A fixture of old Finnish culture, the sauna is a potential healing location by both traditional and modern scientific standards.
After a hot and sweaty workout, it may not be too tempting to jump into a sweltering steam bath. However, saunas and steam baths can have many health benefits for active people. Some recent evidence also indicates that a post-exercise stint in the steam bath or sauna can improve performance for endurance athletes.
Saunas Vs. Steam Baths
вЂњSaunasвЂќ and вЂњsteam baths,вЂќ though sometimes referenced interchangeably, are different in two important ways: heat and humidity. While a sauna tends to indicate a room that is dry heated to a temperature of 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, a steam bath or вЂњsteam roomвЂќ operates at a lower heat of 110 to 120 degrees F and indicates a high level of humidity. Both have similar effects on the body.
The effects of steam baths after exercise have not been extensively studied or documented in an academic capacity. However, a study published in 2007 by the вЂњJournal of Science in Medicine and SportвЂќ showed improved long-term performance among endurance athletes who sat in a steam bath after running to exhaustion. The runners who sat in the steam bath after working out had increased plasma and red blood cell volume compared to the control group.
Weight-loss claims and assertions of detoxification results from saunas and steam baths abound in popular culture. However, according to Columbia University's вЂњColumbia HealthвЂќ program, neither correlation is substantiated with scientific evidence. Sitting in the sauna or steam bath does help you lose salt through sweat. The heat can also help your muscles relax. A 2001 report from the вЂњAmerican Journal of MedicineвЂќ indicates that the physiological benefits with at least some scientific evidence behind them include alleviation of joint and rheumatic pain and short-term relief from symptoms associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis. Long-term sauna or steam bath exposure may help people with high blood pressure or certain heart problems.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day beforehand, and adequately hydrate after. In steam baths, there's a risk of infection from contact with warm, moist surfaces. According to the вЂњAmerican Journal of Medicine,вЂќ the consumption of alcohol while bathing in a sauna increases the chance of hypotension, heart problems and sudden death. People with heart problems or blood pressure issues and pregnant women should consult with their doctor before entering a sauna or a steam bath.