Important medical factors of sauna

The sauna has become a popular form of wellness treatment around the world in recent decades. Nevertheless, many people visit saunas out of curiosity or a desire to follow the latest trends, and not everyone uses saunas regularly.

Use of saunas varies between nations

Finland is home to 5.2 million people, and nearly 2 million Finns use saunas regularly, while other Scandinavians take sauna baths at least once a week to improve their health. In addition, more and more people are installing saunas at home or using different types of saunas (dry, steam or infrared). Historically, saunas were popularized by Finnish athletes during the 1936 Olympics. As a result, sauna baths have been introduced into training programs in many sports as they provide medical benefits.

Reasons for visiting a sauna

Athletes and individuals claim to use saunas to cleanse the body, refresh the mind, and speed recovery and relaxation. Regular sauna use improves adaptability to various environmental conditions, increases physical exertion, and contributes to emotional well-being.

Improved athleticism through regular sauna use

In studies, sauna bathing after exercise over a three-week period significantly improved running performance, which was attributed to an increase in blood volume. Finnish sauna has been found to increase musculoskeletal and cardiorespiratory endurance and physiological efficiency. In divers, a single hour of sauna before diving has been shown to significantly reduce the number of circulating bubbles after a chamber dive, minimizing the risk of decompression sickness.

Relief from muscle damage thanks to sauna

Sauna baths are beneficial for the medical treatment of musculoskeletal inflammation, non-specific upper respiratory diseases, and sports-related injuries. Sports can lead to exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), which causes cramps, muscle tension, impaired muscle function, and delayed onset of muscle soreness.

In respondents who visited a sauna prior to EIMD, heat treatment reduced sensory impairment and improved muscle function. Heat treatment and rapid cooling after sauna were also found to have a complex and positive effect on vascular and cardiac functions, including arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and some blood-based biomarkers.

Relief of the endocrine system as a positive consequence of sauna treatment

Sauna treatment activates the endocrine system and promotes the secretion of adrenaline, ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin as the body adapts to high temperatures. The endocrine system is stimulated to hold more water in the body and maintain thermal balance. Sweat lowers serum sodium levels and thus the entire body. Sauna bathing lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipid concentrations and increases high-density lipid levels. All of these responses can be considered medically beneficial for a person with chronic disease.

Improving the quality of life in type 2 diabetes

Far infrared sauna improves the quality of life of people suffering from type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and heart failure. Finnish sauna, a heat treatment that warms the entire body, has been found to have positive clinical effects in rheumatism patients. In rheumatism sufferers, regular sauna use reportedly relieves pain associated with musculoskeletal injuries and improves joint mobility. The use of superficial heat is recommended as a short-term palliative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and low back pain.

Strengthening the cardiovascular system through regular visits to the sauna

Repeated passive heat therapy has been shown to have beneficial medical effects on the cardiovascular system by improving endothelial function, arterial stiffness, and microvascular function. Emerging evidence suggests that regular sauna bathing is associated with lower blood pressure, reduced risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, dementia, and lung disease, and results in reduced all-cause mortality risk.

The specific cardiovascular adaptations induced by long-term sauna bathing are not certain, but the effects of sauna bathing on cardiometabolic health outcomes have been associated with its beneficial effects on circulatory and cardiovascular function. Regular sauna bathing over a prolonged period of time has been shown to produce blood pressure lowering effects as well as a reduction in inflammatory markers.

Even a single sauna session shows health-promoting effects

Recent studies show that short-term exposure to the sauna produces blood pressure-lowering effects, reduces peripheral vascular resistance and arterial stiffness, and improves arterial compliance. Acute exposure to sauna also activates the sympathetic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, as well as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal hormonal axis, with short-term increases in the levels of their associated hormones.

Conclusion on the Medical Factors of the Sauna

Overall, a large number of studies exist describing the medical benefits of a sauna. Overall, the entire body benefits from regular visits to the heat. But even a single visit can already support health effects.


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