Regular sauna bathing may not only help you relax, but also reduce the risk of developing heart diseases and mental disorders, scientists say.
Regular sauna bathing may not only help you relax, but also reduce the risk of developing heart diseases and mental disorders, scientists say. A study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that sauna bathing is associated with a reduction in the risk of vascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive diseases, nonvascular conditions, such as pulmonary diseases, mental health disorders, and mortality.
Furthermore, sauna bathing alleviated conditions such as skin diseases, arthritis, headache, and flu. The evidence also suggests that regular sauna baths are associated with a better health-related quality of life. Scientists from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland and the University of Bristol in the UK conducted a comprehensive literature review on the effects of Finnish sauna baths on health outcomes.
Finnish sauna bathing is characterised by exposure to high environmental temperature (80-100 degrees Celsius) for a brief period. Findings from this comprehensive literature review also suggest that the health benefits of sauna bathing are linked to the effects of sauna on circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune functions.
Regular sauna bathing stabilises the autonomic nervous system, reduces blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, circulation of bad cholesterol, arterial stiffness, and vascular resistance. Moreover, sauna bathing contributes to beneficial levels of circulating hormones and other cardiovascular markers. The physiological responses produced by an ordinary sauna bath correspond to those produced by moderate- or high-intensity physical activity such as walking.
The same research team has published several experimental studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of short-term sauna exposure on blood pressure, specific cardiovascular biomarkers, inflammation, arterial compliance, and cardiovascular function. The feelings of relaxation and promotion of mental health and well-being associated with sauna sessions may be linked to the increased production of circulating levels of hormones such as endorphins, researchers said.
The study also found that sauna bathing produces beneficial changes that are equivalent to those produced by physical activity. Indeed, the research team has shown in their previous studies that a combination of sauna bathing and physical activity might have added health benefits compared with each activity alone.
The review emphasised that sauna bathing has a good safety profile and can even be used in patients with stable cardiovascular disease. Hot Finnish sauna baths have been shown to be hemodynamically well tolerated without the occurrence of complex ventricular arrhythmias in patients with heart diseases.