Study highlights multiple physical and mental wellness benefits of Sauna Bathing
In his recently published book - 'The Sauna Book: Hot Facts About Sauna and Health’, Adjunct Professor Hans Hägglund at Sweden’s Uppsala University Department of Medical Sciences, suggests that sauna bathing contributes to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia and stroke, better sleep, reduced anxiety and relief of aches and pains.
As a long-standing member of the Swedish Sauna Academy and as a physician, sauna discussions of the various health effects captured Professor Hägglund’s attention motivating him to learn more and dispel some of the myths. While he presents the current state of knowledge in his book, Professor Hägglund is the first to point out, the book contains “as many questions as answers” and he will be continuing his research in the field.
He is currently working on an international common standard for parameters such as the temperature and humidity of saunas, something that is lacking today.
Professor Hägglund advises “we are beginning with heart failure, looking at what it might be that improves heart function. It is also interesting that the immune system is strengthened. What about those who train regularly: can you stay healthier during the competitive season by taking regular saunas? And what about rheumatics? There is no end of questions.”
According to Professor Hägglund, while it is not unheard of to find a sign outside a sauna, especially when abroad, urging those with cardiovascular disease to seek medical advice or even avoid saunas entirely, this concern is entirely unsupported by the literature.
On the contrary, previous studies have shown that the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease is halved by regular visits to the sauna, while the risk of stroke and dementia is reduced by just over 50%.
Professor Hägglund advises “this suggests that there is some substance to this, even if the figures need to be confirmed in a somewhat more structured manner. Although the studies have attempted to compensate for other events, it cannot be excluded that those with the time to take saunas also generally live healthier lives.”
Studies have shown that sauna bathing triggers the immune and endocrine systems while having a positive effect on the nervous system with Professor Hägglund adding “Vessels dilate and become slightly more elastic, blood pressure decreases, blood lipids reduce somewhat. There is much to suggest that it may be good for the heart and vessels, but this requires a great deal of more detailed study.”
Professor Hägglund considers that “studies seem to suggest the more the better. Two or three saunas a week appear to have some effect but if you take a sauna four to seven times a week the effects are much more apparent.”
As a long-standing member of the Swedish Sauna Academy and as a physician, sauna discussions of the various health effects captured Professor Hägglund’s attention motivating him to learn more and dispel some of the myths.
Professor Hägglund advises that a sauna is “a bit like the effects of cardio. It provides passive heat that increases the heart rate and reduces blood pressure. It can be useful for older people who can’t really work out, or people with a disability.”
He is hopeful that sauna bathing will one day be available on prescription, just like physical training.
As to whether sauna bathing is suitable for everyone, Professor Hägglund comments “if you have a fever or ongoing infection, you shouldn’t take a sauna. If you have recently suffered an acute myocardial infarction or have unstable angina, you should be cautious. There are some people who are unable to sweat and shouldn’t take saunas. MS sufferers are less able to regulate their body temperature and will feel worse in a sauna. And women with post-mastectomy lymphoedema may experience increased swelling.”
With thanks to Annica Hulth, Uppsala University
Image top: Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, managed by Belgravia Leisure offers an authentic Moroccan-style Hammam
Image above: Acknowledging the physical and mental wellness benefits of the sauna experience, Industry innovator Wellness Solutions offer Infrared Saunas that combine infrared heat technology and colour light therapy to restore physical and mental balance. Their saunas are space-efficient and allow users to remain fully clothed while still enjoying the full range of benefits.
When comparing Infrared to traditional saunas, Wellness Solutions note that their infrared Saunas use light to create heat meaning they can heat your body directly, whereas traditional saunas heat the air around you which in turn heats your body. This means infrared saunas are able to penetrate deep into muscle tissue and detoxify from the inside out.
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