benefits of saunas

The Health Advantages and
Disadvantages of Saunas

If you believe the information provided by manufacturers of saunas then you would think that all of your problems could be solved just by regularly having a sauna. Your health and your mental wellbeing would receive such a boost that you'd never be sick or unhappy again.

Obviously this is somewhat of an exaggeration but if you are thinking of visiting or buying a sauna it may be worthwhile being aware that there are disadvantages as well as advantages.
     Sauna health benefits

Advantages of Saunas

Many of the health advantages of saunas relate to feeling of relaxing and unwinding that can occur just from sitting in the hot environment. It often feels as though you are sweating away your anxiety and stress. Once you have taken a cool shower afterwards you are refreshed and invigorated. It is often described as feeling as though you have taken one huge breath and your problems leave your body as you exhale.

Saunas can both be a social place or a place of solitude depending on your preference. In Scandinavian countries where saunas are most popular, family groups or friends will gather and chat. Other cultures can be a little more reserved (particularly considering the state of undress required for normal sauna etiquette) but once initial self-conscious fears have subsided, most people can enjoy socialising in a sauna.

Others though prefer to use their sauna time for solitude and peaceful reflection away from people, mobile phones and electronic communications devices.

Whilst the above advantages are very real and tangible, the reality is that many people initially start using saunas as a form of pain and muscle relief eg for arthritis or to help recover from heavy training. The action of heat on soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments releases restrictions and makes you feel freer and looser.

Other reported advantages include:
- Improved sleep quality for those who suffer from certain types of sleep disorders
- Improved immune resistance
- Improved quality of skin/skin appearance.

Disadvantages of Saunas

Most of the real disadvantages of saunas arise from them being used inappropriately (eg in combination with excessive alcohol consumption) or by people who really should not be using them because of pre-existing health conditions.

If at any time you feel unwell, dizzy or nauseous when you are in the sauna then leave immediately and take medical advice if necessary.

The following group of people should not use a sauna unless they have received approval from a suitably qualified health care professional such as their doctor:
- pregnant women (nb probably best to avoid even if you are trying to conceive just in case you are pregnant without knowing)
- (high or low) blood pressure
- heart conditions
- any systemic disease
- suffering from a fever or local inflammation

Other negative health issues associated with saunas arise when the person stays in the sauna for more than the recommended time (around 15 minutes for most people) or they do not hydrate sufficiently after the session.

Unsupported claims of the benefits of saunas.
There are many unsupported claims about how saunas can detoxify your body and help you lose weight. Please take these claims with a degree of scepticism. Sweating in a sauna does not eliminate 'toxins', heavy metals or the like nor will you lose any weight other than through direct water loss which is instantly replaced when you re-hydrate post sauna.

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