Throughout history, many cultures have used different forms of sauna therapy for health and relaxation. The Finnish word “sauna” translates to the English word “bath”. When creating a sauna, the goal is to trap heat. The earliest saunas were lean-to’s or huts dug out of the side of a mountain or hill. Traditionally, saunas were heated using wood-burning devices. The modern day sauna consists of a wood-lined room with an electric heater that reaches temperatures as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit – check out our buyers guide for infrared saunas. In addition to dry saunas, steam rooms that use steam generators have become prominent. Bathing in a sauna is a unique experience that people globally have enjoyed for thousands of years.
Benefits of a Sauna
Saunas deliver a myriad of health benefits that make them an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle. Sitting in a hot environment has an aerobic effect on the body. As your heart rate increases and your metabolism rises, you’re able to burn more calories which aids in weight loss. As blood pumps faster through your veins, the blood vessels expand which helps improve blood circulation.
Endorphins are responsible for giving you a feeling of satisfaction and calmness. Spending time in a sauna is a great way to relieve tension and stress. Not only are these benefits helpful during daylight hours, they can also help you sleep better at night. These same endorphins also help reduce pain. If you’re suffering from achy muscles or sore joints, you may find relief after a sauna session.
Spending time in a sauna may leave you with a glowing complexion. This is because the high heat in a sauna causes the skin to shed dead cells, uncovering new and vibrant skin underneath. Regular sauna sessions can also provide other excellent skin benefits, such as rinsing away bacteria, improving skin texture, relaxing facial muscles, keeping skin soft, and creating an overall more youthful look.
Tips to Maximize Your Next Sauna Session
1. Slowly Build Up Your Time
A beginner should start with a brief 10 to 15 minute sauna session to allow their body to become accustomed to the heat. Over time, slowly build up to 25 to 30 minutes. Pay attention to signs that could indicate that you’re overdoing it, such as feeling too hot, tired, or weak. If you’re new to saunas, you may notice that you don’t sweat until you’ve been in the sauna for 20 to 30 minutes. This is normal and will change as you progress.
2. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the most important rules for sauna use. If you don’t drink enough water, you’re not going to sweat as much as you should. As a general rule of thumb, drink half your body weight in water or at least two cups before, during, and after your sauna session.
3. Shower Before and After Using a Sauna
While not essential, showering before hopping into a sauna can optimize your experience. When you shower, your pores are open and free of debris which allows sweat and toxins to escape freely. You’ll also want to shower after using a sauna to remove any sweat, skin cells, and toxins that have come to the surface of your skin. A brief shower can also help cool down your skin and make you feel refreshed.
4. Avoid Skin Products
The use of skin lotions, creams, and oils is not recommended before using a sauna. These products can clog your pores and inhibit proper sweating. Wearing products on your face can also be irritating to the eyes as many skincare products will run if exposed to hot temperatures. Wait until after your sauna session to apply your favorite products after showering.
5. Wear as Few Clothes as Possible
The clothing you wear in a sauna not only affects your comfort but also the effectiveness of your session. The key is to expose as much skin as possible. If it’s your own personal sauna, you may want to go in your birthday suit. If it’s a public sauna, stick with breathable, lightweight cotton shorts and a sleeveless top.
6. Wait an Hour After a Meal
Saunas help increase the flow of nutrients such as amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose throughout the circulatory system. As the circulatory system goes into full gear to deliver the skin and muscles with essential nutrients, digestion gets put on the back burner. To ensure that your body does what it’s supposed to be doing, skip the heavy meal. If you need to eat, opt for a light snack.
7. Bring Plenty of Towels
While it’s no secret you’re going to sweat while in a sauna, you’ll be surprise at just how much sweat you secrete. Bring along several fluffy 100 percent cotton towels to absorb sweat from your face and body. Sit on a towel and place one under your feet to catch moisture drips.
8. Make Use of Fragrances
Enhance your sauna experience by incorporating aromatherapy oils into your session. There are many great scents available, such as pine, citrus, eucalyptus, and peppermint. Certain scents are also known to provide specific health benefits. For example, lavender is believed to provide tension relief.
9. Play Soothing Music
Many saunas are equipped with sound systems that allow you to listen to tunes as you enjoy a relaxing session. Opt for music that is soothing or meditative to help de-stress the mind and ease the body. If you’re using a public sauna, consider bringing along your own personal music device and headphones.
10. Take Time to Cool Down
At the end of a sauna session, it’s important to sit and relax as your body cools. For several minutes following the session you may continue to perspire. Wear a robe or towel during this time to absorb any excess moisture on your body.
Working up a sweat in a sauna can offer a plethora of health benefits. Whether you prefer dry saunas or steam rooms, this form of heat therapy is the ultimate way to relax and detox the body. By preparing for your next sauna session, you can achieve the best results possible.