Genuine Physical Health Benefits of Saunas

With so many off shore companies perpetuating inflated and even flat out false health claims associated with saunas, we thought an article about the genuine health benefits would be appropriate and helpful for anyone who might be anticipating adopting a sauna bathing regimen.

First let’s start with what saunas DON’T do.

A sauna will not help you lose weight. The only weight lost in a sauna is water weight. You regain this weight as soon as your rehydrate yourself. Failure to rehydrate can lead to dehydration, which is very dangerous. In severe cases it can even be deadly – remember the guy who died at the World Sauna Championships, or the people who lost their lives in the makeshift sauna in Arizona?

Contrary to even more widely held views; a sauna likely doesn’t really do too much in the way of detoxification, either, at least not through the process of perspiration. This article from Discovery Health does a good job at explaining the role of perspiration in the human body. From the article, “…all sweat contains the same primary ingredients: mostly water, some sodium and chloride, and to a lesser extent, potassium. Though you do lose electrolytes when you sweat, perspiration contains only trace amounts of any type of toxins.”

Many people, even health professionals, swear by the detoxification effects of a sauna, but the scientific data suggests that if there is detoxification, it’s not happening through perspiration. It would be easy enough to test the sweat of sauna bathers, which should contain considerable amounts of toxins if sauna detoxification is true. The lack of this seemingly easy to gather data leads us to believe this is just another one of those myths that so easily circulate the internet.

This brings us to the real, true, genuine health benefits of traditional Scandinavian style saunas.

Although detoxification doesn’t really happen in a sauna from perspiration, sweating can help clean out your pores, making your skin cleaner and clearer. If this is one of the benefits you seek from sauna bathing, you should wash your skin after your sauna bath. A cool shower (or cold plunge if you’re a serious sauna user – click here for a list of sauna words and their meanings) will not only wash away the impurities that perspiring pushed out of your pores, but will help close them to keep other dirt and debris out.

Another benefit of sauna use is an increase in circulation. This increase can provide a healthy, low impact workout for your circulatory system. Please keep in mind this isn’t the kind of work out that would make you shed pounds, though, and before you frequent a sauna you should check with your doctor if you have any kind of health issues that might preclude sauna bathing.

The environment in the sauna also induces the extra blood we all have circulating in our bodies to flow towards and nourish muscle tissue and might even help to detoxify these tissues, though this process would still be completed in the same way as the body would normally expel toxins – through the liver and kidneys. Regardless, no one disputes the therapeutic effect that moist heat can have on sore tired muscles.

Aside from these physical benefits, you can’t overlook the benefit that relaxation and “unwinding” can have on your mind, body and spirit. Many people use sauna bathing as a way to relax and mentally recharge. This can help you deal with every day stresses, and generally improve your day-to-day outlook.

Lastly, in many cultures the sauna is a family affair. With no distractions such as television and smart phones, the sauna can easily become a place where you reconnect with your family and friends. It is a safe, healthy, wholesome, family friendly activity that can strengthen the bonds with those you love.

Please keep in mind all the benefits listed above are for traditional Scandinavian style saunas, and not the faux infrared enclosures that some manufacturers try to pass off as saunas. True saunas will have a sauna stove that contains rocks upon which you can sprinkle water, adding humidity to your sauna environment.

Infrared enclosures simply have heating elements similar to a common space heater embedded in their walls, which heat the space to only a fraction of the traditional temperature of a sauna. They have no rocks and can be operated in dry mode only. Traditional saunas have been time tested in various cultures for centuries; infrared enclosures, on the other hand, are relatively new, and because of the lack of a real sauna environment, they really can’t lay claim to any of a genuine sauna’s actual benefits.