Imagine feeling the intense warmth while you’re enjoying a sauna. As your body heats up, you start to sweat and get more and more relaxed. By the time you leave the sauna and cool down, you’ll likely to feel calm and stress-free. At least for a little while.
But, a sauna may not only help you to relax and de-stress.
Regularly using a sauna is also associated with a lower risk of fatal heart disease, according to a study in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
For this study, the researchers followed 2,315 men from eastern Finland for about 20 years. The men were between 48 and 58 years old when the study began, and they filled in a questionnaire. In this survey, the researchers asked them how often and how long they used a sauna.
They also measured their blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and fitness. The researchers then categorised the men into three groups based on how often they used a sauna each week.
After analysing all the data, the research team found that the men who frequently used a sauna were less likely to die from heart disease, compared to those who didn’t.
But, that’s not all. They also found that fatal heart disease was less common in the men whose sauna sessions lasted more than 19 minutes, compared to those who spent less than 11 minutes in the sauna.
This is exciting, as past studies also reported that using a sauna may be beneficial for your heart health.
DOES A SAUNA REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE?
Because of the particular study design, researchers don’t know for certain that it was the time spent in a sauna that reduced these men’s risk of fatal heart disease.
If scientists find a clear cause-and-effect relationship in future studies, then regularly spending time in a sauna may hold the key to help keep your heart healthy.
The researchers also cautioned that their findings may be specific for Finnish saunas. Because a Finnish sauna is quite different from a steam room or other types of saunas.
A traditional Finnish sauna has hot and dry air. The temperature (at the level of your face) is usually between 80°C and 100°C, and the humidity is between 10 percent and 20 percent. Though, the humidity does briefly increase when you pour water over the hot rocks.
Nevertheless, as the warmth of any sauna can help you to relax and de-stress, time spent in a sauna is still time well spent.
However, if you have high blood pressure, a heart condition or are concerned, always consult your health professional before using a sauna first.
How often do you use a sauna? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.