The sauna, referred to as a fountain of youth in Finnish writings, has been touted for centuries as a wonderful place to experience relaxation and total body cleansing. According to Harvard Health Publications, the dry heat provided by the sauna has profound effects on the body. In just a few minutes, an average person will lose over a pint of sweat as the skin temperature soars to over 104°F. Calories burned in the sauna vary according to weight and height, time of exposure and temperature of the sauna. Health benefits other than relaxation may be cause for "heated discussion" in the medical profession, but for hardcore sauna lovers, the list is endless.
Relaxation and Stress Relief
According to Saunas.org, complete relaxation of the mind and body may be one of the most important sauna health benefits. In addition to the stress-relieving aspects of the penetrating heat, you may come away from your sauna session with a heightened sense of well-being. High heat temperatures of the sauna may help relax your tense muscles and provide pain relief to your aching joints. The enclosed environment provides an opportunity to quiet your mind and let go of the hectic, everyday demands that often lead to anxiety or a sense of being overwhelmed.
According to the Mayo Clinic's health education website, your body composition, sex, and age are determining factors on how many calories you burn during any given day, even when you are resting; this is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). A person weighing around 160 lbs. will burn burn about 300 calories during a 30-minute session in the sauna. That number changes based on your individual BMR, in addition to the temperature settings in the sauna and the amount of time you spend in the heat.
Giselle Roeder, author of Sauna: Hottest Way to Good Health, provides an extensive list of health benefits that avid users report to have enjoyed from regular sauna sessions. In addition to melting away your stress, saunas may also improve your skin, increase circulation, strengthen your immune system, reduce respiratory ailments, and balance your mind and emotions. Aromatherapy may be added to the sauna experience by mixing scented oils in the water that is applied to the hot rocks. Saunas.org recommends that you spend no longer than 30 minutes in a sauna at one time and that you elevate your feet on a stool. Soothing music may also enhance the relaxation experience, which you may choose to enjoy sitting or lying down.
It is important to consult with your physician before taking a sauna if you have high blood pressure, or other heart issues, or any other health problems that may respond negatively to intense heat.
- Diet Health Club: Calories burned in sauna
- Harvard Health Publications: Sauna Health Benefits
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories
- "Sauna: Hottest Way to Good Health"; Giselle Roeder; 2001
Alison Stellner, owner of Body Tune Personal Training, is a fitness instructor and freelance writer with more than 25 years in the health and fitness industry. Her first professional article was published in "Idea Today Fitness Magazine" in 1993. She majored in music and business administration at the University of Oklahoma.