Interesting facts about the Finnish sauna
Sauna literally means “house of wood”. The origin of the sweating ritual is in Novgorod. It was brought to Finland by nomads about 2,000 years ago. The archetype of the Finnish sweat bath is the wood-heated, heavily sooted savusauna. For a long time, the Finnish sauna was known as the “poor man’s pharmacy” where sick people were treated and babies were born.
It was considered the warmest and most hygienic place in the house. Taking a sauna is widespread in Finland. There is even a sauna society, which was founded in 1937. Since 1986, Finns have celebrated a “Sauna Day” on the second Saturday in June. Finnish sauna culture has now also been included in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which aims to raise awareness and protect important aspects of cultural heritage around the world.
What is the temperature in the Finnish sauna?
The temperature range may vary depending on the country. In European countries, the acceptable temperature is in the range between 70 and 110 °C (158 to 230 °F). The American standard implies temperatures between 70 and 90 °C (158 to 194 °F). Higher temperatures may not be used here for insurance reasons. The Finnish Sauna Association, on the other hand, recommends heating the sauna to 80 to 90 degrees Celsius (176 to 194 °F). To generate steam, water is poured over the lava stones*, which increases the humidity in the sauna area to 10 to 20%.
How long should you stay in the Finnish sauna?
As is often the case, there is no standard answer to how long one should stay in the sauna room. It depends on your own physical condition as well as your individual sauna experience. Listen to your gut and choose what really works for you. A length of stay of 8 to 15 minutes is recommended, says Dr. med. Rainer Brenke, medical advisor to the German Sauna Association. The remaining procedures, such as cooling off in the shower and relaxing, should take about 15 minutes. In total, a run lasts about 45 minutes. However, it’s up to you how long you want to spend resting.
The advantages of the Finnish sauna
The dry sauna is known for its numerous health benefits, both physical and mental. The latter is based on hydrotherapy, a system that heals and purifies the body with the help of water and other stimuli (thermal, mechanical and chemical).
Purification of the body
Sauna sessions are a unique way to detoxify the body. It is believed that up to one liter of fluid is lost per sauna session during sweating. This promotes the removal of harmful substances, free radicals (which are mainly responsible for aging) and heavy metals. It also allows the pores of the epidermis to dilate, which is beneficial for skin purification and cellulite.
Strengthening the immune system
Another advantage of sauna is that it strengthens the immune system. Sweating eliminates microorganisms that cause inflammation, and is also effective in preventing fever.
Positive effect on the mind
The production of endorphins in the sauna has a positive effect on the mind. The relaxation time allows you to organize your thoughts, which has a positive effect on anxiety, stress and sleep quality.
Helpful for muscle tension
Thanks to the dilation of blood vessels caused by the heat, the sauna is excellent for relieving muscle tension and micro-injuries after a workout. On top of that, due to its relaxing effect on the muscles, it is helpful for muscular and osteoarticular injuries. It also promotes the breakdown of catabolites that generally form in traumatized areas.
Circulation and respiration
Another benefit of sauna is that it improves circulation and respiration. The change in temperature from hot to cold stimulates vasodilation, which helps prevent heart attacks and strokes.
When to be cautious
Although sauna offers significant benefits to those who use it in a controlled manner, there are contraindications to its use. The sauna is not recommended if:
- If you suffer from hypertension, avoid jumping into an ice-cold plunge pool and instead cool down gradually with cool water, such as in the fresh air or in the shower.
- Do not use the sauna if you have a fever, infections, acute rheumatic diseases, inflammatory skin diseases, open wounds or uncontrollable cardiac arrhythmias.
- After a heart attack, sauna treatments in cooperation with a cardiologist can help prevent another heart attack.
- The Finnish sauna, with its extremely high temperatures, can be stressful if you have heart failure. A gentler alternative is an infrared sauna with a temperature between 50 and 70 degrees.
- If you have varicose veins, you should cool down thoroughly and put on compression stockings immediately.