People have been enjoying saunas for thousands of years. Saunas offer tons of healthy benefits that can help you live well and feel great, which is why they’re still so popular today.
The heat of a sauna causes several healthy responses in the body like opening up pores, increased heart rate, and white blood cell production. Many studies have confirmed that these responses lead to healthy benefits like detoxifying your body, boosting your immune system, and reducing stress.
There’s a reason (a lot of them, actually) that you feel great when you use a sauna. They’re warm, quiet, relaxing, and inviting, and the reason saunas help you feel good inside and out is because they offer incredible health benefits. Here are 14 proven ways saunas improve your health and wellbeing.
How do Saunas Benefit Our Health?
To better understand all the health benefits offered by saunas, it’s helpful to know just how they affect our bodies. Their seemingly magical benefits come from their heat.
Saunas are very hot, with traditional saunas ranging from 150-195 degrees Fahrenheit (65-90 degrees Celsius) and infrared saunas reaching temperatures from 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit (49-60 degrees Celsius).
The hot temperature you’re basking in causes your internal temperature to rise. Your body has a precise cooling system in place to prevent you from overheating, and this kicks in as you kick back in the sauna.
- You begin to perspire. Sweating is a key function to vent excess internal heat.
- Your skin’s pores open wider to release perspiration.
- Your hormone production and circulation changes—you have more feel-good and less stress hormones circulating during this cooling process and for a period of time afterward.
- Your heart begins to work harder. Heart rate increases by about 30 percent and your blood vessels widen to increase blood circulation throughout your body.
- Your immune system begins to produce more illness-fighting white blood cells.
It is this sequence of changes that is responsible for the 14 healthy benefits we’re about to explore.
Research Supports the Health Benefits of Sauna Use
Many sauna users report feeling great because of their time in the sauna. People claim to feel better mentally and physically while relaxing in the sauna and immediately after their session. Many also tout long-term health benefits, boasting that they feel more energetic and have less pain.
Still others tell of significant improvements to their overall health, sharing their personal stories of lower blood pressure, easier breathing, sounder sleep, and more.
As it turns out, these aren’t just tall tales or rare benefits experience by only a small number of lucky sauna-goers. Hearing the health and wellness claims shared by sauna users around the world and throughout time, many scientists from a variety of disciplines have conducted studies to determine if and how sauna use can benefit our health.
Studies have been conducted worldwide for decades, and their findings have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the health benefits of sauna use.
Researchers at universities, government agencies, medical centers, and organizations specific to medical and mental health have conducted different types of studies and have provided scientific evidence to back up people’s claims that saunas enhance our health and wellbeing, including reputable sources as:
- Alternative Medicine Review
- American Journal of Psychotherapy
- Annals of Clinical Research
- Brain Research
- European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
- European Journal of Epidemiology
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- Journal of Environmental and Public Health
- Journal of Human Kinetics
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings
- Sanford University
- University of Iowa
- University of Eastern Finland
- U.S. Army Medical Research
Scientific research indeed supports sauna use for better health. It’s important to note, though, that these are general benefits.
Each person is different, and it’s wise to check with your doctor to ensure that doing so is safe and heathy for you and any underlying medical conditions you may have.
14 Health Benefits of Sauna Use
After listening to sauna users and examining research findings, we’re confident that saunas improve your health in many ways. Without further ado, here are 14 healthy benefits of sauna use.
1. Saunas Detoxify Your Body
We’re exposed to unhealthy toxins every day in the food we eat, beverages we drink, air we breathe, and materials we come into contact with. Poisonous substances like nickel, copper, mercury, bromine, fluorine, chlorine, and perchlorate build up in the body and can harm our mental and physical health.
A build-up of toxins in our system is linked to immune system dysfunction, digestive issues, heart problems, high blood pressure, thyroid diseases, pain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and mood disorders.
The increased circulation of blood through your body carries toxins to your opened pores, where they’re eliminated with your sweat. Saunas offer a safe and natural detoxification for your whole body.
2. Using the Sauna Boosts Your Immunity
When you sit in the sauna, your immune system kicks into high gear, producing more illness-fighting white blood cells, basophils, neutrophils, and lymphocytes.
This helps you fight viruses that cause colds and flus. It can help your body fight bacterial and fungal infections, too. Your sauna sweat itself assists your immune system.
Sweat isn’t plain old ordinary moisture. Perspiration contains macrophages and dermcidin, powerful germ-killing substances. Sweat not only cools you off and carries away toxins, it also kills germs and can help you stay healthy.
3. Sauna Use Is Linked to Better Heart Health
When you sit in the sauna, you are exercising your heart. Recall that the heart beats faster due to the intense heat. This helps it stay in shape and operate more efficiently when you’re out of the sauna going about your daily life.
Studies have indicated that regular sauna use reduces the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. It can even reduce the risk of sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
4. Sauna use Contributes to Lower Blood Pressure
Sauna use has been demonstrated to be linked to lower blood pressure.
It can even be as effective as blood pressure medication, and it’s more natural than medication, too. (Never stop medication without your doctor’s approval and assistance.)
