Taking Sauna’s Regularly Can Improve Health
Saunas have been used for thousands of years, for both religious ceremonies and health, in cultures as far apart as Mayan and Finnish.
Saunas are small rooms which provide either moist (Turkish-style) or dry heat (traditional Finnish) and allow the body to sweat deeply.
In modern Finland, about 33% of adults enjoy dry saunas on a regular basis.
Today’s sauna was brought to America by Scandinavian immigrants, and saunas are becoming ever more popular. They are found in many sports centers and gyms.
The sauna’s claim of health benefits since ancient times is now being proved by modern science.
The claims include the following:
• High blood pressure. Frequent use of a sauna can help keep us from developing high blood pressure, one of the most important risk factors for heart disease. According to researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the risk was almost halved in men who had a sauna at least four times a week when compared to those who only had one sauna a week.
The study, which was published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension, involved 1,621 middle-aged Finnish men. Study participants included men without elevated blood pressure, or with diagnosed hypertension (140/90 mmHg or higher) at the beginning of the long-term study.
During an average follow-up of 22 years, the risk of hypertension was 46% lower among men who had a sauna 4-7X a week, and 24% lower among men with a sauna frequency of 2-3X a week.
• Dementia. A study published in the journal Age and Ageing found that the more volunteers reported using saunas, the lower their risk for dementia. Study participants were divided into three groups, those who used a sauna 4-7X a week, those who used a sauna 2-3X a week, and those who only used sauna 1X a week.
Researchers found that those who used saunas the most reduced their risk of any form of dementia by 66% and the risk of Alzheimer’s by 65%when compared to those who used a sauna only once a week.
• Longevity. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland followed 2,300 middle-aged men who used saunas for an average of 20 years, and spent an average of 14 mins each visit sweating in 175°F heat. During that time, 49% of men who used a sauna once a week died, compared to 38% who went 2-3X a week. But only 31% of the men who went 4-7X a week died. The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
• Chronic pain. In a study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, patients with chronic pain had a daily sauna for 14 days. Pain decreased significantly in patients suffering from chronic pain when compared with patients who did not have saunas, and 77% of them returned to work compared to 50% in the control group.
• Athletic endurance. Two 30-min sessions a week for 3 weeks after a workout increased by 32% the amount of time volunteers could run until they were exhausted, according to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. In a 2nd study which was published in the European Journal of Sport Science, saunas increased athletes’ tolerance to heat, in preparation for desert-based competition, almost as much as exercising in high temperatures.
• High cholesterol. When healthy young male subjects underwent 10 sauna sessions, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol decreased significantly during the 3-week study. Cholesterol levels gradually returned to normal after discontinuing the sauna sessions. The study, which was published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, noted that the effect was similar to that obtained through moderately intensive exercise.
• Pneumonia. A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that regular sessions in a sauna can cut the risk of developing pneumonia by 27% when compared to those who rarely or never used them. Those who had at least 4 saunas a week cut their risk of the potentially deadly illness by 42%. Regular saunas also reduced the risk of asthma and other chest problems.