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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 31, 2015

Why Some Like It Hot

By Mark Sisson
77 Comments

We’ve explored the health benefits of cold (water) exposure. What about heat?

I decided to explore the health benefits of acute heat exposure in the form of saunas, baths, and steam rooms for one main reason: the sauna is a near-universal human tradition, and I’m always curious about those. Indigenous peoples of North America had the sweat lodge, those of Central America the temazcal. The Romans had the thermae, which they picked up and refined from the Greeks. Other famous traditions include Finnish saunas, Russian banyas, Turkish hammams, Japanese sentó (or the natural spring-fed onsen), and the Korean jjimjilbang. Are all these many billions of people across time and space sitting in heated rooms for the heck of it?

As popular as it is to deride traditional wisdoms or practices as outdated, irrelevant, or the delusions of superstitious primitives, traditions don’t arise out of nothingness. And when the same or similar tradition arises in nearly every culture and people ever known, it’s time to pay attention and dig deeper. Universal human traditions don’t always harbor truth and insight into the human mind, body, and condition, but they’re always worth checking out. Confirm before you discard.

Luckily, we don’t have to guess: extensive research into the health benefits of saunas, steam baths, IR saunas, and other forms of acute heat exposure confirms that the human universal of getting really, really sweaty, hot, and steamy on purpose has merit.

The latest piece of sauna research concerns something we’re all thinking about: all-cause mortality. Researchers tracked the health and sauna habits of 2,315 Finnish men with a median age of 53 for over 30 years, finding remarkable correlations between sitting in a really hot room with a bunch of naked men and protection from fatal heart attacks.

Men who used the sauna two to three times a week had a 23% lower risk of fatal heart attack compared to men who used it just once a week. Men who used the sauna four to seven times a week had a 48% reduced risk of fatal heart attack compared to once-a-weekers. The more frequently men used the sauna, the greater the protection. Similar connections were found for all-cause mortality, too.

This was observational, of course, and the researchers themselves state that further research is required to identify a potential mechanism for the protective effects.

What could be going on? Let’s look at what happens when you enter a 174° F/80° C sauna.

  1. Receiving between 300-600 watts per meter squared, your skin heats up to around 41° C, or 105° F.
  2. This initiates compensatory cooling, which your body achieves through profuse sweating at a rate of 0.6-1 kilograms per hour.
  3. Sweating can give off 200 watts of heat, but this isn’t enough to offset the total heat load. Your insides start to heat up.
  4. Your core body temperature rises. 30 minutes at 80° C (or 174 degrees F), the typical temperature for saunas, raises an adult’s body temperature by 0.9° C.

For all intents and purposes, this is really stressful. Our bodies don’t want to get too hot — that’s why we have mechanisms in place to prevent overheating, like sweating — but our bodies also don’t want to exercise too much or go without food. Doesn’t mean those aren’t good for us in the right doses, and the same goes for temporary overheating.

So yes, sauna usage is stressful. After an initial drop in cortisol, it transiently increases sympathetic nervous system activity, the “fight or flight” side of things. Stress hormones increase as the temperature (and your body temperature) rises, and by the end of a thirty minute session cortisol is markedly elevated (particularly in women). This isn’t a surprise. Intense exercise also raises cortisol in the short term. And like regular exercise, longer term sauna usage (daily for four weeks in one study) actually reduces stress hormones.  It’s a classic hormetic response, where acute doses of the stressor increase oxidative stress and provoke a compensatory adaptation by the organism.

How does this translate into better health?

Oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress describes an imbalance between the burden of reactive oxygen species and the body’s ability to deal with them. Whether it’s Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, diabetes, depression, or cancer, your oxidative burden plays a (likely causative) role. We have several well-known tools at our disposal for lessening the burden, like exercise, good sleep, smart supplementation, meditation, and others, but targeted heat stress can also help lower oxidative stress in both sick and healthy people.

Lower urinary prostaglandins: In patients with established risk factors for heart disease, daily sauna therapy (15 minutes at 60° C in an infra-red sauna for two weeks) lowered urinary levels of an oxidative stress biomarker. Endothelial function also improved in the sauna group.

