Do you need a reset? You can experience that energizing renewal the second you smell that deep, woody scent of a sauna. After a few moments of breathing, stretching and reflecting in the dry heat, you’ll sweat out all the frustrations of the day and emerge from the dimly lit room with a calm and recharged mindset.
Many health and wellness enthusiasts swear by regular sauna sits for a healthier, happier and longer life. From creating more natural energy to jumpstarting effective brain activity, sauna-ing can improve multiple aspects of your life – if you’re willing to sweat it out!
Here is everything you need to know before hitting the sauna.
What is a Sauna?
A sauna is a small room that offers a heated environment to increase body temperature and stimulate sweating. The concept of a sauna was developed in Finland over 2000 years ago as a bathing alternative. Finnish women would even use saunas as a sterile environment to give birth! However, people have used heat therapy worldwide, from Turkish baths to Indigenous sweat lodges to Russian Banyas. From all corners of the globe, humans have come to the same realization – that relaxing in high heat can offer significant internal and external health benefits.
Saunas were used to cleanse the body and take solace from the freezing winter temps. At this time, saunas were small log cabins with a fire built in the middle, making for a toasty (but very smoky) little room. Luckily, saunas have come a long way since the first iteration 2000 years ago, with several improvements to the model that don’t include inhaling smoke. There are now several types of saunas that offer distinct benefits and experiences.
Types of Saunas
Outdoor Sauna: Usually found in colder areas, outdoor saunas are a tiny paradise perfect for escaping the chilly winter air. Outdoor saunas leverage electric heaters, wood fires, sauna stones or a wood-burning heater to create bursts of heat in the insulated room. Some resemble tiny wood cabins, others may look a bit more modern with a glass wall or windows – but most all outdoor saunas will be made primarily from eucalyptus, basswood or cedar.
Barrel Sauna: A Barrel sauna is a creatively shaped sauna that uses the room’s curvature to boost the heat’s effectiveness. Let’s get scientific – heat rises! The barrel-on-its-side shape of this sauna allows the upper heat to be easily guided down the sides and back into the sauna as new heat rises from the heater. This cyclical heating process conserves and maximizes full-room warmth.
Steam Sauna: A steam sauna, also known as a steam room, uses a different type of heat to boost internal and external healing. Steam saunas tend to have lower heat, but the high humidity can make the experience feel more intense. Often accompanied by scent therapy and highly-concentrated steam users tend to stay in steam rooms for shorter amounts of time.
Indoor Sauna: Indoor saunas are very similar to outdoor saunas but don’t require venturing into the cold to get a sweat on. Private indoor saunas are often much smaller than outdoor ones and may only fit one individual. Public indoor saunas, like the ones you’ll find at gyms, can accommodate many more people at once.
Infrared Sauna: Infrared saunas offer relatively new heat therapy technology through infrared lamps and electromagnetic technology to quickly and efficiently generate heat. The difference is that this heat is at a lower temperature so that users can use the sauna for longer.
Why Should You Sauna?
Besides being a chance to relax, unwind and dedicate precious time to yourself, regular sauna visits can have significant benefits.
Benefits of Saunas
Proven Medical Benefits: There have been many promising studies that have supported some incredibly interesting health benefits:
- Increased cardiovascular health
- Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Improved symptoms of arthritis and chronic joint pain and back pain
- Increased respiratory health
- Relief from symptoms of certain skin conditions
- Boosts immunity
- Relief from chronic headaches
It’s a Great Detox Option: When you sit in a sauna, you aren’t just sweating out water – you are getting rid of toxins that may have otherwise stuck around for a while.
Helps with Muscle Pain and Soreness: This heat therapy is excellent for tired, sore or tight muscles. The high temps offer a safe environment to gently stretch and loosen any finicky muscles for better flexibility.
Creates a Glow: Sweating out the dirt, oils and pollutants from the skin is a great way to rejuvenate healthy skin. As long as you hydrate well before and after your sauna sessions, this heat therapy is a great way to promote skin health and a youthful glow.
Improved Sleep: Saunas are a great way to help you to improve your REM cycle and catch some ZZZs.
Offers a Mental Health Boost: From reducing stress to promoting relaxation to giving yourself some time, many people have improved their mental well-being through regular saunas.
Safety Tips for Saunas
Saunas are fantastic for your health, but only when you follow the safety best practices:
- If you have any significant health conditions, check with your doctor before spending extended time in a sauna.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Having enough water in your system can make or break your experience and results in a sauna
- Don’t stay in too long – the recommended length to stay in a sauna is 15-20 minutes, but some bodies may have different thresholds for the heat.
- Use the sauna as a chance to rest and avoid cardio or exercises in the sauna.
- Monitor your body – leave the sauna if you have any dizziness or negative symptoms.
Where Can You Sauna?
Not all of us can have private saunas on our property – so if you can’t buy a sauna or mooch off of a friend, you can still regularly experience the benefits of sauna-ing! Many standard gyms have a sauna or steam room you can enjoy. In addition, many spas exclusively offer steam room and sauna experiences. Especially if you live in a seasonal or chilly area, chances are there is always a rejuvenating sauna experience around the corner.
It’s time to get your sweat on! Need help finding a relaxing sauna in your area? Check out all of the facilities at your fingertips with ClassPass.