Steam Room Vs. Sauna: Which Is Better For Your Health?

Lots of luxury spas, bathhouses, and gyms feature a steam room or a sauna (or both) as a can't miss amenity, and if you've got the cash, you can even put one in your own house (via Build Your House Yourself University). While they both involve you getting to relax in a heated environment, there is a difference between the two in their impact on your body, and depending on what's going on with your body, you'll definitely want to choose one over the other.

The first thing is to understand the difference between a steam room and a sauna. A traditional sauna, according to Shape, heats up to 180 to 200 degrees F, and you control the humidity by sprinkling water on heated rocks. The sauna is all about dry heat, as compared to a steam room, which only gets to around 100 to 115 degrees F, but it has near to 100% humidity, with an ongoing source of steam. A sauna works to "stimulate sweating and steam rooms reduce our ability to sweat," Dr. Joy Hussain told Good Housekeeping, so what may feel like sweat in a steam room is more likely condensed water.

A steam room is better if you have sinus issues

Benefits for both a sauna and a steam room include relaxation, improved circulation, and muscle and joint pain relief (via Women's Health). "Both saunas and steam rooms increase your skin and core body temperatures, causing various physiological changes," Dr. Hussain explained to Good Housekeeping. "But these changes happen a lot faster and with more intensity in steam rooms because your sweating responses are dampened, literally."

This is part of why you want to spend less time in a steam room than in a sauna. A general recommendation is to limit your steam room session to a maximum of 15 minutes and a sauna session to a maximum of 20 minutes (via Shape).

While a lot of the benefits are the same because they're both a version of heat therapy, head for a steam room if you've got sinus issues. Inhaling the steam will help you clear your nasal passages and get rid of upper respiratory congestion (via Shape).

And if you want some feel-good chemicals, try the sauna, where you can stay longer and get sweatier. A sauna will get your heart rate up and it will make you sweat quickly and a lot, since the sweat evaporates so rapidly in the hot environment. According to research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, that causes your body to release endorphins, like after a good workout.