10 Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing That'll Inspire You to Get Sweaty


Dec. 1 2023, Published 10:29 a.m. ET

Three friends enjoying the benefits of sauna bathing (view of legs only)

Finnish people have been hanging out in saunas for millennia. A little later to the sweat party, the rest of the world is also cottoning onto the benefits of sauna bathing. And with good reason.

Whether you’re new to the idea or a longtime convert, we’ll be going through 10 benefits of using a sauna that will have you racing to your nearest gym or spa. Who knows, you might even find yourself installing a hot box in your own home!

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A couple of things to note before we ditch our clothes and dive into the steamy world of sauna bathing. First, more isn’t better. Don’t stay in the sauna for longer than the recommended time (15-20 minutes).

Second, be sure to consult with your doctor before making sauna bathing a part of your daily routine. There are certain instances where too much heat can be a health risk, so always prioritize your safety and well-being.

1. Regular sweat sessions can benefit you even after you’ve left the sauna.

According to a study in the International Journal of Hyperthermia, when you cool down after being in a sauna, your brain becomes more relaxed and efficient. This means that it can process information more easily and with less effort.

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2. Sweating it out can reduce the risk of respiratory diseases.

A study in PubMed found that middle-aged men who enjoyed two to three sauna sessions per week had a lower risk of respiratory diseases compared to those who had less than one session per week. The risk was even lower for those who indulged in four or more sessions per week.

3. Sauna use has been shown to increase endurance.

Sauna bathing might offer an edge to athletes. According to a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, visiting a sauna after working out can improve exercise performance and help our bodies adapt to exercising in hot conditions.

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Woman trail runner running up a mountain slope in a tropical forest
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4. Speed up your post-workout muscle recovery in the sauna.

Sweating it out in a sauna has been shown to aid in muscle recovery. A study by the Institute of Sport found that using an infrared sauna (IRS) after resistance exercise can help athletes recover faster and feel less muscle soreness. Post-workout sweat, anyone?

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5. Sauna bathing can help your body detox.

Sweating in a sauna can aid in the elimination of toxins from the body. Research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that while 15 minutes is enough to experience general health benefits, longer sessions are needed to remove heavy metals and chemical toxins. However, the reserach stresses the importance of doing so under medical supervision.

6. Spending time in a sauna can improve your quality of life.

Regular sauna use has been associated with better quality of life. In a study published by the Mayo Clinic, older adults who used saunas reported better physical function, vitality, social functioning, and general health compared to those who didn’t.

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7. Sauna R&R can help you sweat out the stress.

Saunas are known for their relaxation benefits, reducing stress, alleviating anxiety, and inducing a sense of overall well-being. A study published in the European Society of Medicine reported that sauna use has shown potential in the treatment of depression.

A separate study highlighted the benefits for people working in high-stress jobs, such as firefighters, police officers, and so on.

Asian woman firefighter at the scene of an accident, holding helmet
Source: iStock
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8. Regular sauna sessions can induce body mass loss.

Research from the Scientific World Journal showed that sauna bathing has a noticeable impact on body mass loss (BML). Just how much depends on a number of things, including the intensity of heat, duration of exposure, breaks between sessions, and what and how much the participants drank. Still, it shows that sitting around can sometimes be good for you.

9. Sauna bathing can make glowy skin a thing.

The heat and steam in saunas can be an excellent addition to your daily skincare regimen. Findings suggest that regular sauna bathing has a protective effect on the skin, particularly in terms of maintaining a healthy pH balance and improving the skin's ability to retain moisture.

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10. Sitting in a sauna can be good for heart health.

A study published in BMC Med found that both the frequency and duration of sauna bathing are independently and strongly associated with a lower risk of fatal heart attacks in middle-aged to elderly individuals. In layman's terms, sitting in a sauna may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Final thoughts on a hot topic:

Sauna bathing offers a multitude of goodness for both physical and mental health. Remember, though, sauna therapy comes with both benefits and risks. Listen to your body, stay hydrated, and be mindful of the duration and intensity of your sauna sessions.

That said, if you're looking for a way to improve your overall health and wellness, indulging in the age-old practice of sauna bathing is worth considering. After all, the Finns have been reaping the benefits for centuries.

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