talking about how relaxed and rejuvenated they feel – and there’s a reason for that. Sauna baths have long been considered wonderful ways to improve one’s mental health, with the soothing heat of the space giving people a chance to de-stress and rid their mind of worries.

Other studies have found that those who use the sauna often can enjoy boosted brain function and reduced risk of psychotic disorders. Many people also choose to use a sauna for sleep, saying that it helps them get to sleep more easily and overcome issues like insomnia.

How to Use a Sauna Safely

It’s important to note that there are both benefits and risks for sauna users to take into account. Thus, before sitting in a sauna and enjoying the benefits of sauna bathing, you’ll need to be aware of how to use the sauna in a safe and healthy way.

Understanding Sauna Safety

One of the big risks with sauna bathing is that it can cause dehydration. The heat of a sauna makes people sweat, and that leads to gradual loss of moisture from the body. If the body is well-hydrated, it’s not a problem. But if you’re low on hydration, sweating too much, too fast could make you dehydrate, leading to lightheadedness, tiredness, and other effects.

It’s therefore vital to hydrate properly before using a sauna, and don’t rush in immediately after a sweaty workout. Hydrate afterwards, too, to replenish your body’s water supplies, and take breaks if you start feeling dehydrated at all. Similarly, avoid spending too long in the sauna – too much time exposed to such high temperatures may cause overheating and various unwanted symptoms.

Sauna Use for Individuals With Health Conditions

If you have an existing health condition that could be aggravated by sauna bathing, you’ll also need to be careful before stepping into a steam room or sauna bath. In particular, those with low blood pressure or heart conditions are recommended to speak with their doctors and get expert advice before using any type of sauna.

However, just because you have a health condition, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take a sauna bath or get benefits from it. In fact, some studies have shown that those with patients with heart failure can experience alleviation of their symptoms and improved heart health, along with other 15-minute sauna benefits.

Sauna Bathing Practices Around the World

Saunas may be strongly associated with Finland, but they’re in use all over the globe and form a key part of many national cultures and identities.

Sauna Culture in Different Countries

It’s impossible to talk about sauna baths without talking about Finland. The average Finnish person takes a sauna bath once a week, at least, and saunas are a huge part of the country’s lifestyle and culture. This could explain why Finland often ranks among the happiest countries in the world.

Saunas are a big part of Russian culture too. Known as banya in Russian, they’re used throughout the year, and it’s common for groups of men to share the sauna together as a social activity.

There are also Turkish baths, or hammam, which tend to involve multiple rooms with varying temperatures, as well as Icelandic saunas and Japanese bath houses. Indeed, saunas and variations on the concept of the sauna bath are beloved in dozens of countries worldwide.

The Social Aspect of Sauna Bathing

For some people and cultures, using a sauna is a popular social activity, to be shared with friends and family. This is why certain countries may have many more public saunas than others. Sharing a sauna bath has its advantages, giving people the chance to relax and experience the soothing warmth together.

However, others prefer to bathe in their saunas solo. This is why a lot of people opt for private or home sauna installations, with their own saunas fitted at home to use whenever they like, without having to book appointments or share with strangers.

Choosing the Right Sauna for You

Given that there are multiple types, sizes, and designs of sauna out there, it can be tricky to pick the right one. This section will provide guidance to help you choose.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Sauna Type

Arguably the biggest factor to consider when picking a sauna type is your own comfort. Some people like the intense dry heat of a classic sauna, but others may find it overwhelming. If a traditional sauna is too hot for you, you may prefer an infrared sauna or steam room instead.

You also need to consider the size and features of a sauna if picking one for your own home. Think about whether or not you plan to use it alone or share it with others, how much room you have to install it, and which features you might get value out of.

Contact the sauna specialist Komowa for advice when picking a home sauna.

Incorporating Sauna Bathing Into Your Routine

If you’re just starting off with sauna bathing, it’s best to begin slow, with relatively short and low temperature sessions. That’ll give your body time to adjust to the heat, before you build up towards longer and more frequent spells in the sauna.

Sauna Myths vs. Facts

There are many misconceptions out there around saunas and what they can do. Let’s separate the facts from the fiction.

Common Misconceptions About Sauna Use

A very common misconception around sauna use is that it’s a miraculous way to lose weight. In reality, spending time in the sauna may help you shed a little weight due to water loss, but it can’t be relied upon as an effective long-term weight loss solution.

There are also some claims out there that say saunas can detoxify the body. Again, there’s a little truth to this, but not much. Studies show that some heavy metals can come out in sweat, but spending time in a sauna is not a very efficient way to detox.

What Research Says

As this guide has shown, there are lots of studies out there that demonstrate the many purported benefits of sauna baths. Research has linked sauna usage with reduced risk of dementia, increased white blood cell counts, lower risk of heart disease, and much more.

The evidence is compelling, which is why so many experts recommend sauna use as part of a holistic healthy lifestyle. And, when compared to steam rooms, there seem to be far more studies about the advantages of saunas and less proven evidence on the potential benefits of steam-filled spaces.

Conclusion: Enjoy the Healing Benefits of a Sauna Bath

Overall, it’s clear to see that spending time in a sauna bath can do a world of good for the average person. It can offer many advantages, from improved heart health to a relaxed and stress-free mind. Those seeking to live happier and healthier lives should certainly consider incorporating sauna bathing into their weekly routines. Contact Komowa to learn more and find your dream sauna.


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