Increased antioxidant capacity: After initially increasing oxidative stress, sauna therapy triggered compensatory adaptations and activated antioxidant defenses in the blood of healthy volunteers.

Decreased oxidative stress in chronic heart failure: Patients (and some hamsters) with chronic heart failure underwent infra-red sauna therapy (at 60° C) daily for four weeks. After the trial, markers of oxidative stress had dropped and endothelial function had improved.

Improved lipid profiles: In both men and women, sauna use lowers LDL and triglycerides while increasing HDL.

Improved insulin sensitivity: Sauna use increases insulin sensitivity.

Physical performance.

A large body of sports science shows that heat acclimatization — increased heat tolerance — allows athletes to perform better in high heat environments and increase their work output while reducing the overall metabolic, cardiovascular, and muscular strain. One way to increase heat acclimatization is to train in hot weather. Another is with regular use of saunas.

Post-workout sauna sessions improve endurance performance in runners: For three weeks, endurance runners sat in 89° C (+/- 2° C) humid saunas for 31 minutes following training sessions. This amounted to an average of 12.7 sauna sessions per runner. Relative to control (no sauna), sauna use increased time to exhaustion by 32%, plasma cell volume by 7.1%, and red cell volume by 3.2% (both plasma cell and red cell volume are markers of increased endurance performance).

Post-workout sauna use increases plasma volume in male cyclists: Following training sessions, cyclists sat in 87° C, 11% humidity saunas for 30 minutes. Just four sessions were sufficient to expand plasma volume. This is important because increasing plasma volume improves heat dissipation, thermoregulation, heart rate, and cardiac stroke volume during exercise.

Growth hormone.

Exogenous growth hormone is a popular and potent anabolic agent, increasing whole body protein synthesis and promoting muscular hypertrophy and fat loss. It’s well known that intense exercise, fasting, and a good night’s sleep can all naturally increase growth hormone levels, but there’s another, lesser-known method: sauna usage.  Several studies show the powerful effect heat stress can have on growth hormone levels.

  • A 1976 study found that Finnish sauna usage increased growth hormone 140% over baseline.
  • In 1986, a group of Finnish researchers subjected 10 healthy men to twice-daily hour-long sauna sessions for seven days. On day three, serum growth hormone had increased 16-fold over baseline levels.
  • A 1989 study examined the GH response to varying sauna dosages, finding upwards of 5-fold increases in GH.

There’s even evidence that you actually can “sweat out the toxins” in a sauna, contrary to conventional wisdom.

Sweat (along with blood, urine, and probably tears) contains bioaccumulated toxinsBPA shows up in sweat, too, even when it doesn’t show up in the blood or urine. Same goes for certain phthalate compounds and their metabolites. Sweat has also been shown to contain arsenic and lead in exposed individuals. So, if acute heat exposure makes you sweat profusely, and various toxins show up in sweat, heat exposure might be helping you clear some of those out. whether that’s in the dry sauna or in a class full of slippery Bikram yoga practitioners, it’s probably getting rid of some industrial toxins you’ve inevitably accumulated.

Still, that’s indirect evidence. Do we know if using saunas can actually eliminate toxins from the body?

Maybe. In one case report, repeated use of a sauna normalized mercury levels in a person with elevated concentrations. And when meth lab-busting police officers with chronic illnesses caused by high exposure to methamphetamine production chemicals tried sauna therapy, they experienced significant improvement.

The human studies are impressive, but animal studies suggest other effects from sauna therapy:

I wouldn’t be surprised if similar mechanisms are in place for humans, too.

By now, you’re probably convinced: sauna sessions aren’t just enjoyable, they’re functional.

What are your options?

Dry sauna: The dry sauna is the most traditional and common form of sauna, using exclusively dry heat. Most “saunas” you see are dry ones, and most research focuses on them. Dry saunas are typically between 160-194 °F.

