How Often to Use Sauna

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There’s something ceremonial, different, slightly uncomfortable (especially in the Western world when you tend to use it with strangers, in your local gym) and at the same time pleasantly satisfying about using a sauna. Your body feels relaxed and you suddenly have more clarity to tackle what’s coming your way. Would you agree?

Saunas have been used in Scandinavia as a form of relaxation and to support overall wellbeing for hundreds of years. And, for the last 70-80 years they’ve been also increasingly popular in the United States and other parts of the world due to their health benefits and positive impact on reduction of stress.

How often to use saunas, what are the benefits and potential risks have all been closely studied by researchers and health professional. More research on this is still required, as there is a little solid evidence supporting benefits of using sauna beyond the relaxation and improving circulation. What we know however is that, typically, a regular use of sauna is considered safe for generally healthy individuals.

What to know before you use sauna

What to know before you use sauna

I bet you’re familiar with the phrase ‘Finnish sauna’ and hence figured out that sauna originates from Finland. Great! But did you also know that first saunas were actually made from pits dug in a slope in the ground? Yes! They were mainly used as dwellings in winter. Very different to what we see in today’s world: from stylish wooden designs to modern features with heat sources including electricity, gas or even solar power.

Firstly, as you might have experienced, a typical traditional sauna is very dry. Humidity levels are around 10%- 20% with temperatures around 140-195F (60-90C). Since this is way above any normal temperatures you’d be living in, it’s very important to stay properly hydrated before and after the sauna therapy. Prolonged use of sauna may cause dehydration, so drinking adequate amounts of water throughout or after using it is important to keep the body’s water and electrolytes in balance.

Secondly, there’s this known misconception about saunas having detoxifying effect on our body. But, the reality is that the sweat that we experience is released as the body’s mechanism for preventing overheating and it doesn’t cause our body to detox (it’s taken care of our liver and kidneys, as usual). The sweat we see is also an indication of how much water we lose, so again – it’s a good idea to keep an eye our hydration. If the heat becomes unbearable or you feel dizzy during your time in the pod, it’s time to leave and cool down with a cold shower. 

And, this leads to the the importance of the sauna cycle. Cooling down part is as essential as the heating. It’s a common practice to pop in shower after leaving a sauna and then repeat the hot/cold sequence again. This practice has shown to help adaptation, reduce release of stress hormones (kind of important in today’s world!) and lower blood pressure. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

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How often to use saunas?

Further study is still required to determine the optimal frequency and duration of use of sauna, but the most common advice is to start small. If your experience with using sauna is limited, start with 5-10 minutes session 1-3 times per week. You then may slowly increase it to around 15-25 minutes per session, which, in most cases, is considered enough for your body to sweat out properly. So far there’s no evidence that says using sauna every day may have any risks, so you can give it a go after practicing for a while. But, you’d be happy to know that using sauna 2-3 times a week is already a great way to support your health and wellbeing.

From a health and bio-individuality perspective, it is crucial to remember that our bodies respond to heat differently and the response for the same person can also be different each time. So, we see that usually the question of ‘how often to use sauna’ becomes quite individual and the answer may change, depending on the day or your current health situation. To stay well and use sauna for what it meant to be (relaxation), observe how your body feels and reacts to heat on the given day to avoid unsafe body temperature levels, feeling faint or ill.

So, why to use saunas?

So, why to use saunas

Some evidence suggests that there’re both benefits and potential risks to using saunas. On one hand, we see improvement of circulation, relaxation effect and a relief of minor pains and aches. Some even say it has a mindfulness effect, as you sit there, usually alone and allow yourself to just be present in the moment with your thoughts and body (luckily, no iPhones in sauna allowed). On the other hand, there are potential risks in using sauna involving dehydration, men’s fertility issues or complications if you use sauna in pregnancy or under the influence of alcohol.

It’s beneficial to use saunas as a part of your selfcare routine, but be sure to observe your body and remember that the experience may feel different each time, regardless of how often you use sauna. When combined with a healthy diet, proper hydration and fitness routine saunas can undoubtedly help to deal with stress, relieve some aches and muscle pains and improve blood circulation. These are all pretty great benefits, if you ask me!

Also, according to the Happiness Research Institute, Finns are the happiest people in the world. Guess what? They invented sauna. A funny coincidence? Perhaps. But, it may also mean that they are onto something.

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