The Science Behind Saunas: Benefits and Optimal Use for Athletes
Saunas - A Cultural Heritage and a Therapeutic Practice
Saunas have been a part of the cultural tradition in Russia and neighboring countries for centuries. They are known as banyas in Russia and are believed to have healing properties. People visit saunas to relax, detoxify, and socialize with friends and family.
Scientific Evidence of Sauna Benefits
From a scientific perspective, saunas have been found to have numerous health benefits. Here are some of the most notable benefits of using saunas:
Lowered Blood Pressure: Sauna use can help to lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke (1).
Reduced Stress: Saunas are known to have a calming effect on the body, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation (2).
Improved Cardiovascular Function: Regular sauna use has been shown to improve cardiovascular function, increasing heart rate variability and reducing the risk of heart disease (3).
Stimulated Immune System: Sauna use can stimulate the immune system, helping the body fight off illnesses and infections (4).
Improved Sleep Quality: Saunas have been found to improve sleep quality, helping people feel more rested and refreshed (5).
Reduced Pain and Inflammation: Saunas can help reduce pain and inflammation, which is especially beneficial for people with chronic conditions like arthritis (6).
Temperature and Duration for Optimal Benefits
Research indicates that the temperature and duration of sauna use play a crucial role in achieving the health benefits associated with it. Here are some key factors to consider:
Temperature: The ideal temperature for a sauna session is typically considered to be between 75°C and 100°C, with a relative humidity of around 10% to 20% (7).
Duration: Most studies suggest that sauna sessions of around 15-30 minutes are optimal for achieving the desired effects (8). However, individuals who are new to sauna use should begin with shorter sessions to allow their bodies to acclimate to the heat gradually.
Frequency: Regular sauna use, at least once a week, has been found to provide the most significant benefits (9).
In summary, saunas have a long-standing cultural tradition in Russia and neighboring countries, and scientific research supports their potential health benefits. Sauna use can help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve cardiovascular function, stimulate the immune system, improve sleep quality, and reduce pain and inflammation. The ideal temperature for a sauna session is typically between 75°C and 100°C, with a relative humidity of around 10% to 20%, and most studies suggest that sessions of around 15-30 minutes are optimal for achieving the desired effects. Finally, regular sauna use, at least once a week, has been found to provide the most significant benefits.
Do you enjoy using saunas? If so, what benefits have you noticed? Leave us a comment below...
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Ott MJ, Dizon J. The effect of sauna bathing on stress. Am J Psychother. 2006;60(4):43-51.
Laukkanen T, Kunutsor S, Kauhanen J, et al. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age Ageing. 2017;46(2):245-249.
Hannuksela ML, Ellahham S. Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. Am J Med. 2001;110(2):118-126.
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Laatikainen T, Salminen K, Kohvakka A, et al. Regular sauna bathing and the incidence of common colds. Ann Med. 1990;22(4):225-227.
Hussain J, Cohen M. Clinical effects of regular dry sauna bathing: A systematic review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1857413.
Beever R. Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors: summary of published evidence. Can Fam Physician. 2009;55(7):691-696.