Steam sauna: It’s a sauna with steam. Steam saunas are more uncomfortable and raise body temperature to a greater degree than dry saunas, but you may have trouble sticking around long enough to get the same benefits you would from the dry sauna.

Infrared sauna: Instead of heating the air, infrared saunas use infrared lamps to heat your body directly. The temperatures used are signifciantly lower (around 120-130 °F) than dry or steam saunas. An infrared sauna therapy known as waon is used in Japan to treat heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, cardiovascular disease, and fibromyalgia, and it can even improve exercise tolerance. Infrared radiation may also improve wound healing,

Don’t get stuck in limbo trying to “optimize” your sauna choice. Just getting into the sauna — any sauna — and getting really, really hot is key. Regular use (at least once a week and ideally more frequently) is better than infrequent use.

Contraindications

Alcohol: Never drink alcohol before or during a sauna stint. This increases the risk of dying, which you don’t want. Many sauna-related deaths involve intoxication.

Multiple sclerosis: Although the changes are transient and totally reversible, sauna usage has been shown to worsen MS patients’ cognitive function and motor control for about an hour.

Strength athletes: Owing to the effects on plasma volume, growth hormone, and insulin sensitivity, sauna therapy is likely going to be beneficial for strength athletes. Immediately prior to training or competition, however, the sauna may have mixed effects. In male athletes, strength endurance and 1 rep max leg press drop in response to preworkout sauna use; 1 rep max bench press is unaffected; maximum power (vertical leap) improves. Another study found that in female athletes but not in males, maximum power decreases after sauna use. It’s probable that these performance disturbances are caused by dehydration, so rehydrating after sauna use might restore performance.

It goes without saying, but be careful. Heat stress is, well, stressful. If you think you’re getting too warm, you probably are and should get out. Heatstroke can happen without warning.

Keep something refreshing to drink on hand in case you get wobbly. Coconut water, mineral water, regular water with a pinch of sea salt are all great ways to maintain hydration when losing a ton of water.

That’s it for today, everyone. Do you use a sauna? If so, what kind? What have you gained from it? Any miraculous stories? Tell me all about it!

Thanks for reading.

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TAGS:  hormesis, hormones

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77 Comments on "Why Some Like It Hot"

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Paleo Bon Rurgundy
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
1 year 8 months ago

Always wanted a home sauna. Thanks for the reminder!

Beth
Beth
1 year 8 months ago

+1

But where to put it?

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
1 year 8 months ago

I was thinking in the garage. Costco has a two person unit for around $1k. There is also a pup tent style infrared sauna.

Paul
Paul
1 year 8 months ago

Great find. I need to research this more myself, though I wonder how much the electricity bill would increase from running one of those on a regular basis.

Paul
Paul
1 year 8 months ago

Just did some research: the model you found only runs when it’s pre-heating (it takes about an hour) and when it’s being used. It uses 1450 watts, which here in Nebraska equates to about $0.17 per hour.

Julie
Julie
1 year 8 months ago

My friend made an infrared sauna in her closet

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
1 year 8 months ago

Very creative! I’ve hot boxed a few but never made a sauna

wildgrok
wildgrok
1 year 8 months ago

wow this is very good idea – THANKS!!!

Erica
1 year 8 months ago

I haven’t been in a sauna in ages but I love Bikram yoga, so that’ll do for now.

Monikat
Monikat
1 year 8 months ago

Yes you’ve reminded me as well that there is a really easy way to convert your shower into a (steam) sauna. I’ll dig around for my notes, but I think a quick google search will lead one to instructions.

Groktimus Primal
1 year 8 months ago

I imagine it also simulates running a fever which might kill off sub clinical or early infections before your immune system has time to react on it’s own. We all know a pebble of prevention is work a rock of cure thanks to Grok 🙂

Aliya
Aliya
1 year 8 months ago

We have an infrared sauna installed in our basement that reaches 171 F. I really don’t know what we would do without it in the winter. Provides much needed heat, and along with a low carb diet, my skin looks fantastic 😀

starmice
starmice
1 year 8 months ago

If I feel run down, I go to our local 24 hour fitness and after showering, sit in the steam sauna, then hop in the cold lap pool, then back and forth a few times. It’s very invigorating and I feel like it gives my immune system the kick in the butt it needs to fight things off. I don’t think I stay in the sauna 30 minutes though, after reading this I may try to stay in the sauna longer.

