After an intense sweat sesh at the gym, you may be tempted to indulge in one of the gym’s amenities: the sauna. This is especially true since the benefits of using a sauna after a workout are widely rumored. Below, we’re sharing some facts about saunas so you can decide if turning up the heat is right for you.
WHAT IS A SAUNA?
First thing’s first: What is a sauna? The sauna most of us are familiar with is known as a dry sauna. This traditional type of sauna involves a room that’s made from softwood and uses a heater to bring the temperature up, heating the air around you, and thus your body in the process. Typically, temperatures start around 190 degrees in these types of saunas. Dry saunas have low humidity, hence the name dry.
Infrared saunas are another type of sauna. According to the Mayo Clinic, this type of sauna uses light to create heat, heating your body directly as opposed to the air around you. For those who can’t tolerate the heat of a traditional sauna, infrared saunas may be a good option, per the Mayo Clinic, as they produce similar results to dry saunas (more on those results below) at lower temperatures.
WHAT DOES A SAUNA DO?
Saunas are designed to heat your body in order to induce sweat. The Mayo Clinic explains that the general appeal of saunas is that they recreate similar bodily responses to those elicited by moderate exercise, specifically vigorous sweating and increased heart rate.
ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS TO SAUNAS?
It’s time for the question you’ve all been waiting for—what are some known benefits of using saunas? As it turns out, there are a few noteworthy benefits of using a dry sauna. That said, the Mayo Clinic states more research needs to be done to determine infrared sauna benefits.
To understand more about why dry saunas are often hyped, here are five sauna benefits backed up by research.
Sauna benefit #1. Psoriasis. According to a Harvard study, some patients with psoriasis reported relief from itching after spending time in the dry, hot air of a sauna. However, it’s important to note that while saunas may benefit patients with psoriasis, sweating may increase itching in patients with atopic dermatitis, according to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Sauna benefit #2. Skin moisture. A study from the NCBI found that saunas may improve skin moisture barrier properties.
Sauna benefit #3. Athletic performance. The same study found that saunas may also improve exercise performance in athletes. In fact, many athletes and individuals use saunas to help accelerate recovery and relaxation, according to another NCBI study.
Sauna benefit #4. Headaches. If you suffer from bad headaches, spending some time in a sauna might help. Per the NCBI, one study found that patients diagnosed with chronic tension headaches reported a 44% reduction in headache intensity within six weeks of a sauna treatment.
Sauna benefit #5. Stress. We touched on this earlier—and you can probably understand why—but saunas have also been found to help manage stress. The NCBI states that there is a couple of factors that play into this, including a combination of forced mindfulness, psychological stress reduction, placebo effects, and taking time out from busy life schedules.
HOW TO USE A SAUNA
Now that you know more about the potential benefits of using a dry sauna, you may be wondering how to use one in the first place. Here’s what to know. Really, you go inside and sit down, but you might have a few questions…
WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR IN A SAUNA?
Typically, individuals will sport a robe or swimsuit when going into a sauna. You wouldn’t want to work up a sweat in layers of clothing!
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN A SAUNA?
The appropriate amount of time you should stay in a sauna depends on each individual, their health, and their tolerance for heat. Generally, you can expect to stay in a dry sauna anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re using a dry sauna at the gym, they’ll typically have guidelines that prevent you from staying in the sauna for too long. If you are ever in a sauna and start to feel faint, you should stop.
It is wise to consult with your doctor before using a sauna. They can help you determine the right amount of time to sit based on your health. Some people will be advised to avoid saunas entirely.