Because of the workout your entire cardiovascular system gets inside the sauna, it causes your blood vessels to become stronger and more efficient. Also, sauna use reduces stress hormones like cortisol. Stress is often a cause of high blood pressure.
5. Sauna Use is Good for Your Lungs and Respiratory System
Regular sauna use benefits the lungs. Saunas improve your breathing efficiency and rate and increase lung capacity in part by enlarging blood vessels in your respiratory system.
Sauna use also reduces inflammation and congestion in the lungs and entire respiratory tract.
The heat of the sauna and your body’s response to it can lessen risk of getting respiratory infections like the cold, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. Further, sauna use can reduce the symptoms of these ailments if you have them already.
Using a sauna can improve serious lung and respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and chronic bronchitis.
All of these respiratory benefits mean better blood flow through your entire body, a greater supply of blood rich in oxygen and other nutrients, and more efficient removal of toxins.
6. Saunas Boost Brain Health
Sauna use increases blood flow to your brain, enriching its supply of nutrients and oxygen and carrying away toxins. It improves hormonal production and activity within the brain, too.
One of the many hormones positively impacted by sauna use is brain-derived neurotrophic hormone (BDNF). This is a hormone found in your brain, nervous system, and gut that plays a key role in memory, learning, other neurotransmitter functioning, and overall mental health.
Because regular sauna use boosts the production of the hormone prolactin, saunas help the brain and nervous system repair myelin sheaths, the coating around nerve cells.
Sauna use not only helps daily brain functioning—it can prevent serious illnesses, too. Regular sauna use has been shown to help reduce the risk of different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Get a Mental Health Boost from Your Sauna
While brain health refers to the proper functioning of the physical organ that is the brain, mental health refers to your mind—your thoughts, emotions, and mood. Regular sauna use improves many aspects of mental health.
Sauna goers often experienced reduced anxiety and depression.
Saunas can even improve attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because they increase levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter necessary for focus and concentration.
8. Saunas Make Your Skin Look and Feel Better
As circulation to your pores increases, your skin is revitalized. Perspiration is cleansing in nature, and combined with boosted blood flow, saunas can make your skin healthier.
Sauna use can reduce rashes and blemishes, too. If you follow up your session with a shower to rinse off any residue, saunas help your skin look and feel healthier, smoother, and softer.
9. Saunas Can Reduce Pain and Headaches
Courtesy of increased blood circulation, more nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood flows through your entire system. Additionally, sauna heat causes the feel-good hormones known as endorphins to rise and circulate throughout your body.
As muscles and joints are better nourished in this way, damage can be repaired and inflammation reduced.
Sauna use has been shown to decrease the ordinary aches and pains of daily life as well as chronic pain from conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, spondylitis, and sports-related or other injuries. Sauna use is also tied to headache relief.
Many regular sauna-goers experience fewer and less intense tension headaches and migraines.
10. Saunas Reduce Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that easily attach to other molecules in your body, resulting in cellular changes and damage.
As your body responds to the sauna, the number of free radicals is reduced so that there is a healthier balance with antioxidants in your system. This helps reduce the risk of many illnesses and diseases and promotes healthier overall functioning in your body.
11. Saunas Help You Recover from Exercise or Injury
Hopping in the sauna after a workout or as part of your efforts to recovery from injury can speed up your body’s healing process. Increased circulation helps deliver more nutrients to every cell in your body.
Not only that, sauna use promotes an 200-300 percent increase in your body’s production of growth hormones, too. This stimulates repair and promotes new tissue growth and development.
12. Sauna Use Helps Reduce Stress
Your body’s response to the sauna is mentally and physically healing and stress reducing. Your nervous system down-regulates, giving the fight-or-flight reaction of the sympathetic nervous system a break and activating the rest-and-digest response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Your body slows its production of the infamous stress hormone cortisol.
Excess cortisol flooding the body over time contributes to depression, anxiety, and a host of physical illnesses including autoimmune disorders and heart disease. Regular sauna use helps keep this destructive stress hormone in check.
The sauna environment and how you experience it are also incredibly stress-relieving. The relaxing, calm, quiet environment helps you unwind. It nurtures the amygdala, an emotional center in the brain, to help you feel centered and de-stressed.
13. Saunas Promote Better Sleep
Sauna use helps your body let go of tension and unwind, helping you sleep better at night. The body’s response to the sauna also mimics its natural circadian rhythm—a rising temperature through the day and gradual cooling in the evening—which induces natural sleep.
Using an infrared sauna in the evening may be especially beneficial to sleep. The infrared light stimulates your brain’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Whatever type of sauna you use, the relaxing environment and healing work it does can help you get the quality sleep you need and crave.
14. Sauna Use Gives You an Energy Boost
People who use saunas regularly tend to experience less fatigue and greater energy. This increased sense of vitality comes in part from an increase in the hormone epinephrine, which is produced in response to sauna heat. This hormone helps prevent low blood pressure that can make you feel tired and listless.
The fact that saunas offer so many health benefits and improve sleep also contributes to better energy for moving through daily life. Together, all the healthy benefits of sauna use can make you feel vibrant and empowered to live your best life.