Tom Gorman
Tom Gorman
1 year 8 months ago

I have started to sauna. I have targeted 20 minutes, and, gosh, sitting in a sauna for 20 minutes is difficult. Both mentally and physically. The clock moves sloooowly. So, aside from the heat benefits, I now try to use my time in the sauna to practice mind relaxation and thinking. We do not get enough opportunities to just think. I might have to check up on meditation techniques.

Alisa
Alisa
1 year 8 months ago

How timely- I’m actually going to the local banya tomorrow! Unfortunately, at $40/visit, it’s much too expensive to do regularly. Banya visits have become something reserved for special occasions, or for particularly stressful weeks when a healthy dose of heat stress takes the edge off of everything else going on. Of course, Russian-style banyas also have well-equipped kitchens, so a banya visit usually ends in an eastern European feast.

Susan
Susan
1 year 8 months ago

I could never get into the sauna. I’ve tried, but there’s nothing “relaxing” to me about sitting for 30 minutes and sweating. I’m more of a cold weather type person, too, and I’m miserable when it’s hotter than 70-75 degrees. Maybe that has something to do with it?

Adam W
Adam W
1 year 8 months ago

I find the sauna itself not to be particularly relaxing (more “intense”) it’s after getting out and grabbing a shower that I feel much better. Kinda like exercise really!

Chris
1 year 5 months ago

Now you are giving me ideas and i think I’m going to fix one in may basement,

TommyGor
TommyGor
1 year 8 months ago

Maybe the fact that the sauna is so difficult is a sign you should try to develop its use? I experience the sense of “I gotta get out of here”. But over time I have relaxed. If you agree with the data about the benefits you might want to try to ‘practice’ sauna the same as you would any exercise you want to try.

charlie
charlie
1 year 8 months ago

There are huge differences in your reaction to a steam bath, a sauna, or a hot tub.

One other things not mentioned is an increase in EPO and your red blood cells. I suspect a majority of the cardiovascular benefits is just increased circulation.

The detox is largely a myth. You skin and hair will look much better but again not from detox.

the best part of a sauna is the cold shower after.

Beth
Beth
1 year 8 months ago

Looks like those who live in some of the lower, dryer states could almost achieve the temperatures of an infrared sauna without much more effort than leaving the house.
In (north) Florida we don’t get quite that high, but I’m still grateful for my air conditioner!

Julie
Julie
1 year 8 months ago

3 summers ago on OKC IT WAS OVER 100 for 67 straight days. Yeah and I had no AC.

2Rae
2Rae
1 year 8 months ago
Mmmmmm HEAT yesssssss! I tried the “cold shower” experiment and it did NOT go well. It made it difficult for me to warm up the rest of the day. I also notice that if the room I’m in has blowing from the ceiling (heat or cold) I get chilled and if I’m sitting (as in a class where you have to sit there for a while) I will pass out from the cold. I used to think I was falling asleep and then after some digging found it is very similar to hypothermia and how it progresses, just for me… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
1 year 8 months ago
I used to have something similar. The doctors finally figured out it was cold urticaria (essentially I’m allergic to the cold). It has since gone into remission because of my changed lifestyle. Better eating, more exercise, and reduced stress. I think it was highly stress related for me as I still relapse if environmental stressors increase. While it was at its worst, I took a normal daily allergy antihistamine pill and that helped a lot. In emergencies I took Benadryl to keep from passing out. Then once I got it under control, lifestyle decisions were enough and I no longer… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
1 year 8 months ago
I will look into it, thanks. I don’t have any “allergy” symptoms with my condition. I noticed today that I got a cold nose from the air in our office. I don’t know if it was the humidity or the constant blowing or both. I cranked my heat up to 79 by my desk and it wasn’t as painful. I have taken antihistamine pills when I go for too many days of poor sleep. They knock me OUT, don’t know if it’s hindering my REM but it at least gets me through the night with my eyes closed and brain… Read more »
Kelly
Kelly
1 year 8 months ago

