The steam room has been a popular fixture in fitness centers and health clubs for decades. Steam rooms are credited with all sorts of benefits, including weight loss and detoxification. These benefits may be exaggerated — and in fact, the steam room may present risks to your health and safety.
The hot, humid environment of the steam room is an ideal environment for many germs and fungi. Highly trafficked or poorly cleaned steam rooms are particularly likely to be unsafe. If you do choose to use the steam room, make sure it has been recently cleaned. Follow the advice given by "Newsweek," and never enter a sauna with bare feet. Wear rubber shower shoes, or flip flops, to prevent athlete’s foot.
For men trying to have children, time in the sauna may actually lower sperm count. Prolonged exposure to temperatures over 104 degrees Fahrenheit can hinder sperm production, the Mayo Clinic notes — and steam-room temperatures are typically well over 104 degrees. If you exercise before you steam, your body temperature will have already been high for some time — potentially exacerbating this effect.
Temporary Weight Loss
Many see the steam room as a method for weight loss. In truth, most of the weight lost in a steam room is just water weight, from sweating. This weight loss is temporary, and you will put it back on as soon as you have something to drink. Spending too much time in the steam room can actually lead to dehydration, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Increased Core Temperature
Prolonged exposure to steam can raise your body’s core temperature to dangerously high levels. Although the steam room will induce sweating, your body may not sweat as much as it needs to, due to the humidity of the environment. A dry sauna allows you to sweat freely, and cool yourself more efficiently.
Poor Calorie Burning
Some see the steam room as a way to burn calories without exercise. But while you may feel like you are expending energy due to the heat, you are really burning very few calories. Calories are burned by working muscles — not by heat. Sitting in a steam room will burn few calories no matter what the temperature.
Based in the Greater New York area, David Benjamin is a veteran of the fitness industry of over 15 years. He is coauthor of "The Business and Practice of Personal Training" and has lectured to countless fitness professionals. Benjamin holds a degree in physical education from the State University of New York, Cortland.