Many physicians and health practitioners tout the benefits of sauna use. Having recently paid a visit to a sauna I began wondering, where did saunas originate from and what are the benefits of sauna use?
Saunas Began with the Finns
The oldest known saunas are traced back to the Finns. Their saunas featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. The Finns believed the benefits of sauna use included cleansing of the mind and refreshment of the spirit. The sauna continues to be an important part of daily life for the Finns, and families will often bathe together in a home sauna.
Benefits of Sauna Use Spread to the Rest of the World
When the Finns migrated to other areas of the globe they brought their sauna designs and traditions with them, introducing other cultures to the enjoyment and health benefits of sauna use. This led to further evolution of the sauna, including the far infrared saunas which have become popular in the last several decades. In these saunas, the heaters produce infrared rays that penetrate the skin layers and heat more deeply.
Cooling Down after Sauna Use
Cooling down is part of the sauna cycle and is as important as the heating. Among users it is considered good practice to take a few moments after exiting a sauna to take a cool plunge. If you do not cool down sufficiently after using a sauna or fail to drink enough water to stay hydrated, you may suffer after-effects such as a headache or nausea.
Benefits of Sauna Use
Besides the obvious soothing of tired and achy muscles, the benefits of sauna use are numerous, and include:
1. Reduction of Stress Hormones. The heat from saunas is shown to reduce certain stress hormones such as adrenalin and noradrenalin in the body. It also increases levels of beta endorphins.
2. Fights Illness. Studies by German researchers show that one of the benefits of sauna use is the reduction of the incidence of colds and influenza. As the body is exposed to a sauna’s heat and steam, it produces white blood cells more rapidly, which in turn help fight illness and help kill viruses. Saunas can also relieve the discomfort of sinus congestion caused by colds or allergies.
3. Removal of Toxins from the Body. It is believed that the deep sweating that occurs in a sauna can remove toxins from our bodies. These toxins include chemicals, solvents, drugs, and heavy metals (such as lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury).
4.Cleanse Skin. Dr. Ben H Douglas, a professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center explains that when you sweat, the rush of sweat fluids to the skin “bathes skin cells with a liquid rich in nutrients.” He says that this liquid is “essential to maintaining the collagen structure of the skin,” and can help prevent the appearance of wrinkles and sags.
5.Burns Calories. Another of the benefits of sauna use is that deep sweating in one uses up a lot of energy. That energy is derived from the conversion of fat and carbohydrates in a process that burns up calories. According to Ward Dean, M.D., “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.”
If you’re in reasonably health, the benefits of a sauna use can be great. If you hate sharing public bathing places with strangers, you might consider bringing the beneftis to of sauna use to your own home with a portable sauna . Note, however, that if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, are using drugs or alcohol, or are pregnant, you’ll want to check with your physician first before deciding to start this practice.
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