The last couple of years have brought numerous articles on sauna and health. Who knew that sweating in a hot wooden box is not only relaxing but can help with immunity, depression, brain health and more?
Here is a round-up of the recent findings that have us heading to the hot box this Fall.
First, what exactly does sauna do to the body?
Because sauna is providing more intense heat than a body can cool down just through sweating, your internal temperature goes up. A lot of what the body experiences in the sauna is similar to what happens during exercise. Like in exercise, your heart rate increases and your endocrine system sends out several hormones. Beta-endorphins are released, which contribute to that relaxed and glowing post-sauna feeling. That’s just the beginning.
This is the biggest news in the cardiovascular health world to come out in a long time. A 2015 study followed 2,315 Finns for 20 years. Those who used saunas the most (four to seven times per week) had a lower risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, and fatal cardiovascular disease. Incredibly, increased sauna use was also associated with lower all-cause mortality.
Nitric oxide, a vasodilator, increases during a sauna, which may be one reason that sauna lowers blood pressure. Using the sauna twice weekly for three months decreased blood pressure in hypertensive men similar to taking blood pressure-lowering medication.
Exercise is often advised for patients with high blood pressure, but combining sauna use with exercise for eight weeks lowered diastolic blood pressure 1.8 times greater and systolic blood pressure 3.3 times greater than exercise alone.
Sauna use increases our white blood cells, in just one sauna session. White blood cells fight infections from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens and are important to preventing illness.
- reduced fatigue, anxiety, and depression in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia with increased sauna use.
- improved relaxation and mental complaints in patients with depression.
- improved insulin sensitivity.