Hope it works out for you 🙂

Shauna
Shauna
1 year 7 months ago
It sounds like a trip to an allergist wouldn’t hurt. I have chronic cholinergic urticaria, which means that if my average body temperature raises or lowers by about 1 degree (think: showering, working out, being out in hot temps and then cooling down), I break out in hives. Zyrtec (or the generic version which I can’t spell without looking up) helps tremendously. Basically, I have an allergic reaction to changes in body temp, like the poster above, and it sounds like you should see an allergist because you’re describing several symptoms that accompany certain types of urticaria. Also, taking Zyrtec… Read more »
Sam
Sam
8 months 9 days ago

Hey Kelly I realize this is an old thread, but I have cold urticaria. It started about 2 years ago and seemingly came out of nowhere. Did you ever have a sauna though when you were still symptomatic? I’m looking into buying one bit am worried the cooling down after it will create a hive reaction. Cheers Sam

Sam
Sam
8 months 9 days ago

*but

Kelly
Kelly
8 months 6 days ago
Hi Sam, I can’t remember if I ever had a sauna back then, but as it happens I had a brief relapse this year. I think it was due to lots of stress and a cold shock from coming home to Canada during the winter from a vacation in Mexico. The hives lasted for 4 days without subsiding and I finally jumped into our steam shower and they went away. They didn’t come back upon cooling down. This is pretty anecdotal, but it is my experience. If it were me trying to control the urticaria, I would be sure to… Read more »
Michaela
Michaela
1 year 8 months ago

This is how we do it in Finland:

Summer: 10-15 minutes in the sauna, then cooling off by taking a dip in a cold lake, another round in the sauna, cooling off again etc.

Winter: 10-15 minutes in the sauna, cooling off outside (maybe rolling naked in the snow if there are no neighbours nearby), going to the sauna again and so forth.

I love the relaxing effect of a wood heated sauna!

Andrew H
Andrew H
1 year 8 months ago

Great article; I’ve always preferred extreme heat to extreme cold and certainly enjoy a nice hot sauna-like bath every now and then. However, is there any research concerning the stereotypical worries about male infertility and frequent sauna usage? Thanks in advance.

Warren
Warren
1 year 8 months ago
This reminds of an incident some 30 years ago when I was house sitting for an attorney who had gone on an extended work/pleasure vacation. They had a very nice sauna, and I invited a friend over to visit. We decided to try out the sauna and when we got hot enough, would run outside (minus 20f in Fairbanks, Alaska) and make snow angels in the deep snow, then run back in and get back in the sauna. About the fifth time doing this routine, after just having jumped in deep snow, we ran in to find that the door… Read more »
Sharon
Sharon
1 year 8 months ago

Now that’s a great story. Glad you survived to tell it.

Vive
Vive
1 year 8 months ago

I’m curious about a steam room vs a sauna or steam sauna. We hope to add steam when we re-do a bathroom and I love sitting in a steam room at the gym. I’ve heard that the benefits of a sauna are higher, though I don’t really enjoy sitting in a sauna. Anyone know more than I do about if or why?

Adam W
Adam W
1 year 8 months ago
I believe steam room and steam sauna are the same thing. I would absolutely love to add steam to our shower when we re-do it as well, might be a bit too pricey to fit in our remodel budget though. Upside is a steam shower uses drastically less water than a hot bath (though more electricity) From my subjective experience a steam room is great (especially if you have a cold!) but I can’t handle 30 minutes in a steam room (maybe 15) so it could just be a matter of time exposed. Both raise your body temp and get… Read more »
Adam W
Adam W
1 year 8 months ago

I haven’t been going regularly enough to notice any long lasting effects but for me 20-30 in the sauna then a shower seems to just bring about a couple hours of just “ahh” relaxation to me that’s almost hypnotic. When I’m freaking out about this or that the sauna itself is stressful but it focuses the stress on the heat; follow that with a cool or slightly warm shower and I just feel better. Couple that with these other potential benefits and I really need to make it a habit!

