Indiana summers can be brutal with temperatures in the 90s with humidity levels well over 70 percent – and that’s well before the ‘dog days’ of August arrive! So perhaps the last thing on your mind is going to a sauna.
Why would anyone even think of going to the sauna in the summer?
As it turns out, using a sauna can make summer heat more manageable. Using a sauna strategically can help athletes acclimate to hot weather and prepare them to compete in hotter climates. Even the Romans used hot rooms to help athletes recover and detoxify after exercise in hot weather. And anyone can benefit from regular sauna use – whether it’s helping your body grow accustomed to heat (and therefore making the summer heat feel more comfortable!) or amassing one of its myriad other benefits.
Benefits of sauna use in summer (or any time)
There are a number of physical and mental health benefits that come with using sauna – benefits that don’t decrease just because the temperatures increase.
Flushing out toxins
Sweat is an excretion. Its purpose is to cool the body, and it is 99% water. Time in a sauna allows you to sweat profoundly, which flushes out toxins like lead, copper, zinc, nickel, and mercury. These are elements we absorb from merely interacting with our environment – in the air we breathe, the food we eat, even the by-products of our bodies’ metabolism. Sweating also helps rid your body of alcohol, cholesterol, and salt.
Relaxing muscles, soothing joint aches
Stiff and sore? The high heat in a sauna can help by encouraging the release of endorphins. These produce a mild tranquilizing effect which can help minimize the pain of arthritis or the soreness produced from an intense workout. Also, the heat causes blood vessels to dilate, which improves circulation. Proper blood flow is good for your heart health and speeds up the body’s natural healing process.
Aside from giving the skin a healthy glow from the increased circulation, using a sauna can improve it by generating sweat that rinses bacteria out. Sweating is also a natural pore cleanser and can also help eliminate blackheads. It is important to wash immediately after a sweat. Otherwise, all that grime dries and remains on your skin.
Reducing your risk for stroke and heart disease
Deep sweating also carries with it some long-term health benefits. Sauna use lowers the risk of high blood pressure, and one study showed that older adults who use the sauna several times a week are less likely to suffer a stroke. Other studies have shown that sauna use can lower rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Aiding the immune system
Time in a steam sauna helps increases production of white blood cells which helps your immune system fight off illness. It’s also great for helping clear out congestion. Some bacteria and viruses actually die off when our body temperature rises above 98.6 (which, generally speaking, is the function of fevers as well).
Sitting inside a sauna is a great way to reduce stress and relieve anxiety. It’s a warm, quiet place without distractions from the outside, and infrared sauna therapy can help your body maintain proper and healthy levels of cortisol (the “fight or flight’ hormone).
The high temperatures in a sauna do cause your heart rate to increase in a way similar to exercise, but only slightly (calories burned are 1.5 to 2 times more than normal sitting at rest). It is one weight management tool that should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle plan.
Spending regular time in a sauna can be just as beneficial in summer as any other time of the year – with one caveat. During the warmer months, it’s a good idea to follow up a good sweat with a cool shower or a dip in the pool to help get your body temperature back down. Additionally, you should always stay hydrated and follow up with a wellness coach for a year-round plan of health and wellbeing.