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10 Sauna Health Benefits - Clinically proven - Secret Saunas

10 Sauna Health Benefits - Clinically proven

For centuries people have known about the health benefits of saunas, but in recent years there have been some mind-blowing claims of halving your mortality risk, preventing dementia, reducing the risk of heart attacks and supposedly helping you shed pounds. In this article we're going to look the 10 proven health benefits of saunas, delving into the facts and science behind it!

1. Aids Muscle Recovery 

A common side effect of regular exercise is muscle soreness and stiffness after a workout. Using a sauna can help this discomfort by increasing blood flow to your muscles, delivering oxygen and nutrients that speed up the healing process and reduce muscle tension. Saunas also reduce inflammation and lactic acid build up, the main cause of DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) 

The Evidence
 A study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that taking a sauna after working out improved muscle recovery and reduced muscle damage. They tested a group of men and put them through a high-intensity interval training session followed by either a 30-minute sauna session or a rest period. The researchers measured various markers of muscle damage and recovery, such as creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, myoglobin, and perceived muscle soreness. Their finders showed that the sauna group had significantly lower levels of these markers than the rest group, indicating less muscle damage and faster recovery.

2. Improves Cardiovascular health

Because of the high temperatures in saunas your body increases its heart rate to sweat and cool the body down. This process actually mimics moderate cardio exercise and helps increases blood circulation throughout your body which ultimately lowers the pressure in your arteries and improves blood vessel function, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The Evidence 
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that regular sauna use was associated with lower risk of fatal cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality.  The study followed 2,315 middle-aged men in Finland for an average of 21 years and categorised them into three groups based on their frequency of sauna use: once a week, two to three times a week, or four to seven times a week. They found that the risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality decreased as the frequency of sauna use increased.
The most frequent sauna users had a 63% lower risk of sudden cardiac death, a 48% lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease, a 50% lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease, and a 40% lower risk of all-cause mortality than the least frequent sauna users.

3. Stress relief

With more than a quarter of Americans now so stressed they can’t function, it’s becoming crucial to lower stress levels to maintain good mental and physical health.  One of the main benefits of Saunas is that they help you cope with stress by inducing relaxation and enhancing your mood. This happens through triggering the release of endorphins, our favourite ‘feel-good’ chemical that helps us relax and reduces pain perception. Saunas can also lower cortisol levels, the stress hormones that increase stress and anxiety. Indicating that adding a sauna to your health and wellness routine could provide mental health benefits.

The Evidence
The Journal of Complementary Therapies published a study that found sauna bathing improved psychological well-being and quality of life in people with stress-related disorders. The researcher took 46 patients with stress-related disorders such as burnout, chronic fatigue, anxiety, or chronic pain and randomly assigned them to a sauna group or a control group. The sauna group used a far-infrared ray dry sauna on a daily basis for four weeks, while the control group maintained their usual lifestyle. The researchers used questionnaires to measure their psychological well-being and found that the sauna group had significantly greater improvements in all these scales than the control group, indicating reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and improved quality of life.

4. Skin benefits

While explorers are still trying to locate the fountain of youth, researchers found some exciting benefits from taking saunas...
Exposing your skin to high temperatures helps cleanse your pores, removing dead skin cells, and increasing collagen production. Not only that, saunas hydrate your skin by increasing its moisture content and preventing dryness. They have also been found to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which is one of the major causes of skin ageing and damage.

The Evidence

A trial published in Dermatology has shown that regular sauna use improved skin barrier function, hydration, elasticity, sebum production, pH, and appearance in people with dry skin

The trial asked participants to undergo 2 x 15-minute sauna sessions at 180°C after which the researchers took various measurements of their skin physiology. They found that sauna use resulted in significant improvements in the skin physiology, particularly surface pH and water holding capacity.

5. Detoxification

Sweating profusely in a hot confined space might not appeal to everyone, but the detoxification benefits certainly make it worth it. Sweating helps eliminate toxins, such as heavy metals, chemicals, and pollutants, that can accumulate in your tissues and organs over time. Heat from the sauna can also stimulate your liver and kidneys, which are responsible for filtering and removing waste products from your blood.

The Evidence
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that sauna therapy increased the excretion of toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury through sweat and urine. Researchers followed a group of people that were exposed to environmental pollutants and measured the levels of toxic elements in their urine and sweat before and after sauna intervention. It was shown that regular sauna bathing significantly increased the urinary and sweat excretion of all these elements, indicating enhanced detoxification. 

