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Why Saunas Offer More Benefits Than Just Relaxation

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From improved performance to faster recovery time, here’s why you may want to stand the heat.

As an active woman, you know the glow that’s associated with a good, hard sweat. You feel invigorated and accomplished, and you know you’ve done something beneficial for your body. But what if you could achieve that glisten without putting yourself through a rigorous workout? Enter, the sauna.

While saunas have become more trendy recently, they’ve been used in different cultures for thousands of years. The original use for saunas is a topic of hot debate, but nowadays, many people regularly use them to relax or recover from workouts. But that’s just the beginning when it comes to the health benefits that a sauna can provide.

What health benefits can you expect from the sauna?

Thanks to the heat, the majority of health benefits that a sauna provides are related to blood circulation. A recent study found that there was significant evidence to support a wide variety of benefits associated with regular sauna use including boosted metabolism and weight loss, stress and pain reduction, and improved immunity, sleep, and relaxation. The mindset benefits promoted by sauna use often lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while the physical benefits can boost your performance in the gym, from improved cardiovascular function to reduced recovery time. “Deliberate heat exposure can help protect against different forms of mortality, improve health overall, and possibly extend life,” says Dr. Andrew Huberman, an American neuroscientist and associate professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine in his podcast, Huberman Lab, episode 69, “The Science and Health Benefits of Deliberate Heat Exposure.

How does it work?

Saunas work by encouraging users to sweat, thereby increasing heart rate and widening blood vessels—these occurrences increase circulation, much like low to moderate exercise would induce. Your heart rate can increase to 100-150 beats per minute while using the sauna, and this may bring health benefits with it. The resulting increase in blood flow reduces joint pain and relieves sore muscles, and has even been shown to alleviate symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. “That constellation looks a lot like cardiovascular exercise,” says Dr. Huberman. And while he notes that cardiovascular exercise comes with other benefits, such as increased bone density, that a sauna doesn’t offer, the internal shifts that mimic exercise are not to be overlooked.

How to use the sauna

You can find saunas at your local gym, and some dedicated sauna locations are available in major cities. Some enthusiasts even go as far as purchasing their own home-use sauna. According to Dr. Huberman, saunas should be heated between 80-100 degrees Celsius for optimal health, while the level of humidity can range from dry to moist.

You should take a quick shower or rinse before entering the sauna. While some saunas allow for nudity, choose attire that feels right for you, whether that’s a bathing suit or a towel wrapped around your body. Either way, always bring a towel to sit on, and ensure you never make skin contact directly with the bench for hygiene purposes. Whether you’re at the gym or a dedicated sauna facility, know that you’re the one who’s in charge of your body. Meaning, if you’re feeling dizzy or ill and need to leave early or simply step out to get some fresh air, you know your body best and you won’t be disturbing the other patrons.

Who shouldn’t use the sauna?

There are some precautions to consider while using the sauna, and the practice doesn’t suit everyone. Alcohol should be abstained from completely prior to sauna use as it can promote the instance of dehydration and irregular heart beat. Plenty of water should be consumed before, during, and after sauna use, and an upper limit of 20 minutes should be the max amount of time spent in a sauna. For new users, they are advised to begin with just five minutes at a time, then slowly increase their tolerance as they become accustomed to the heat.

Those who are feeling under the weather, experience low blood pressure, have recently suffered a heart attack, or are at risk of dehydration or falling asleep should skip the sauna as the risks may outweigh the benefits. Pregnant women should speak with their doctor before using a sauna.


Saunas are popular for their diverse health benefits beyond post-exercise relaxation. The heat-induced effects on blood circulation offer advantages such as enhanced metabolism, weight loss, stress relief, pain reduction, improved immunity, better sleep, and increased relaxation. By promoting sweating, elevating heart rate, and widening blood vessels, saunas mimic moderate exercise, resulting in improved blood flow that can alleviate joint pain and muscle soreness. Typically found in gyms or specialized facilities with temperatures of 70-100 degrees Celsius, users are recommended to shower beforehand, wear suitable attire, bring a towel, and be mindful of their well-being. Precautions involve abstaining from alcohol, maintaining hydration, limiting sessions to 20 minutes, and avoiding sauna use for certain health conditions or during pregnancy.

Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review – PMC (nih.gov)
Sauna: Health benefits, risks, and precautions (medicalnewstoday.com)
How to Use a Sauna (healthline.com)
The History of Saunas: From Ancient Times to Today (mysaunaworld.com)
Top 12 Health and Wellness Benefits of Sauna (finnleo.com)

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