Updated: Oct 26
The sauna has been a tradition for hundreds of years in many cultures. Now, modern medicine confirms the benefits many generations have known.
The following article is an expanded transcript of the informative video published by the Practical Health channel: Sauna: 7 Benefits of Sauna or Why Sauna is Great for Health.
We recommend this video for the concise yet thorough discussion of the main benefits of sauna usage. However, this video is PACKED with important facts – so much data that you can’t absorb it in real time. In addition, Andrey is a sincere sauna advocate, but some viewers may miss important points due to his accent.
We invite you to watch the original video below, and follow along with this written article:
Today, we’ll talk about one of my favorite topics - the sauna! It’s a favorite for many people who grew up in Eastern Europe, Nordic countries, and much of Asia, where steaming and bathing have long been a key part of improving health and speeding recovery after a long day.
Different cultures use different names. The most famous is probably the classic Finnish dry sauna. Finland is actually known for its love of saunas - the country is estimated to have 2 million of them for a population of 5.5 million people. Pretty impressive, right?
Then there’s the steam room, the Turkish hammam, the Russian banya, the Japanese sento, and many others. New types of saunas are actually still being developed today, like the infrared sauna. They differ in temperature, humidity, and in general setting, but all different types have one common goal - to warm your body.
In this video, we’ll discuss the benefits of regular sauna usage or, medically speaking, the effects of hyperthermal conditioning. Afterwards, you’ll better understand how using a sauna can improve your health, and why you should add this activity to your weekly routine.
Hi, Andrey here, welcome to the Practical Health channel!
If I asked you what a long run and a trip to the sauna have in common, you’d probably answer that both make you sweat. You are right, this is true. But did you know that using a sauna or steam room yields similar benefits to cardiovascular exercise? As a matter of fact, saunas and steam rooms positively affect several systems in your body, yielding great health benefits. So, what are they?
#1. Great workout for the heart and blood vessels.
First, using the sauna is a great workout for the heart and blood vessels. When you enter the sauna room, your body temperature begins to rise and so does your heart rate, like during exercise. When you leave to do something else, like use a swimming pool, the opposite occurs – body temperature falls and heart rate decreases. And because your blood vessels expand and contract more than normal, they receive a great workout as well.
Studies have actually found that men who use a sauna 4 to 7 times per week are about 47% less likely to develop hypertension. So, the circulatory system with its 100,000 kilometers of blood vessels is one of the biggest beneficiaries of a sauna visit.
#2 Drainage of the lymphatic system.
Using a sauna or steam room also helps the lymphatic system to drain toxins from the body, like mercury, cadmium, and lead. Think of exposing your body to the heat of a sauna a bit like exposing a dirty dish to hot water. You can get the job done without the heat, but with it, clean up becomes a lot easier.
#3 Rest for the kidneys
Next, the sauna gives the kidneys a well-deserved rest, so your urinary system will thank you, too. Meanwhile, the toxins the kidneys would normally filter are removed by about 3 million sweat glands. And research has shown that some heavy metals like mercury are actually removed from the body more efficiently via sweat than via the kidneys!
#4 Skin rejuvenation
The skin benefits as well because saunas and steam rooms enhance collagen production. The result is strengthened skin and rejuvenated complexion. Increased heat also helps the skin clear itself of dead cells while promoting the growth of newer, healthier ones in their place.
#5 Muscle recovery and growth
Moving on, the sauna also provides great benefits to muscles. Heat therapy has been shown to increase the production of heat shock proteins, which repair damaged proteins in our bodies and provide protection against oxidative damage. Exposure to heat also causes a spike in Human Growth Hormone, which leads to muscle growth. That’s right, using a sauna or steam room could help you get bigger muscles! (Note: not the sauna alone, but HGH paired with the intake of muscle-building proteins in the diet.)
#6 Endorphin release and mood elevation
Keep moving, the sauna is great for our brain and the nervous system in general. Using a sauna releases endorphins, which cause an elevated mood, meaning they make you happier. It also causes higher activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to increased Heart Rate Variability, or HRV. This metric measures the difference in time between individual heartbeats. Those with higher HRV are more likely to be in good health and have been shown to be in better cardiovascular shape than those with lower HRV.
#7 Reduced inflammation and longer lifespan
There’s one more important benefit that can be gained from long-term sauna usage - reduced inflammation. Sauna usage decreases the level of C-reactive protein or CRP, a marker of systemic inflammation. High levels of CRP, meaning high levels of inflammation, could have an adverse effect on immunity. While lower levels of CRP are associated with less systemic inflammation. The result is better overall health and an increased lifespan.
Summary: the Health Benefits of the Sauna
Using a sauna or steam room regularly can lead to:
• Better blood circulation,
• Support for the lymphatic system,
• More efficient removal of toxins,
• Better skin,
• Bigger muscles,
• Better mood,
• Reduced inflammation, leading to an overall longer lifespan.
Negative effects of the sauna
But to be clear, not every body system necessarily benefits from this activity. For example, a trip to the sauna on a full stomach may cause discomfort. When in the sauna, blood is diverted away from the internal organs to the skin. Research shows that about 60% of the body's blood flow is redistributed from the core to the skin to facilitate sweating.
When this occurs, the internal organs operate with less efficiency, and digestive functions are essentially put on hold for the duration of the session. So, I recommend that you avoid eating for at least 2 to 3 hours before your sauna visit.
And food is what brings us to our next point: you may be wondering whether or not a sauna will help you lose weight. You’ve probably heard that it’s possible to “sweat it out.” But is it actually the case?
Not really. While using a sauna may help you shed water weight by sweating, you’ll quickly get it back soon after your visit. Actually, adipose tissue or simply fat is only about 10% water, while muscle tissue consists of about 75% water. (As noted above, sauna usage DOES increase blood circulation and stimulate muscle repair. In combination, an increase in metabolism and a reduction in muscle soreness contributes to more calories burned – the single most important factor in weight loss).
Saunas and steam rooms are great for your health! But if you’ve never used one before, they can take some getting-used-to. And, as a disclaimer, you probably shouldn’t use the sauna if you’ve experienced regular dizziness, kidney problems, acute infections, heart disease, or heart failure.
If you have any concerns, please consult your doctor.
And that’s it for today! By the way, recently, there has been an exponential increase in the number of published research papers related to hyperthermal conditioning. I’m sure the coming years will offer plenty of interesting insights. In one of the next videos, I’ll share some of my personal sauna experiences, so that you can better understand how to get the most out of your sauna or steam room visit.
The Great Out There is pleased to provide this information summarizing the many benefits of saunas. We have enjoyed saunas for years, including many sub-zero nights in the far North. We have found nothing erases the soreness and stiffness of a hard day’s work – or the exertion of sled dog racing – like a hot sauna, followed by a cold plunge. Stay tuned for more insights into the benefits of the sauna.
See the SHOP section at GreatOutThere.online for portable sauna tents, wood and propane stoves. NOW you can enjoy the benefits of a sauna in your backyard - or ANYWHERE!