Here's Why You Should Start Using A Sauna

It seems like saunas are all the rage these days. Of course, if you belong to a gym, it might have a sauna. Even if yours doesn't, you've probably at least heard of the hot places where you can relax and sweat out toxins (via Healthline). You can even buy small outdoor or indoor units for your home to enjoy the benefits anytime you want. If you don't have the space for a whole room, there are portable devices that go over a chair, or you can get an infrared blanket.

According to Women's Health, a sauna is heated with dry heat generated from wood, an electric source, gas, or infrared lights. Dr. Chiti Parikh, co-director of the integrative health and well-being program at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, described it as "It's like sitting in an oven. That's why people often pour water over heated rocks in a sauna room — it creates steam for a little bit of humidity."

Many people enjoy the benefits of these dry heated rooms, helping to relieve stress and detoxify your body (via Finnleo). Users also experience pain relief in their joints and muscles, especially after physical exercise (via Healthline). However, taking some time to sweat in the sauna is good for more than just detoxing. There are a variety of benefits for you to gain by enjoying some relaxing time in the heat.

Here are the surprising health benefits of regular sauna use

Regular time in a sauna can provide a wide variety of health benefits, including some you might not have considered. For one, they help you burn extra calories (via Finnleo). Denise Millstine, MD, an internist at the Mayo Clinic's family medicine office in Scottsdale, Arizona, told Women's Health that sitting in a sauna provided a cardio benefit similar to walking on a treadmill because your heart beats harder in the heat. However, the publication warned that a sweat session inside a dry heated room is no replacement for regular exercising.

Perhaps related to working your heart, spending time in the heat can also lower your blood pressure. "Studies have shown that traditional Finnish sauna bathing is associated with overall lower blood pressure when people are using it regularly. So physiologically, much like exercise, your blood pressure would go up initially and then long-term, it would likely result in better management of your blood pressure and a lowering of your blood pressure," said Dr. Millstine.

In addition to improving your heart and cardiovascular health, utilizing a sauna regularly can improve your brain health (via WebMD). Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his colleagues at the University of Eastern Finland found during a 20-year study that regular use helped cut the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's in males by roughly two-thirds (via the Alzheimer's Society). Sauna manufacturer Finnleo, meanwhile, reported that saunas can also help fight illness, cleanse the skin, and induce a deeper sleep.

Here's when you should avoid time in a sauna

With all the fantastic benefits, you might be tempted to jump right into using a sauna several times a week. However, Healthline warned there are a few times when you shouldn't set foot in the superheated rooms. If you have asthma or other breathing conditions, heart disease, pregnancy, epilepsy, very high or very low blood pressure, are under the influence of alcohol, or take stimulants, tranquilizers, or other mind-altering drugs, then you shouldn't hop into a sauna, especially without consulting your physician first. Others who might need to refrain from enjoying the health benefits of the heat are men who are trying to have a baby. Regular sauna use could cause reduced fertility (via Human Reproduction).

Another area of caution is ensuring you don't become dehydrated due to all the sweating. You can avoid that by drinking plenty of water and by refraining from spending too long inside the heated room. Women's Health suggested that most sessions last between five and 30 minutes. "If you feel lightheaded or you're feeling dehydrated because you perhaps just came back from a long run, it's not a good idea to spend a long time in the sauna," Dr. Denise Millstine told the magazine. "But if you're well-hydrated and feel fine, you can stay a bit longer." Harvard Health Publishing recommends staying in a sauna no longer than 15-20 minutes. If you're interested in enjoying the benefits of heat, you can find out how it works for you with a few precautions. Try it alone or with a friend.