Well Adjusted: Improve Your Health with Sauna Bathing
Originally posted in The Mountain Times on May 1, 2022
Modern luxuries have made our bodies weaker. As a result, your health is increasingly in hot water.
Our jobs and hobbies are becoming more stagnant, and our food is unhealthy and abundant. We push the button on the microwave instead of pulling weeds in our garden, where we would be getting fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity.
In addition, we live in a society of overstimulation of the mind and understimulation of the body. In turn, we must intentionally create routines to support a healthy existence. Our bodies aren’t delicate figurines that should sit up on a shelf. Instead, we need to move, walk, lift, and sweat to stay in good condition. When our bodies feel good, our spirit is more vibrant, and we can live our lives more abundantly—from birth to old age.
How sauna bathing can improve your health
Sauna bathing is a relaxing routine that can bring more health and longevity to your life. Mimicking moderate aerobic exercise, sauna bathing increases heart rate and body temperature and causes you to sweat. In addition, frequent sauna use increases brain function and decreases the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.
Even though exercise is king, sauna use can improve cardiorespiratory fitness in those who exercise and those who don’t. Along with the health benefits, most people find saunas relaxing. In the quiet heat, you can shed your cares of the day and come out refreshed and rejuvenated.
Sauna bathing brings about positive stress
We rarely think of stress as a positive thing, but eustress (or positive stress) helps us push through challenges and grow. It helps us complete our term paper at the last minute or the final reps of a challenging workout.
Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” On a cellular level, this is true. Sauna bathing activates heat shock proteins (HSPs) present in all cells that respond to stress by activating antistress pathways. Weightlifting, fasting, and cold showers also stimulate HSPs since they all cause a certain amount of stress or injury to the body.
The body responds to these “injuries” by creating cellular responses that are good for the body. HSPs repair and assemble protein complexes, prevent aggregation and plaque formation in the body, and support immune function. When abundant in the body, they improve our overall health. After a sauna, they stay elevated for about 48 hours, cleaning up and repairing the cells in your body. Finally, sweat, in general, helps the body release environmental toxins such as the heavy metals aluminum and cadmium.
Find your sweet spot for frequency of sauna bathing
Sauna benefits are “dose-dependent,” so the frequency of use matters. The sweet spot is about four times per week or more, for around 20 minutes, at 174 degrees or above (lower for infrared) at 10-20 percent humidity. A Finnish study showed:
• A 20 percent decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with sauna bathing two to three times per week, but a 66 percent reduced risk with four to seven times per week.
• Decreased hypertension by 24 percent with two to three times per week and 46 percent with four to seven times per week.
• Similarly striking was the 24 percent decrease in all-cause mortality with two to three times per week and 40 percent decrease in all-cause mortality with four to seven times per week
Hot baths and jacuzzies have some similar benefits if you don’t have regular access to a sauna. Stay submerged for about 20 minutes with your shoulders down in 104-degree water.
Add sauna bathing to your healthy routine
Saunas are healthy for most people. If you have heart-related or other health concerns, talk to your doctor before adding saunas to your routine. Pregnant women, infants, and young children should avoid sauna use.
In caring for our bodies, we unlock our life’s potential. Add sauna bathing to exercise, good sleep, and a nutritious diet. After all, the healthy routines we create empower us to live fully and be an asset to our families and community!