A sauna is a small room, often made of wood, designed to reach high temperatures. According to Harvard Health Publications, the dry heat in a sauna can reach up to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Saunas are thought to be a relaxing place to end a workout, relieve stress and sweat out bodily toxins. The benefits and potential dangers of saunas are important to know to stay safe and maximize the experience.
There are many benefits to sauna usage. Many consider the main benefit to be relaxation. According to Dr. Simon Harvey, editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, saunas have given no reason to be viewed as unsafe for healthy individuals. He does, however, note that there is a lack of evidence to support claims of sauna benefits other than relaxation.
Many people seek out a sauna to sweat off excess weight. There may be some legitimacy to this practice, according to Harvard Health Publications, which states that an average person will excrete approximately a pint of sweat within a "short stint" in a sauna. The sweating equivalent for half an hour in a sauna is running approximately 10 kilometers, according to Tuberose, a natural healing site.
In addition to losing weight from sweating, people can eliminate toxins from the body. According to Tuberose, perspiration is recognized by health care professionals internationally as "the most effective method of removing both difficult chemical and heavy metal toxins from the body."
Saunas have unpredictable side effects for some people, especially those with underlying medical issues. The effect on blood pressure can vary for each person. According to Harvard Health Publications, blood pressure will rise in some and fall in others.
According to Harvard Health Publications, a person's heartbeat increases by 30 percent or more, which in turn doubles the amount of blood being pumped by the heart each minute. According to Dr. Simon, patients with abnormal heartbeats, blood pressure problems, heart valve disease, unstable angina or heart failure should avoid the heat of the sauna.
Precautions for Sauna Usage
Harvard Health Publications advises people who choose to use saunas to practice caution. Following a few guidelines will ensure a safe, relaxing experience. To begin, do not consume alcohol or medications prior to sauna use, as those substances could impair sweating and cause a person to overheat. Limit sauna usage to approximately 15 to 20 minutes, which will decrease the risk of overheating. Drink plenty of water after your time in the sauna to replenish fluids. Lastly, if you begin to feel sick, exit immediately.