How regular sauna bathing can benefit your health
Typically linked to pleasure, relaxation and wellbeing, sauna bathing is a way of life in Finland, but it’s becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the world, too. Emerging evidence now suggests that the benefits of sauna bathing go beyond relaxation and mental wellbeing and that this pleasurable activity may also be linked to several health benefits.
A research team from the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Bristol conducted an in-depth literature review on the effects of sauna bathing on health. The research team aggregated data from numerous studies from various countries. This review summarised the available epidemiological, experimental and interventional evidence linking sauna bathing to cardiovascular outcomes and other health benefits. It also examined the biological mechanisms underlying these associations and implications for clinical practice.
The review found that this form of passive heat therapy has many benefits for circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular and immune functions.
There are different forms of passive heat therapy around the world, but this review focusses on traditional Finnish sauna bathing. Finnish sauna bathing is characterised by exposure to dry air and a relatively high temperature — 80°C to 100°C — for a brief period of time.
The review found that this form of passive heat therapy has many benefits for circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular and immune functions. Regular sauna bathing stabilises the autonomic nervous system as well as reduces blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, circulation of bad cholesterol, arterial stiffness and vascular resistance. It is also linked to beneficial levels of circulating hormones and other cardiovascular markers.
The research team reports that the feelings of relaxation and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing may be linked to the increased production of circulating hormones such as endorphins during a sauna bath. Furthermore, sauna bathing alleviates conditions such as skin diseases, arthritis, headache and flu. The evidence also suggests that taking regular sauna baths leads to a better quality of life.
The beneficial changes and physiological responses produced by a sauna bath are equivalent to those produced by a moderate or high-intensity physical activity like walking, according to the report.
The review emphasised the benefits of sauna baths for positive health outcomes and also highlighted that it is a safe activity for patients with stable cardiovascular disease — provided that sauna bathing is used sensibly for an appropriate amount of time.
Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings