Ever wondered what saunas can do for your health? You're not alone. Home saunas are more popular than ever, for good reason! Many of us are more conscious about our health and making the most of our home life. Combining the convenience of a spa on your doorstep, with the health benefits of dry heat, a sauna at home might be just what you need.
We'll talk you through the tried and tested benefits of dry heat, and how you can adapt this ancient practice to the comfort of your own home or garden. Let's begin...
Feel-good Finns: ancient sauna science
Sweating as a form of therapy has a rich history! Saunas have existed for thousands of years, with the word itself meaning ‘bath’ in Finnish. Saunas are a little more advanced today, but 1 in 3 Finns still use them regularly. Heat therapy offers a wealth of health benefits that are as relevant now as they were in ancient times.
In Finnish saunas, it's all about dry heat, with humidity levels usually hovering between 10% and 20%. In other types of saunas, like Turkish baths, you'll find more moisture and steam in the air. The secret behind Finnish sauna's effectiveness lies in this dry heat, with low humidity and higher temperatures impacting both your body and mind.
Using a sauna can push your skin temperature up to approximately 40°C, which leads to some serious sweating. Your heart rate also kicks up a notch as your body works to stay cool. It's not unusual to bid farewell to about a pint of sweat in just a short stint in a sauna.
So, how does dry heat actually benefit you?
Wood fired wellbeing: physical benefits of saunas
- Muscle Relaxation: Saunas are the go-to solution for athletes and anyone seeking relief from the aches and pains of daily life. Heat from saunas can ease muscle tension and soreness. Barrel saunas are particularly comfortable with their naturally curved frame providing back support.
- Pain Relief: Many arthritis sufferers find saunas help to ease pain. Heat stimulates blood flow which reduces inflammation, swelling, and stiffness in your joints. Regular sauna sessions can also help improve mobility and flexibility.
- Asthma Alleviation: Saunas may help to open airways and loosen phlegm, to minimise the symptoms of asthma sufferers.
- Heart Health: Studies have shown that saunas may provide benefits for cardiovascular health that resemble those derived from exercise. Saunas induce vasodilation, the widening of blood vessels, which enhances blood flow and can reduce blood pressure.
- Skin Saviour: Sufferers of psoriasis may find that saunas help to reduce symptoms. Saunas also help to minimise blackheads and alleviate acne - as you perspire, your pores open, allowing impurities to be flushed out. Bear in mind that dry heat can worsen conditions such as dermatitis, so use cautiously.
- Weight Management: While saunas don’t technically burn fat, they do help to burn slightly more calories than you would otherwise. The higher temperature causes your heart rate to increase, in a way similar to exercise. Be mindful that any immediate weight loss you experience could be water loss from dehydration. While a sauna is no substitute for a healthy diet and active lifestyle, consider it a complementary tool in your fitness arsenal, rather than a weight loss miracle.
Please note: As with any therapy that involves extreme temperatures, it’s important to always consult your doctor before considering a sauna at home. This is especially important if you are pregnant, or if you have any underlying medical concerns, particularly issues with your heart, circulatory system, blood pressure or diabetes. Also be aware of the risk of overheating and dehydrating no matter your medical history. Sensible precautions are a must, your health should always be your top priority.
Cabin of calm: mental benefits of saunas
Stress Relief: Dry heat promotes the release of endorphins, the "feel-good" chemicals in your brain that make you relaxed and relieve stress. The soothing and serene environment of a sauna allows you to disconnect from the daily hustle and bustle.
- Mental Clarity: The heat and relaxation provided by saunas can clear your mind and improve focus. It's an excellent way to gain mental clarity, practise mindfulness, and shift your attention to the here and now.
- Better Sleep: Many sauna devotees find they enjoy better quality sleep after regular use. The relaxation and muscle relief provided by saunas can help you get a more restful night in bed, for greater energy the next day.
- Social Connection: Sauna sessions allow you to spend valuable time with loved ones, in a calming and quiet environment, without any distractions.
Please note: Saunas are not a stand-alone cure for psychological problems, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you are having issues. What saunas can help with is forming part of a routine that can help to manage and alleviate stress and anxiety, as well as boosting your mood. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing.
Home and garden saunas: your path to wellness
So how can you incorporate saunas into your home or garden? Fortunately, the world of personal saunas has evolved to make it more accessible and affordable than ever.
- Indoor Saunas: If you have a dedicated space in your house, an in-home sauna can be a perfect addition. Dry saunas at home are perfectly safe and come in various sizes, from private saunas, to 2 person saunas, and family sized 6 person cabins.
- Outdoor Saunas: A garden sauna can transform your outdoor space into your own wellness retreat. Outdoor saunas at home are built to withstand the elements and come in various styles, from barrel saunas to cube cabins. If you choose a sauna cabin with glass panels, you can admire your gardening efforts while staying cosy, and even enjoy a spot of stargazing at night. We love watching the seasons change from our toasty sauna!
- Infrared Saunas: Infrared saunas have gained popularity for their gentle, radiant heat that penetrates your skin more deeply. Also known as IR saunas, they are known for producing an intense sweat for more rapid detoxification.
Incorporating sauna sessions into your routine
To make the most of your sauna experience, follow these simple steps:
- Stay Hydrated: Always drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session. Barrel saunas often come with exterior benching to take a break and grab a drink.
- Know Your Limits: It's essential to listen to your body and not overdo it. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as your body acclimates.
- Post-Sauna Ritual: After your sauna session, take time to cool down and relax. A cold shower or a dip in an ice bath, when used wisely, can be invigorating and enhance the benefits of your sauna experience.
- Short & Regular Sessions: For optimal results, aim for regular sauna sessions. Consistency is key when reaping the long-term health and wellbeing benefits.
Frequently asked questions about saunas
How often should you sauna?
If you're a newbie, aim to start with weekly sessions. It's fine to use your sauna every day, as long as you stay hydrated. It's the length of sessions instead of the regularity that you need to be mindful of. Longer sessions over 20 minutes can dehydrate you, whereas regular sessions should not pose any risk to your health, in fact, the more often you use it, the more benefits you’re likely to get.
What are the disadvantages of the sauna?
Saunas are not for everyone. Make sure you consult your doctor before using a sauna, especially if you are pregnant or have any medical concerns, particularly concerning blood pressure, circulation problems, heart issues, or diabetes. Certain conditions raise the body’s core temperature or put you at a higher risk of dehydration, which is then exasperated by a sauna. Dry heat can also worsen skin conditions such as dermatitis or fungal diseases, so use your sauna wisely.
If you are healthy enough to use a sauna, make sure you use it sensibly. Avoid increasing your risk of heat stroke by keeping sauna sessions to 20 minutes. Dehydration can be minimised by having a glass of water before and in between sessions. You should also avoid drinking alcohol prior to, and during sauna sessions. If you’re feeling sleepy or weary, avoid using your sauna that day, to ensure you don’t fall asleep. For most healthy people who take sensible precautions, saunas can provide a host of physical and mental benefits.
Why do you need a cold shower after a sauna?
Showering after a sauna helps you to cool down and regulate your body temperature. It's also important to wash off any sweat, dirt, or bacteria from your sauna. Many people - especially the Finns - enjoy a cold shower or ice bath afterwards, to maximise the health benefits of dry heat and cold water therapy. Hot cold therapy, when used cautiously, can help to reduce inflammation, provide pain relief, and tighten pores. Consider an outdoor shower for the ultimate convenience.
Is it better to go in the sauna before or after a workout?
Although some people like to use a sauna as part of their warmup, we recommend using it after a workout. The heat helps to expand your blood vessels and relax your muscles, reducing soreness and aiding recovery. Don’t forget to ensure you’re hydrated after your workout.
Does sauna burn fat?
While saunas don’t technically burn fat, they do help to burn slightly more calories than you would otherwise. The higher temperature causes your heart rate to increase, in a similar way to exercise.
Be mindful that any immediate weight loss you experience could be water loss from dehydration. Make sure to stay hydrated during your sauna session, we recommend drinking a glass of water before you enter, and topping up at least every 20 minutes, or as and when you need it.
Don't consider saunas a weight loss miracle, but rather a complementary tool in your fitness arsenal, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Is sauna good for your skin?
Sufferers of psoriasis, acne, and blackheads may find that saunas help to reduce symptoms. As you perspire, your pores open, allowing impurities to be flushed out. Bear in mind that dry heat can worsen conditions such as dermatitis, so check before you use one.
What should I wear in a sauna?
You don’t have to embrace the European sauna tradition… especially in view of neighbours! We like to wear a towel over a swimsuit, or loose, oversized t-shirts and shorts. Natural fabrics like linen, bamboo, or cotton help your skin breathe. Make sure you’re wearing clean clothes, to keep your sauna as sanitary as possible.
Home saunas are not just a luxury nowadays; they’re an accessible path to better physical and mental health. With outdoor saunas for your home becoming increasingly affordable, you can embrace the magic of sauna therapy in your own garden.
Discover the transformative power of dry heat and step into the soothing world of saunas for a healthier, happier you.