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What Health Benefits Come from Using a Sauna?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sauna is an enclosed room which can be heated with the use of an electric heater, infrared heater, or wood stove. The elevated temperature in the room can be made more intense with the use of steam, or left dry, depending on the taste of the bathers. They have numerous health benefits, and have been used in various forms for centuries all over the world, ranging from the traditional Finnish sauna to the Native American sweat lodge. Many gyms and spas have a dry sauna available for clients who would like to use it, and some consumers have them at home for frequent use.

When someone enters a sauna, the increased temperature causes an elevation in heart rate and also increases circulation. Blood vessels and the body become more flexible, and the metabolism also increases. These physiological reactions have a number of positive health impacts on the body, especially with routine use. It is believed that most of the health benefits of a regular sauna can be achieved in an infrared one as well.

The increased circulation which results from regular use benefits the extremities and the skin. A sauna also opens the pores of the skin to help the body express toxins, carried out in the sweat which results from the high temperature. Taking a sauna can help to stave off cold symptoms, relieve sore muscles, and awaken the body while simultaneously reducing feelings of stress and unhappiness. Frequent bathers often say that they feel more at peace and relaxed after sitting in one, and some take that opportunity to meditate so that the sensation is increased.

Traditionally, people alternate hot and cold when they sauna. Most people spend 10-20 minutes in one before stepping out and taking a cold shower or plunge to close the pores. The body is allowed to rest outside for the same amount of time that it was inside before another round of sauna commences. This reduces stress on the body, and also allows the bather time to drink water and relax.

There are some cautions to sauna use: bathers should drink plenty of water before, during, and after the experience, and should refrain from alcohol use. If dizziness or nausea are experienced, the bather should get out immediately and cool down. Use of a sauna may be contraindicated for people who have medical issues like high or low blood pressure, heart disease, or pregnancy. If you are unsure about whether taking one is safe for you, consult your doctor.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon991816 — On Jul 20, 2015

I especially agree with Post 1. I come out of a session in a Finnish sauna feeling like all of the "garbage" in my body has sweated out and I am almost a new person: very calm but energized. My face looks and feels like its had a deep clean facial and it stays like that for days. Occasionally, I visit commercial Nordic Spas but I rarely see the clientele do much more than spend time in the hot tubs. They're missing out on the best part which is the sauna.

By anon295032 — On Oct 04, 2012

I have been using the sauna for about a month, four times a week. I thought the better sleep and appearance had nothing to do with it, but reading these post seem to suggest that it does.

By anon156889 — On Feb 28, 2011

there is a communal sauna at the apartments i live in. i have started to use it at least twice a week after reading of the health and beauty benefits; eliminating toxins from the body, helps get rid of colds (i put drops of tea tree oil on the coals or in the water as I'm prone to getting colds and having a blocked nose, which it definitely helps!).

I've been looking into cellulite and water retention increases the appearance of this so I'm hoping using a sauna will help get rid as you're sweating out all those stores of water! and obviously this helps you lose weight, however the same as body wraps, I'm guessing as soon as you drink you put the weight and inches back on so regular sauna usage it must be!

By anon152184 — On Feb 13, 2011

Yes, got better sleep time!

By anon131019 — On Nov 30, 2010

does it help you lose weight as well?

By anon75529 — On Apr 06, 2010

It would help you sweat out that bacteria that is causing the cold.

By anon67627 — On Feb 25, 2010

Yes, sauna and steam rock!

By cayenne — On Apr 08, 2008

Saunas really do help immensely with stress, sore muscles, and tension. Nothing makes me feel better, not even a hot tub. I haven't noticed saunas making a difference in getting a cold, and I'm not sure how that would work. I'll have to try that next time I am sick!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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