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Health Benefits of a Steam Room vs Sauna

Health Benefits Of A Steam Room Vs  Sauna

Some people love relaxing in steam rooms and saunas, while others don’t fancy getting all red-faced and hot in these sweat chambers. But here’s the thing — both saunas and steam rooms have health benefits. 

This article will talk about how your physical and mental health can benefit from a sauna or steam room session. We’ll also give you the lowdown on steam room vs. sauna — which is healthier?

What’s a sauna?

A sauna is a small room where you can experience extreme heat at temperatures in the range of 180-195°F. Sauna rooms are typically heated using wood, electricity, or gas, but there are also infrared saunas that use infrared light technology. 

All saunas are heated rooms that provide dry heat. The humidity levels in sauna rooms are low. That’s why many sauna rooms have hot rocks. Pouring boiling water over the heated rocks creates steam and helps to make the environment less dry. 

What are the health benefits of going to a sauna?

Regular use of a dry sauna can have many health benefits, such as:

Improving circulation

The dry heat in a sauna increases your core body temperature and heart rate, which helps to improve blood flow and keep your blood vessels healthy. Experts say that sitting in a sauna can increase the heart as much as walking at a regular pace on a treadmill. But while there are some cardiovascular health benefits to relaxing in a sauna, it’s not a replacement for physical activity. 

Lowering blood pressure

Peer-reviewed studies in Finland have found that regular use of saunas (at least four times a week for 20 minutes each time) can help to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of fatal heart problems, stroke, and dementia. However, doctors advise that people with uncontrolled blood pressure avoid sauna use as it can initially cause your blood pressure to go up.

Improving skin health

The heat in a sauna can help to generate detoxifying sweat, get rid of dead skin, and promote the growth of new, healthy skin cells. Using a sauna helps make the skin firmer, more elastic, and more robust, which is good for aesthetic reasons and overall skin health. Infrared sauna sessions can help repair broken skin tissue and speed up wound healing.

Relieving sore muscles and stiff joints

Sitting in a traditional Finnish sauna can help loosen and relax tense muscles and relieve soreness during workout recovery. Sauna sessions also help to relieve pain and joint stiffness.

Relieving stress

Saunas are a great place to socialize and relax. Heat therapy during sauna sessions reduces stress levels and improves mood. Indeed, in Scandinavian culture, a sauna session is a way to destress. Wellness professionals recommend using relaxing essential oils like eucalyptus oil to enhance the mental health benefits of sauna therapy.

Strengthening immunity

Using a dry sauna can indirectly boost immunity by providing stress relief. Some small studies have also shown that regular sauna usage can decrease inflammatory markers in the body, which trigger the immune system.

What’s a steam room? How is it different from a sauna?

A steam room is also a small heated room where you can experience a high ambient air temperature. However, there are two main differences between steam rooms and saunas. 

One, steam rooms are not as hot as saunas. The temperature in a traditional steam room is usually 100-120°F. 

Two, steam rooms provide wet heat and are much more humid than saunas (with nearly 100% humidity). Because of this, the heat can feel more intense in a steam room even though it’s not as hot as a sauna.

What are some steam room benefits?

Steam rooms expose you to moist heat and have many of the same health benefits as saunas. This includes improved blood flow, less pain and joint stiffness, muscular relaxation, and relief from delayed onset muscle soreness after workouts. Like saunas, steam rooms also help to reduce stress

Other benefits of steam rooms are that warm condensation and steam therapy can relieve symptoms in people with respiratory problems like allergies and asthma. Many medications used to treat these health conditions can dry out the air passages. The humid air in steam rooms helps to moisturize the air passages and open up the lungs. If you’re congested, like a steamy shower, inhaling steam in a steam room can help clear the nasal passages and make breathing easier. 

Can saunas and steam rooms help with weight loss?

No, while the body heats up and burns calories in a traditional sauna room or steam room, this does not lead to any actual weight loss. You may lose a few pounds of water weight through sweat in both the sauna and the steam room.

Also, it’s a myth that you can detox in a sauna room or steam room after a night of drinking. While sweating can help the skin get rid of toxins, it does not get rid of something you’ve consumed, such as alcohol

What are some precautions while using a sauna or steam room?

The intense heat can quickly lead to dehydration, so it's important to stay well-hydrated around the time of your steam room or sauna session. You should come out of the room if you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy. 

Doctors also advise that people who have high blood pressure or a recent heart attack or cardiovascular event skip the sauna since it can increase your heart rate. 

In some European countries, nudity is acceptable in a public steam room or sauna. However, unless you have a private sauna or steam room, it’s advisable to wear a towel or sit on a towel since public facilities can be breeding grounds for germs. 

If you wish to remain clothed, wear natural fibers like cotton and loose-fitting clothes to get maximum benefits from steam rooms and saunas. 

How long should you sit in a steam room or sauna?

To get the benefits of steam rooms and saunas, use these facilities for 5-30 minutes at a time, 2-4 times a week. Take frequent breaks and drink water to stay hydrated. 

Sauna therapy vs steam therapy — which is better?

Both steam rooms and saunas have similar health benefits. You can use either a sauna or steam room (or both) according to your preference. However, it’s best to stick to a steam bath if you have respiratory conditions because it hydrates the air passages, whereas a sauna can dry them out even more. 

 

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sauna-use-linked-longer-life-fewer-fatal-heart-problems-201502257755
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908414/#