Saunas have been used for hundreds of years. Do they really improve your health?
Different types of saunas include traditional Finnish saunas with dry heat, wood-burning saunas, electric saunas with low humidity, infrared saunas with lamps as a heat source, and steam rooms with high humidity.
No matter the type of sauna, the effects on the body are similar. While in the sauna, skin temperature can increase to 40 degrees celsius (104 degrees fahrenheit). A pint of sweat can be lost even in a short stay in a sauna. The heart rate rises and blood vessels dilate (widen), which increases circulation. The increased circulation may improve arthritis pain and help with relaxation.
A study in Finland studied men over a 20-year period. It found that men who used a sauna four or more times a week had a 63 percent lower chance of sudden cardiac death than those who only used it once a week.
Another study in Finland found that men who used a sauna four or more times a week had a 65 percent lower risk of dementia and of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some important precautions for using a sauna are being sure you are well hydrated, not drinking alcohol if using a sauna, and not jumping into a cold pool after sitting in the sauna. There is no evidence that saunas “detoxify” the body, and saunas do not help with long-term weight loss.