Also referred to as a sweat bath, it rejuvenates the body by flushing out toxins through sweat. The health benefits of a sauna bath were known even to our ancestors, and there is evidence of these baths being used even during the stone age. Be it the Thermae of the ancient Romans or the traditional Japanese Onsen, there are other cultures that have their own versions of the sauna. However, it was the Finnish saunas that became popular all over the world, after the Industrial Revolution.
The traditional saunas, based on the Finnish model, have stones in a fireplace, which are heated to high temperatures. Water that is poured over these rocks from time to time evaporates into steam. This heats up the air inside the sauna. Some modern saunas have electrical heaters to generate heat. The latest in the line are the infrared saunas that use far infrared rays that penetrate the body and heat it up.
Health Benefits of Sauna Bath
The heat generated in the saunas has a therapeutic effect on the body. Not only does the heat activate sweat glands that help the body to eliminate toxins, but it also increases the heart rate and blood circulation. Some of the benefits are listed below:
Detoxification of the Body
Be it taking infrared radiations or sitting in the warm environment of a traditional sauna, all sauna baths work on the principle that sweating is an excellent way of getting rid of toxins inside our body. Along with the lungs, kidneys, bowels, and the lymphatic system, the skin performs an important role in detoxifying our body. Our skin has sweat glands all over. The heat from a sauna activates the sweat glands, and they excrete toxins from the body in the form of sweat. Of all the organs, our skin has the largest surface area. Hence, a large amount of toxins are flushed out of the body.
Increases Heart Rate
A sauna bath is an excellent option for those who are unable to bear the strain of rigorous exercising. It increases and strengthens the blood circulation without causing stress on any other system of the body. A 10 to 20 minute long sauna increases heart rate by 50 to 75%. This brings about the same effect as that of moderately rigorous, physical exercise. Increased cardiac output ensures improved blood supply to all the body parts.
Improves Blood Circulation
Increased heart rate, in turn, improves blood circulation. The heat of the sauna dilates the blood vessels that ensure proper blood supply, even by the thinnest of the capillaries. Proper blood supply brings fresh nutrients to the cells and ensures complete removal of waste out of them.
The pores of the skin get clogged due to the use of creams, deodorants, and dead skin cells. These clogged pores cause skin problems like acne, pimples, and blackheads. The heat of the sauna cleans and opens up these pores, and the sweat flushes out of them, thus carrying poisonous substances out of the body. Also, improved blood circulation leaves the skin looking young and fresh.
Some 2000 years ago, Parmenides, a Greek physician, had claimed that he could cure any disease if he were given a chance to create fever. He was referring to our body's defense mechanism, the fever, that enables the body to fight micro-organisms and their harmful effects. The elevated temperature during fever boosts the production of white blood cells and antibodies. Sauna baths takes the body to an artificial fever state wherein these infection-fighting entities are produced to strengthen our immune system.
Of the several sauna health benefits, weight loss is most sought for. Along with sweat, one loses a large amount of water from the body. This might show up as significant weight loss on the weighing machine. However, the weight thus lost is gained back with consumption of water. Recent studies have shown that increased cardiac output in an average sauna session burns about 300 calories. This is equivalent to the amount of calories lost during a brisk walk. Considering the fact that all one has to do is to lie down and relax, the results are not bad at all!
The strain in the muscles, that one feels after physical exercise, is due to excessive production of lactic acid and the wear-and-tear that the muscles undergo. Not only do sauna baths help one's muscles to relax, but they also flush out the lactic acid that accumulates in them. Also, they increase blood flow to the muscles, and help them to repair the worn-out cells.
People who frequent the sauna often feel mentally relaxed. This is because the increased cardiovascular activity releases endorphins (a feel-good chemical in the brain).
Be it the conventional steam sauna or the infrared saunas, their benefits are acknowledged throughout the world. Apart from being a session of social interaction, saunas are also increasingly being used for their healing effects.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is solely for informative purpose and not intended to replace the advice of medical experts.