What if we told you that one of the best things you can do for your body and mind is relax in a nice hot sauna? Sounds tempting right! Here's how regular sauna bathing could help to optimise your wellbeing.
What is a Sauna?
Saunas are enclosed wooden environments which are heated using a stove or hot stones to create a high temperature.
They have been traditionally used in Finland and Scandinavia for over 1000 years - where 1 in 3 people enjoy a regular sauna session. Prior to this, Mayan communities used the first documented saunas or "sweat houses" around 3000 years ago.
Unlike steam rooms which create a moist heat, saunas produce a dry heat with very low humidity. They are typically heated between 70 to 90C, with much higher temperatures used in Finnish and Scandinavian saunas - where locals often bath in temperatures well over 100C.
Saunas come in many different shapes and sizes, but almost always have wooden benches which you can sit or lie down on. The temperature can be increased further by splashing the stove or hot rocks with water, which creates hot steam that elevates the temperature further.
Now used worldwide in health spas and wellness retreats, saunas have been found to have a number of health benefits which warrants their wider use outside of these environments - including at home and in the gym.
The Benefits of Hormetic Stressors for Biohacking
We all know just how important diet and lifestyle are for overall health and wellness. But did you know that exposing your body to short bursts of pressure could help to bolster your physical, mental and emotional wellness?
These pressures are known as hormetic stressors and there are a number of ways to enjoy their benefits - from ice baths and oxygen therapy to high heat environments such as saunas and steam rooms.
Research has shown that short and regular bursts of pressure on the body create mild environmental stress, which over time can improve the body's stress response and help us to become more mentally and physically resilient.
Animal studies have shown that exposure to mild environmental stressors which cause agitation, uncomfortableness, restlessness or pain (such as with exercise) create short term spikes in stress which are quickly followed by recovery.
This deep restoration is otherwise hard to experience and when practised regularly, can help to improve many aspects of health. Early research shows that exposure to hormetic stressors can help to reduce inflammation, promote mental wellness and even enhance longevity.
The Health Benefits of Heat Exposure & Saunas
Like other biohacks such as intermittent fasting and light therapy, hormetic stressors can help to optimise physiological function to boost overall health and longevity.
Here are some of the health benefits to be enjoyed with regular sauna use.
- Detoxification - Skin is the biggest organ in the body and effectively removes toxins from within via sweat. The high heat, dry environment of a sauna creates the perfect conditions to produce sweat - which helps the body to cool down but also acts as a natural detoxifier. Saunas can be beneficial for skin health for this reason, helping to reduce skin breakouts associated with conditions such as Psoriasis.
- Deep relaxation - Saunas are perhaps most widely enjoyed for their relaxing benefits. With low lighting, no noise and a warm environment - it's no wonder saunas are a staple in health clubs and spas. As well as improving mental health and reducing stress, this deep relaxation can also help to improve sleep and reduce fatigue over time.
- Relieve aches & pains - Increased blood flow throughout the body can help to deliver nutrients and oxygen to tissues throughout the body, which can help to lower inflammation and ease common aches and pains. Sauna bathing can be an effective natural therapy for those who suffer with inflammatory discomfort such as joint and muscle pain.
- Regulate breathing - Several small scale studies have shown that saunas may be beneficial for lung health. Saunas can improve indicators of lung function and could be useful for those with respiratory conditions. However, it should be noted that for others - such as those with asthma - saunas could do the opposite and be potentially dangerous.
- May improve circulation - The high temperatures of a sauna cause our heart rate to increase and in turn our blood vessels dilate. This increases blood flow around the body and could be effective at improving circulation when enjoyed regularly.
- May improve cardiovascular health - Studies have found that those who use saunas frequently and over long time periods, such as in Scandinavia and Finland, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality from cardiovascular causes. However, as with respiratory conditions - those with existing health concerns should take caution and seek advice before starting.
From pain and stress management to improved sleep, energy and mental health - saunas are an effective hormetic stressor and biohack to help improve overall health and wellness.
Why Build a Sauna at Home
The key to obtaining the best benefits of hormetic stressors is frequent exposure to them. Unfortunately, a sauna or ice bath once in a blue moon is not enough to enjoy the health benefits discussed.
Building a sauna at home may seem excessive or expensive, but you will be pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive and effective a DIY sauna can be. For example, traditional wood burning saunas don't even require any plumbing. This means they can be built literally anywhere - from your garage to your garden or even in the corner of your spare room or bathroom.
There are many different varieties of saunas available in the modern world, from traditional wood burning to electrically heated and even infrared saunas. This means that you can choose the most appropriate sauna for your home or garden - with outdoor saunas proving to be a popular choice.
All you need is your building materials, a power source, a small space and a good plan! You can even buy DIY sauna kits that do most of the hard work for you. Whatever method you choose, having a sauna at home will work out far more convenient, economical and reliable for obtaining the health benefits of regular sauna bathing.
Potential Risks and Dangers of Saunas
Saunas aren't suitable for everyone and there are risks for those who are pregnant or with certain health conditions.
If you have heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure or a skin condition then it is always best to consult a medical professional before sauna bathing.
Pregnant women are advised to bathe in lower temperatures no more than 70C, but should also consult their doctor or midwife before beginning.
However, for most, saunas are the perfect addition to a healthy lifestyle to promote overall health and wellness. Just be sure to have your sauna serviced regularly to ensure it is safe working order.
Common practices for enjoying safe sauna bathing include avoiding alcohol before a sauna session, staying optimally hydrated, avoiding the sauna when unwell and limiting time spent in the sauna to around 20 minutes or less.
Learn More About Hormetic Stressors for Optimal Health
Aside from heat therapy as with saunas and steam rooms, there are many other ways to use hormetic stressors to your advantage. You can learn more in the articles below.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.