Kimberley P.
Kimberley P.
1 year 8 months ago

I attended an Indigenous sweat lodge ceremony a few weeks ago. It was my first time but definitely not my last. I thought I was going to feel tired afterward, but I felt energized and alert.

Jota
Jota
1 year 8 months ago
If you ever get a chance to try a temazcal, it’s amazing! I participated in a temazcal ceremony at a spa in Mexico – you crawl into a clay dome with a pit in the middle, where they place heated rocks, and they seal it with a thick blanket over the door. There was a guide who would throw water with herbs soaking in it over the rocks to create purifying steam. She also chanted in a native language and threw different herbs on the rocks so they sparked and let out different scents. I was glad she was chanting… Read more »
Jota
Jota
1 year 8 months ago

Oh and at one point she gave us giant aloe leaves and we smeared the aloe juices all over our bodies

Jacob
1 year 8 months ago

Very interesting… will have to look into utilizing this into my training.

My gym doesn’t have a sauna but perhaps one of those sweat suits would achieve the same results. Anyone have any input on that idea?

Diane
Diane
1 year 8 months ago
My family is a bunch of Finns in Minnesota. When I’ve visited, we always have to spend time in the sauna. It’s a little wooden building down by the lake. You put logs in the stove in the back which heats up the inside. After many years of use, the pipe chimney inside develops small holes and it can get a tiny bit smoky inside, which smells good. The more daring among us can sit at the top of the bleacher seating while us wimpy Californians usually sit on the lower seats. There’s a hand pump to bring in water… Read more »
Time Traveler
Time Traveler
1 year 8 months ago

Now imagine a 4 hand massage followed up by a Turkish hammam (-: I enjoyed the above while vacationing at a Turkish resort (Anatalya)…

Paul
Paul
1 year 8 months ago

I’m definitely intrigued, but I wonder if many of these same benefits could be experienced by spending plenty of time outside during the hot (and possibly humid) summer months.

Rose
Rose
1 year 8 months ago

A cyclone went through several weeks ago and apart from increased labour using a chainsaw and moving broken branches, I’ve been tending to small fires for a couple of hours most days. Sweating profusely, and feeling the direct heat when feeding the fire. The daytime temps are in the mid 30Cs. About 3kg have gone without other particular changes, and I’m hopeful tolerance for working in hot weather is improved. Only downside may be the difficulty I have in taking in enough fluid.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
1 year 8 months ago
Another contraindication and real-life example of “not getting too hot”: menopausal hot flashes. Heat can set them off, and when they ARE set off, they’re immediately followed by a cold flash–the body’s way of cooling off. I’ve noticed that I’m now much more tolerant of cold weather (in spite of arthritis) than hot weather because hot weather tends to set off hot flashes more frequently. Cold weather barely sets them off at all. I look at the senior trend to migrate to southern states, and suspect that it’s because of ailing thyroids. The opposite trend of moving north in later… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
1 year 8 months ago

I, for one, enjoyed every one of my hot flashes. At least for a few seconds I was too hot, people around me could feel the heat radiating off me, that was funny.

I did NOT sweat with them so the cold flash after wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Now that I eat well, the hot flashes I do get once in a great while are not as intense, sigh. I still enjoy them when they come on though.

Yukon
Yukon
1 year 8 months ago

I poured water for sweat lodges for many years, had to stop because of dry conditions in the mountains where I live. I’m now building a gas fired sauna. (safer for the forest) I’ve noticed changes in my health, mood, interest in life etc without sweating. You just can’t get that clean inside and out feeling any other way.

Jed
Jed
1 year 8 months ago

I used to love taking saunas at the gym. I could stay in for a long time. But I haven’t been to a gym in decades so I lost that perk. And I don’t want to pay for a gym membership just for the sauna. So what’s left? Purchase one of those little ones that go off infra-red light? But what about the glue or the wood it’s made of? That can be troublesome. And they’re expensive, as well. So what’s a guy to do? I’d love to be able to sauna without joining a gym. Stuck.