6. Immune Strength

Does the heat from saunas prevent colds? According to research, saunas strengthen your immune system by stimulating the production and activity of white blood cells, which are your body's natural defence against infections and viruses like colds and flu. Saunas can also raise your body temperature, which can create a fever-like response that can kill harmful germs and viruses. One of the other great benefits of saunas is their ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can impair your immune function and increase your susceptibility to illness.

The Evidence
A study published in 1990 found that regular sauna use reduces the incidence of common colds in healthy adults. Researchers asked 25 participants to routinely take saunas for a 6 month period and monitored the instances of common colds during that period. They found that the sauna group had significantly fewer episodes and shorter duration of common colds than the control group, indicating enhanced immune protection.

7. Weight Loss

If you thought it was impossible to lose weight while sitting down, think again. Your metabolic rate can increase by to 50-75% while inside a sauna, which means you burn more energy even at rest. Saunas can also reduce hunger hormones such as ghrelin and increase satiety hormones such as leptin, which can make you feel full and eat less. Sweating also helps you lose water weight which can reduce bloating.

The Evidence
According to a recent study by Binghamton University in New York infrared sauna use may increase weight loss
. 30 participants were exposed to infrared rays to warm their body for 45 minutes, three times a week for eight weeks, while following a calorie-restricted diet and an exercise program. Researchers measured their body weight, body fat percentage, and body mass index before and after the intervention and found that the participants who used the heating system lost an average of 4% body fat over eight weeks, compared to 1% in the control group who did not use the heating system. Therefore frequent sauna use may enhance the weight loss effects of diet and exercise by increasing the core body temperature and stimulating the metabolism. 

8. Brain Health

So do Saunas make you smarter? Well the evidence shows that saunas can improve your brain health by enhancing your cognitive function, memory, mood, and mental resilience. The heat of the sauna increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that promotes the growth and survival of neurons and synapses in the brain. BDNF can also protect the brain from degeneration and improve learning and memory. While it’s not like the pill from Limitless, these health benefits are impressive. 

The Evidence
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) followed 2,315 middle-aged men for an average of 20 years and divided them into 3 groups based on their weekly ‘sauna bathing’ habits. Once a week, two to three times a week, or four to seven times a week. They found that the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease decreased as the frequency of sauna use increased. The most frequent sauna users had a 66% lower risk of dementia and a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease than the least frequent sauna users.

9. Helps lower blood pressure

High blood pressure is a serious condition that’s sweeping the nation right now. Leading to problems such as stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. One of the greatest sauna benefits is that they can help lower blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels and improving their elasticity. They can also reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol that  can constrict your blood vessels and raise your blood pressure.

The Evidence
A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that sauna therapy significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with hypertension. The meta-analysis included nine randomized controlled trials with a total of 491 participants who underwent sauna therapy for various durations and frequencies. The researchers pooled the data and calculated the mean differences in blood pressure between the sauna and control groups. They found that sauna bathing reduces systolic blood pressure by 7.44 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 4.18 mmHg, which are clinically meaningful reductions.

10. Longevity 

Saunas can increase your longevity by reducing your risk of mortality from various causes, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and neurodegenerative disease. Saunas can activate heat shock proteins (HSPs), these are important molecules that help protect cells from stress and damage. HSPs also modulate immune responses, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cellular senescence, which are all factors that contribute to ageing and disease.

The Evidence

In a 2018 study, researchers found that sauna use reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality in men and women. 1,688 participants were followed for an average of 15 years and the researchers categorised them into three groups based on their frequency of sauna use: once a week, two to six times a week, or seven times a week or more. They found that the risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality decreased as the frequency of sauna use increased

Conclusion - The 10 Proven Health Benefits of Using a Sauna

The 10 health benefits of saunas extend beyond relaxing, or sweat out a hangover. They offer a range of wellness benefits that can improve your physical and mental well-being. Whether you choose a dry, steam, or infrared sauna, you can enjoy the 10 benefits of using a sauna by taking a sauna regularly and safely. 

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Jasper Knight the Founder of Secret Saunas photographed in an Auroom Sauna in Estonia

About the Author

I'm Jasper Knight, the founder of During my travels through Finland and Scandinavia in 2018 I was introduced to the thrilling local ritual of taking daily hot saunas and then cooling off by plunging into the dark icy waters of a frozen lake. This experience was so fulfilling that it felt like an addiction. My desire to return to the forests and lakes of Northern Europe led me to set up Secret Saunas with the mission of bringing that authentic Finnish sauna experiences home.

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