Finnish sauna bathing is a wonderful way to pursue relaxation, wellness, and personal pleasure. It is a tradition in Finland. Now, new evidence is emerging that suggests sauna bathing may offer some significant health benefits. This evidence suggests that regular sauna bathing may alleviate and reduce the risk of acute and chronic disease conditions.
During the last 10 years, plenty of research across different countries points to the health benefits of a sauna in addition to how the benefits are derived. Still, some evidence is mixed and some researchers are calling for aggregation of data for better interpretation.
Sauna bathing is a form of passive heat therapy that exposes you to high temperatures for a short period. The typical Finnish sauna has dry air and a high temperature, although the humidity can be increased by adding water onto the hot rocks of the sauna heater. Temperatures are usually set between 80°C to 100°C. A typical sauna bath will be a short period in the heat interspersed with cooling-off periods such as a shower, swimming in a pool, or simply resting in an environment with a lower air temperature. The duration of the sauna is usually between 5 to 20 minutes depending on an individual’s comfort levels. Finnish sauna bathing habits may have changed over time, but still, a typical Finnish person has a sauna bath at least once per week, with the average habitual frequency being 2 to 3 times per week.
While enjoying the sauna, your heart rate may increase from baseline up to 120 to 150 beats per minute. This is despite no physical activity. A part of blood volume is diverted from the internal organs to the body’s peripheral parts with decreasing venous return. This is most likely a response to heat stress.
Sauna and vascular outcomes
Evidence from several studies suggests sauna bathing has a positive effect on blood pressure modulation. However, these studies were done with participants who had preexisting vascular disease, and the studies examined only the short-term effects of sauna exposure.
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