At first a sauna may sound like a luxurious spa treatment, but in fact it is much more than that. A sauna is a great source of health benefits beyond just stress relief and relaxation. I freely admit that I never made ‘taking a sauna’ a priority till this past year when some amazing research was shared with me by my good friend and mentor David Stewart over at The Ageist. Click HERE to hear the podcast episode he did on sauna for further exploration. The more I dug, the more benefits I found… particularly as an athlete. Suffice to say, he caught my attention, and before I realized it I was the proud owner of an infrared sauna blanket. Let’s dig into what the benefits are and the different ways you can explore and utilize this tool.
(Two disclaimers… one… I recently suffered concussion #21 so this will be a shorter and more off the cuff post than usual. Two… bad things can happen from too much heat. Consult your doctor before you begin.)
Benefits of Sauna
One challenge that comes with writing about health products and practices is this. There is an endless rabbit hole one can go down when investigating benefits. This happened to me when reading up on sauna. I literally had no idea how specific (are you familiar with DNA refolding? Me neither) the benefits were, until now. Check out all the areas of benefit I found:
- Improved cardiovascular endurance
- Strength building through increased growth hormone production
- Improved sleep
- Decreased pain
- Stress Reduction (sounds nice, but there’s a very real recovery component here)
- Dementia and Alzheimers risk reduction
- All cause mortality reduction (meaning you’re less likely to die from anything)
In ‘the deeper dive’ I undertook, I kept coming across this term “heat shock proteins.” Turns out sauna triggers their release which helps in cell repair and what I would summarize as ‘cell resilience.’ Basically, when you stress a cell in a controlled way (hyperthermia in this case) these HSPs, as they’re called, help repair any damage to DNA in the cell. It’s a way of triggering the repair crew to come in and do maintenance that may have been needed due to other environmental toxins or triggers. Michael Roviello is far more eloquent in his description of why hyperthermia is good for the body. You can listen to episodes 26 or 28 of my podcast for more.
Read several abstracts from several studies, as well as several blog articles on the same topic. Probably my favorite was a guest post on Tim Ferriss’ blog by Dr. Rhonda Patrick. You can check it out HERE.
Different types of Sauna
There are multiple types of saunas to choose from. Traditional ‘dry’ saunas use wood and rocks heated up to create a hot, dry environment. Infrared saunas (including sauna blankets) use light to create heat, while steam saunas use water to create a humid atmosphere. In traditional saunas, the heat helps to relax muscles and improve circulation. Infrared saunas can penetrate further into the body and provide therapeutic relief from muscle and joint pain. Steam saunas are great for skin health, and promote detoxification, as sweat contains toxins. All sauna types provide relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety. Take some time for yourself, enjoy the health and therapeutic benefits of a sauna and play on!