When someone enters a sauna, the increased temperature causes an elevation in heart rate and also increases circulation. Blood vessels and the body become more flexible, and the metabolism also increases. These physiological reactions to a sauna have a number of positive health impacts on the body, especially with routine sauna use.
The increased circulation which results from regular sauna use benefits the extremities and the skin. A sauna also opens the pores of the skin to help the body express toxins, carried out in the sweat which results from the high temperature. Taking a sauna can help to stave off cold symptoms, relieve sore muscles, and awaken the body while simultaneously reducing feelings of stress and unhappiness. Frequent sauna bathers often say that they feel more at peace and relaxed after sitting in a sauna, and some take that opportunity to meditate so that the sensation is increased.
Traditionally, people alternate hot and cold when they use sauna. Most people stay in the sauna for 10-20 minutes before stepping out and taking a cold shower or plunge to close the pores. The body is allowed to rest outside the sauna for the same amount of time that it was inside before another round of sauna commences. This reduces stress on the body as the result of the heat, and also allows the bather time to drink water and relax.
There are some cautions to sauna use: sauna bathers should drink plenty of water before, during, and after the sauna experience, and should refrain from alcohol use. If dizziness or nausea are experienced in a sauna, the bather should get out immediately and cool down. Use of a sauna may be contraindicated for people who have medical issues like high or low blood pressure, heart disease, or pregnancy. If you are unsure about whether taking a sauna is safe for you, consult your doctor.
Sauna Health Benefits : Are saunas healthy or harmful?
A sauna’s dry heat (which can get as high as 185°F) has profound effects on the body. Skin temperature soars to about 104°F within minutes. The average person will pour out a pint of sweat during a short stint in a sauna. The pulse rate jumps by 30% or more, allowing the heart to nearly double the amount of blood it pumps each minute. Most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin; in fact, the circulation actually shunts blood away from the internal organs. Blood pressure is unpredictable, rising in some people but falling in others.
The November issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch explains how these changes may influence a man’s health.
“All in all, saunas appear safe for the body, but there is little evidence that they have health benefits above and beyond muscle relaxation and a feeling of well-being,” says Dr. Harvey Simon, editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. However, heart patients should check with their doctors before taking a sauna. Studies show them to be safe for people with stable coronary artery disease. “But patients with poorly controlled blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, unstable angina, and advanced heart failure or heart valve disease will probably be advised to stay cool,” says Dr. Simon.
He suggests that sauna users follow these simple precautions:
- Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair sweating and produce overheating before and after your sauna.
- Stay in no more than 15–20 minutes.
- Cool down gradually afterward.
- Drink two to four glasses of cool water after each sauna.
- Don’t take a sauna when you are ill, and if you feel unwell during your sauna, head for the door.