Patman
Patman
1 year 8 months ago

Timely post Mark. I recently got back from a bachelor party in vegas and I have an IR in my house. I hydrated all day upon getting back and then enjoyed a nice long sauna session. Felt immensely better after. I’d like to think it helped removed the immense amount of grey goose from my body.

Anna
Anna
1 year 8 months ago

What about diabetes? Sounds like the cortisol response could raise blood sugar.

Sirpa Tuomainen
Sirpa Tuomainen
1 year 8 months ago

I just built an outdoor sauna in Berkeley, California. It’s wonderful! I found it used & we took it apart & rebuilt it.

Joooolia
Joooolia
1 year 8 months ago

How does being in a hot tub compare?
I can last a lot longer in my gym’s hot tub than in their sauna or steam room, but if it’s a really significant difference, I’ll try to visit the other two more often.

randomcow
randomcow
1 year 8 months ago

Ganbanyoku is quite popular in Japan too. Absorb heat through lying on heated volcanic rocks/slate. They advise to start on your stomach, to heat your insides first.

Ken Karas
Ken Karas
1 year 8 months ago

What about taking the sauna and then jumping into a cold river, pool or shower as many of the Native American Indian did. Is this also a good idea as part of the whole experience. My Russian great, great grandfather did it or so I am told. Hot/cold what are the pros and cons?

meepster
meepster
1 year 8 months ago

Another contraindication is pregnancy. Pregnant women aren’t supposed to use saunas, as the heat can harm the baby.

I like saunas, myself, but I’ll be abstaining for the next 7 months.

Tyty
Tyty
1 year 2 months ago

Finnish women go to sauna all throughout the pregnancy if they feel up to it. And they have been doing it for centuries. There is no reason why you shouldn’t do it.

JG
JG
1 year 8 months ago

I love the sauna at my gym. Most of time I’m in there by myself – I turn the lights down and at times I’m so relaxed (albeit sweating) that I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep on the bench! It feels intoxicating to me, especially during this crazy cold winter we had in the northeast. I usually stay in 20 minutes, do a cool shower and go back for a second 20 minutes if time allows.

Marielle
Marielle
1 year 8 months ago

We have a steambath at home but i never dared to use it because of my chronic heart failure… apparently it was a wrong decision.
I’ll have to try it out, perhaps in combination with meditation

Marie
Marie
1 year 8 months ago

I wonder if sitting in a sauna regularly kills the parasites that exist in our bodies……?

Marc
1 year 8 months ago
Love my sauna sessions!!!! Growing up my dad had a small one in our basement. I take a sauna for about 10-15 minutes 4 times a week after my workout. I look forward to it like crazy. The heat relaxes me and when I have the time I will stay for about 20-25 minutes. I like doing light stretching when no one elseis in there. And fyi, i take my iphone in and usually listen to some meditation or relaxing yoga music. It’s wonderful , just wrap your phone in a towel to shield it from the heat a bit…your… Read more »
melle22
melle22
1 year 8 months ago

This is timely. I’m experiencing some pain/stiffness in my shoulder and feel that sitting in an IR sauna would do me a world of good. I think it would be worth a gym membership to have access to one. They also say that sitting in an infrared sauna for 30 minutes burns 600 calories and improves sleep…that plus clearer skin makes it all the more interesting!

A. Davis
A. Davis
1 year 8 months ago
Its interesting that both exposure to heat in a sauna and exercise both cause an increase in core body temperature. There’s something else that causes an increase in core body temperature: a fever. In the case of a fever, though, its your body’s response to an infection. While I understand that causation is not correlation, I’d wager there’s a relationship to people exercising regularly and/or using saunas and healthier immune systems. In the same way that a fever raises the core body temperature to kill off the bad bugs, exercise and/or sauna exposure can also raise your core body temperature… Read more »
micki7
micki7
1 year 8 months ago

My husband put in a traditional Finnish Sauna and it was a great investment. We have enjoyed using it on average two or three times a week and reaped its benefits. Much better than parking oneself in front of the TV! Sweat is GOOD!

