Sauna: Heating Up Good For Your Health?


Taking a sauna is a popular practice around the world, especially here in Europe. Yesterday I had a sauna. I can’t say that it’s something I do very often, I dislike sitting in a hot room dripping sweat and struggling to breathe. I got a call from one of my teammates, didn’t have much else to do and thought, why not? Now I’m from Australia, and yes, we have saunas. They differ slightly from those in good old Deutschland. Here, saunas are taken quite liberally, no swimsuit. It’s a unisex theme, both in the sauna, in the shower area for the sauna, and in the relaxation area. Oh well, you have to embrace the culture right? Anyway, my sauna yesterday inspired my post today. After sweating it out, and boy am I an efficient sweater, then a cold shower, a little lie down…repeat this process three times, I have to say, I felt pretty refreshed and relaxed.

What Happens To Your Body During A Sauna?

It’s pretty hot in there. Your skin temperature rockets up within minutes. The Average Joe will sweat out about a pint during a short stint in a sauna. Your pulse races 30% faster than normal. This means you are pumping around nearly double the amount of blood in a minute. Because you are trying to cool down, the blood flows to your skin, pretty much away from all your internal organs. Basically, you heat up!

What Are The Benefits & Drawbacks Of Sauna?

Saunas have been deemed safe for the body. As I experienced yesterday, they are pretty relaxing and left me feeling pretty good. Alternating with the hot and cold probably did this, and a little lie down every now and then is nice! There is the thought that saunas are good for your skin and extremities. It opens up your pores and helps the body to rid of toxins through your sweat.

I get told a lot by my teammates that saunas can help relieve sore muscles. I believe this to be a factor of the hot/ cold combination, and not solely a result of taking a sauna. A big recovery method for athletes is taking a hot shower, and then plunging into cold water. It causes your arteries to constrict and dilate, helping flush ‘the crap’ out of your legs and muscles.

As a general rule, it is thought that sauna is great for relaxation, general well- being and just feeling good. Aside from that, it seems there is no scientific evidence that a sauna actually has any real health benefits (though many would argue general well-being is such an important part of health).

The bad news with sauna? Well the obvious one is dehydration. You are sweating like a pig in there. If you don’t hydrate adequately, you are going to get dehydrated. As mentioned above, your body goes through some pretty rapid and drastic changes, mainly in your cardiovascular system. People with poorly controlled blood pressure and general heart problems should probably stay in the cold!

Sauna For Weight Loss

This is a big misconception. The ONLY way sauna can aid your weight loss is a loss of fluid. This simply does not help you lose body fat. If you have lost weight through the sauna, then you actually need to drink more, it means you lost fluid that needs replacing.

So Is It Good For You?

Thought it’s not bad for you, there are no reported health benefits. I felt pretty darn good after my sauna, relaxed and refreshed. This is a wonderful thing, and warding off stress and generally feeling good does go a long way to good health. So if you enjoy a sauna, keep it up. If like me, you struggle to sit in there and breathe, or you have heart problems, consult your doctor or just take a spa…there are many other ways to relax. Either way just keep drinking and stay cool.