Saunas have become tremendously popular among trendy and upscale gyms in the past few years. In fact, I have friends who chose their gym based on access to a sauna, crazy or clever? Personally, I used the sauna as a place to warm up after a chilly walk to the gym before my workout, clever. However, I recently took my own five-day challenge to use the sauna every day (middle of summer) after my workout for twenty minutes, crazy. I wanted to see if I noticed any benefits or losses to using a sauna consistently. Before I go into my own short-term sauna report, I wanted to discuss the medicinal pros and cons of using a sauna.
The sauna culture is most popular in the country of Finland, where it is not uncommon to find a sauna in people’s home. In fact, there are almost as many saunas as there are people in Finland. Therefore, most of the research on sauna benefits takes place in Finland. A large study in Finland followed over two thousand men who used a sauna on a regular basis over a thirty-year span. The study was able to find a correlation between a lower risk of cardiovascular related disease and death with regular sauna use by the men. The exact reason is unclear, however, the idea of increased blood circulation combined with the stress relief/relaxation component of using a sauna are likely contributors. Other reported benefits of the sauna include improved acne, decreased asthma exacerbations, and decreased joint pain and weight loss. The risks of using a sauna include fatigue, dehydration and syncope.
Now back to my own five-day sauna experience. I can honestly say I saw both positive and negatives. After the five days I noticed my skin was very clear, however my pores were more noticeable. I felt less bloated, but more dehydrated. I mentally enjoyed decompressing for twenty minutes after my workout, but I did cut my workouts a bit short to make time for the sauna. I felt less muscle tightness and less sore but overall felt more tired throughout the day. Basically, just like everything else in life, moderation is key. I will continue to use the sauna 3-4 times a week for 10-20 minutes. If I plan to step into the sauna, I will be sure to replace the fluid I lose with an extra bottle of water. I hope you can enjoy the experience and feel motivated to give the sauna a try!