ValerieH
ValerieH
1 year 8 months ago

Mark, thanks so much for this article! I bought an infrared sauna last year. Just recently I tried to look up sauna benefits but I couldn’t find anything not written by a sauna sales website. This article goes a move and beyond in explaining the benefits. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.

Sharon
Sharon
1 year 8 months ago

I agree that Mark’s article is really good. This was a website I ran across awhile back that might also be useful. http://www.the-infrared-sauna-effect.com/

Sharon
Sharon
1 year 8 months ago
I bought an infrared sauna in December of last year. Your article has inspired me to get more serious about using it on a more regular basis which was my original intention. I tend to use it one or two times a week. I get in for 30 minutes but I never sweat. I thought my body would eventually learn to sweat but so far not so. I feel slightly nauseous and wobbly when I get out, maybe the beginnings of heat stroke? I just sit down for 5 or 10 minutes and then feel fine. In hot weather I… Read more »
Josh
Josh
1 year 8 months ago

Here in PHX, I just go outside most months of the year…then when I start to feel like I’m beginning to overheat, I jump into the pool.

Also, for some reason, being out in the heat/sun seems to knock my appetite for garbage food/sugar/booze way down. Anyone know why??

MissBeth
MissBeth
1 year 8 months ago

Back when I was at my heaviest, I couldn’t tolerate the sauna, felt like I couldn’t breathe. Now I love it, especially the steam. Not having one of my own, I occasionally go to the one at 24-Hr and afterwards use the hot-tub to relieve muscles and work on fascia issues. Mark noted that regular weekly use is better than infrequent, so I guess now I have a reason to build it into my schedule once or twice a week.

wildgrok
wildgrok
1 year 8 months ago

I cruise often (like two times a year) and every time I use the ship sauna at least twice a day, I prefer the steam sauna

Rob
Rob
1 year 8 months ago

Does the use of hot tubs have the same benefits?

RoadWarriorPrincess
RoadWarriorPrincess
1 year 8 months ago
If this has already been mentioned, forgive me for not reading all the comments thoroughly: I found a single person portable far infrared sauna on Amazon.com for about $300. I use it 3 to 4 times a week in the winter, less in the summer. It hasn’t been without issues, but the supplier has provided me with replacement parts when I’ve had problems. While I’d love to build a sauna on our back patio some day, this has done the job for me in the interim (my husband isn’t big on using a sauna, so it’s not high on the… Read more »
Mark Kuto
Mark Kuto
1 year 8 months ago
Great post! I’ve used saunas regularly some years, rarely others (mostly due to availability). One big difference I notice is that when I am in the sauna regularly (2 or more times/week) in the winter, my cold tolerance goes way up. My typical cycle was 15 mins in the sauna (about 175 degrees F), then a cold water plunge or dousing, repeated 3x/session. I’ve speculated that it might have to do with the increased body temp, or the dilation and contraction of blood vessels (= better circulation), but it made a big difference in how long I could be out… Read more »
Stefanie
Stefanie
1 year 8 months ago

What about hot tubs? Do they have the same benefits? If so, would the side effects of typical chemicals outweigh the benefits?

TrudyG
TrudyG
1 year 8 months ago
I go to 24 HR Fitness a few mornings a week before work. It’s my routine to leave about 15 minutes at the end of my work out time to have my sauna time. I have always loved the dry heat. There is a regular group of us in the morning, so the time goes by quickly when we are visiting in the sauna. It relaxes me, warms me up and when it’s not crowded gives me a quiet meditative place. I try for three times a week and have been doing this for years. I like the idea of… Read more »
MountainKing
MountainKing
1 year 8 months ago

How about a simple hot bath? We have a big claw foot tub in our house, which we do enjoy on occasion.

Might that convey the same benefits if the water is hot enough and one sits there long enough?

Please, Mark, do tell!

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