Everything You Need to Know About Sauna Health Benefits

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A huge thank you to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, otherwise known as Found My Fitness. Sign up for her email blast. Watch out for her Podcast and Youtube channel. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. She is full a valuable and forward thinking health related information.

Dr. Patrick recently released a huge overview of all the health benefits of frequent sauna use on her website. As you know, I am huge fan of the sauna and build into into my weekly exercise schedule.

I’ve hyperlinked a video summary above, as well as below, that discuss some of the topics in this article. I wanted to highlight some key takeaways below for those who are looking for the TL;DR version.

As a note, I prefer wet saunas to dry saunas, but dry is much more common, say at your local gym. Either one works as long as the temperature is 174 degrees or higher.

  • Sauna use “is an ancient practice, dating back thousands of years and observed across many cultures. Variations of its use are seen today in the banyas of Russia, the sweat lodges of the American Indians, and, most famously, the saunas of Finland.”
  • Recent studies “showed that men who used the sauna two to three times per week were 27 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes than men who didn’t use the sauna. Furthermore, the benefits they experienced were found to be dose-dependent: Men who used the sauna roughly twice as often, about four to seven times per week, experienced roughly twice the benefits – and were 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes. In addition, frequent sauna users were found to be 40 percent less likely to die from all causes of premature death. These findings held true even when considering age, activity levels, and lifestyle factors that might have influenced the men’s health.
  • Men who used the sauna two to three times per week had a 66 percent lower risk of developing dementia and a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared to men who used the sauna only one time per week.
  • Men[…] who used the sauna four to seven times per week were 77 percent less likely to develop psychotic disorders, regardless of the men’s dietary habits, socioeconomic status, physical activity, and inflammatory status.
  • Ideal heating levels in the sauna are “at 80°C to 90°C (176°F to 194°F) at the level of the user’s face”
  • In a dry sauna, the relative humidity is low (10 to 20 percent). The term “wet sauna” is a misnomer, however, referring to a steam sauna, where the humidity is extremely high (typically greater than 50 percent), which keeps sweat from evaporating. A wet sauna may feel (subjectively) hotter than a dry sauna and is harder on the cardiovascular system, due to the reduced evaporative cooling.
  • Finnish-style sauna bathing involves one to three sessions of heat exposure lasting five to 20 minutes each, interspersed with periods of cooling. Some cooling methods can be rather extreme and involve rolling in snow or immersing in cold water, which further stresses the cardiovascular system. Sauna poses little risk of cardiovascular complications in healthy people, however.

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