Posted on May 13, 2019, 7 p.m.
Originating in Finland sauna bathing is relaxing way to unwind and reduce stress, and according to a study from the University of Eastern Finland spending time in a dry sauna may also help to boost cardiovascular health, as published in the journal BMC Medicine.
Earlier research focused on benefits for men, this study was the first of its kind to show the health benefits from sauna bathing can be enjoyed regardless of gender. Although it remains unknown as to why saunas are linked to these health benefits frequent saunas are linked to reduced risk of fatal cardiovascular events and all cause mortality, says Tanjaniina Laukkanen.
Using the KIHD Study occurrence of cardiovascular disease incidence was analyzed among 1,688 participants between the ages of 53-74, who were initially examined between 1998 and 2001 with regular follow up visits afterwards. Participants reported sauna habits including how often they went each week, for how long, and the temperature of the sauna room. Participants were divided into groups based on frequency: those who went once per week; 2-3 times per week; and those who went 4-7 times per week.
181 fatal cardiovascular disease events occurred during close to 15 years of follow up, those who used saunas more frequently were found to be less likely to die. Lowest risk of CVD related mortality was found to be in the group who took sauna baths 4-7 times per week, those who only went once per week had close to 4 times as many deaths as the group of more frequent users. Those who took longer sauna baths of 45 minutes+ per session were also found to have had better outcomes in terms of cardiovascular related mortality.
Heat therapy benefits various systems of the body, such as when a person is sick they develop of fever because the heat helps their body fight the infection better, according to Dr. Cindy Grines of the Zucker School of Medicine, who adds that saunas offered the greatest benefits when used 4-7 times per week but this is a frequency most Americans are unlikely to achieve.
While sauna bathing is common and culturally significant in Finland, these findings present several challenges for Americans as dry saunas are for the majority only found in gyms or day spas in the USA.
Saunas are generally safe but those who are pregnant, as well as those with a heart condition, previous heart attack history, or other heart related medical events should consult a medical professional to determine if a sauna bath is safe for them.
When taking a sauna it is recommended not to drink alcohol before, during, or after; stay hydrated with water. Heat from a sauna can lower blood pressure, and may cause dizziness when standing; as such stand slowly and be aware of surroundings, try lifting your legs while in the sauna to promote blood flow, and try to drink 2 glasses of water before/after each sauna. Start at a lower temperature, and shorter time to gradually work your way up. Additionally be sure to cool down at room temperature and avoid extreme temperature changes.
Materials provided by:
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement