The High Heat of Dry Saunas Can Be Great For Your Heart, But Can Be Risky For Some Groups
Saunas are paradoxical places. In a sauna, you voluntarily expose yourself to the kind of heat that could otherwise seriously endanger your health. And in a sauna, such high temperatures can provide many of the health benefits of exercise without you having to move a muscle. Medical research further suggests that the health benefits of saunas can include not just better heart health or the benefits of exercise, but also better sleep, better skin, lower blood pressure, to name a few.
The health benefits of saunas may sound too good to be true, but rest assured: the connection behind saunas and better health becomes clearer when you know how your body reacts to high heat. Read on to find out how saunas use heat to generate health benefits and if saunas are safe for you.
How Dry Saunas Produce Health Benefits
The health benefits of saunas stem from the changes your body makes when exposed to the high heat of a dry sauna. Saunas are typically heated up from 158° to 212° Fahrenheit, which can raise your skin temperature all the way up to 104° Fahrenheit.
When your body gets this hot, your body goes into survival mode to cool itself down. The high heat of a dry sauna raises your core body temperature, triggering positive cardiovascular effects by signaling your body to increase heart rate, blood flow to the skin, sweating, and cardiac output. You can lose a pint of sweat in a sauna, and as the sweat evaporates in the dry heat, your body cools itself back down to safe levels.
Health benefits of Saunas:
- Cardiovascular benefits that mimic the effects of exercise
- Getting better sleep at night
- Renewed skin and improvement in certain skin conditions
- Boosted metabolism
- Improved immune system functioning
- Reduced risk of dementia
Sauna Safety and Health Risks
The health benefits of saunas have kept humanity sweating it out in dry heat for thousands of years, but their high heat environment is not risk-free. For a safe sauna experience, heed the following guidelines.
Dry Saunas Provide Greater Health Benefits Than Steam Saunas
If you read our coverage of heatstroke last month, you’ll remember that it can be incredibly dangerous for your skin temperature to get as high as it does in a sauna when you’re in an uncontrolled environment.
The danger in heatstroke comes specifically from your body’s continued, failing attempts to bring down its core temperature. Dry saunas provide a controlled environment, with limited exposure to dry heat. Short periods of time in high heat combined with air that’s dry enough to allow your sweat to evaporate and cool yourself down thereby leaves you with the cardiovascular health benefits of the sauna without the danger of heatstroke.
Saunas May Be Unsafe If You’re Pregnant or Have Cardiovascular Problems
As great as dry saunas can be for your health, the way saunas produce health benefits — through short time periods in high heat — can be dangerous for some groups. If you are pregnant or have cardiovascular health challenges, consult a doctor before you book time in a sauna.
Stay Hydrated and Sober!
Saunas can also be dangerous if you’re dehydrated, or have been drinking alcohol. Dehydration limits your ability to sweat, and if you can’t sweat your body cannot cool back down to safe internal temperatures. Alcohol and saunas don’t mix because alcohol may affect your body’s ability to regulate its blood pressure, and increases risk of dehydration.
For more health-related topics, tips, and recipes, make sure to follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog. There you can read even more about staying safe this summer in “Summer First Aid Kit Tips” or dig deeper on the physical effects of dehydration in “How to Stay Hydrated in Triple-Degree Weather.” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.