There are many claims about the health benefits of saunas. They are supposed to be good for losing weight, cleansing the body of toxins, lowering cholesterol, relieving the symptoms of arthritis and treating respiratory problems like bronchitis and laryngitis. Sounds like a miracle cure, doesn’t it? Some of these claims may be exaggerated, but others may have sound scientific foundations. Let’s take a closer look.
There are plenty of weight loss programs that suggest saunas are an effective way to lose weight. They point to the fact that when you are in a sauna your heart rate increases and the body is working to cool itself. You may hear a figure of 300 to 500 calories burned during a 30 minute sauna session.
It is true that the heart rate increases during a sauna, and it is also true that you are burning calories because of that. But during a regular exercise session your body is using many muscles – in a sauna the heart is the only muscle being exerted.
Building and toning muscles is more important for weight loss than exerting your heart. The bottom line is: If you want to lose weight, do some exercise. A sauna afterwards is a bonus, but it will not help much in your weight loss program.
Saunas rid the body of toxins. This claim is made by many sauna manufacturers and retailers and it is also a commonly held belief among sauna enthusiasts. The fact is there is no scientific evidence that toxins such as heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) or other such toxins are eliminated from the body by sauna use. These kinds of claims are heard more in relation to Infrared saunas than traditional saunas, but either way, there’s no evidence for it.
This is another dubious claim put forward by many sauna retailers. Taking regular saunas is supposed to reduce cholesterol without any change in the diet. There is no scientific evidence for this.
Are There Any Real Sauna Benefits?
After looking at some of the quackery associated with saunas one might be tempted to write off any claims of therapeutic value. Don’t be so fast – there are real benefits to taking saunas and their use can be part of a regular health regime.
During a sauna the heart rate increases and the blood vessels dilate to accommodate the increased blood flow. Blood flow to the skin increases and heavy sweating is induced. The nasal passages open allowing the sinuses to drain.
The heat experienced in saunas can have real health benefits. Arthritic and rheumatic patients will feel less pain and experience greater joint mobility. This effect, though, will pass once the sauna is finished. Athletes can benefit from a sauna before working out because the heat causes the joints and muscles to be more flexible.
Probably the biggest health benefit of saunas is the relaxation they induce. Our modern lives are filled with stress and the accumulated affects of stress can be the root of many health problems. Saunas are relaxing and calming and provide a great way to unwind at the end of the day. A sauna before bed promotes deep sleep – necessary for the body to rejuvenate and recuperate.
People with health problems should consult with their doctors before using saunas but for most the sauna is safe and beneficial when taken in moderation.
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