Benefits of Sauna: Science or Marketing?Posted: October 12, 2022
In recent years, there has been a growing conversation about the physical and mental health benefits of using a sauna.
Both advocates and advertisers have claimed that saunas are capable of everything from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and extending your lifespan to reducing depression symptoms, boosting your immune system, and much more.
But is this all just a well-orchestrated marketing effort that has really taken off, or is there truth to these claims that can be backed up by science?
As good as all of those sauna benefits may sound, there’s no doubt that companies will do everything in their power to make you believe that their product is a must-have miracle worker, whether it actually is or not. It’s always best to research these claims and make your own assessment before purchasing products.
To help you do that, we’ve created this guide to all of the various claims that have been made about saunas and just how much truth there is behind them. We think you’ll be surprised to find out just how honest the advertisers have been in this case.
Claim: Sauna Can Improve Overall Health
One great trick of advertisers is to make broad and ambiguous claims that avoid any specifics so potential buyers can fill in the blanks about what exactly those claims mean.
Many articles out there tout the sauna’s ability to “improve overall health,” which sounds fantastic but doesn’t offer any useful details about what that improvement might look like.
So is it all just marketing fluff?
This seemingly ambiguous claim is, in fact, backed by science.
A study on sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan found that using a sauna can cause the body to trigger many of the same physiological and protective responses that are triggered by exercise, which means you can get many of the various overall health benefits offered by a good workout by simply using a sauna.
Those benefits may include protection against neurodegenerative disease and cardiovascular disease, preservation of muscle mass, and even reduction of all cause mortality. So yes, regular sauna sessions can improve your overall health!
Increased Healthspan and Lifespan
Here are some illuminating statistics from the linked study that can help shed light on the findings:
-The risk of all-cause mortality was 40% lower among frequent sauna users compared to infrequent users, independent of conventional risk factors.
-For men who reported using the sauna two to three times per week, the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality was 27% lower than among men who reported using the sauna only once weekly.
This is an important statistic because critics of previous studies have said that the findings were skewed because those who have access to a sauna are likely to have better than average health as a baseline. Because this study compared infrequent vs frequent sauna users, the merit of the evidence can no longer be denied
Claim: Sauna Can Improve Mental Health
We’ve come a long way as a society in our approach to mental health concerns, which is a great thing. But with this increased focus on mental health, there are plenty of opportunists claiming to have the solution to your struggles. That is why you must be very careful and do the due diligence necessary to make sure you’re not getting duped.
Regarding sauna use, there have been some bold claims regarding its ability to combat depression, improve mood, battle anxiety, reduce stress, and more. It all sounds fantastic, but is there any truth to it?
Believe it or not, these claims have scientifically backed truth to them. Exposing your body to high temperatures for even 20 minutes can induce a stress response, which causes your brain to release endorphins that improve your mood and overall sense of well-being. Similar to accomplishing a goal or completing a difficult task.
And despite the stress response being triggered, sauna sessions have been found to reduce levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — in your body, reducing anxiety.
Depression and Chronic Inflammation
While depression is primarily an issue that affects you mentally, it also has a connection to the physical. It has been found that individuals who suffer from depression often have elevated biomarkers of inflammation.
A 2009 study found that this chronic activation of the body’s inflammatory response contributes to the development of depressive symptoms.
Sauna Reduces Inflammation
So how can using a sauna a few times per week help with your depression? Well, it’s been found that the heat in steam rooms stimulates blood flow in the body, which helps reduce inflammation and swelling, thereby reducing the depressive symptoms connected to inflammation.
Claim: Sauna Can Boost Your Immune System
We’ve had more than enough reasons over the past few years to be worried about the strength of our immune systems, which of course, has led to all kinds of marketing materials for various products claiming to provide immunity-boosting miracles — and that includes saunas.
But as you probably already know, it’s best to ensure that any medical advice you receive has credentials. So, are sauna sessions a good way to strengthen your immune system and reduce the risk of contracting illnesses?
Once again, the incredible claims are actually true. There are various reasons why saunas can help strengthen your body’s immune system and even help it fight off certain illnesses you may currently be battling.
The high temperatures of steam rooms simulate stress to your immune system causing it to be tougher and more resilient.
The same study mentioned above found that “sauna use is associated with reduced risk of developing certain chronic or acute respiratory illnesses,” including pneumonia.
The risk of developing pneumonia dropped significantly in men who used the sauna two to three times per week. These benefits to respiratory health have also been potentially linked to a decrease in oxidative stress, which can damage immune cells.
The Science of Sauna
Hormesis is a positive biological response to negative stimuli. A good example of this is exercise. Running and lifting tears and breaks down our muscle tissue. This triggers a hormetic response in which our bodies build the muscle back even stronger than what it was before.
Sitting in a sauna can trigger a similar response. It gets very hot in a sauna. Those high temperatures trigger a similar biological response that benefits us in many different ways. We’ll dive into that further below.
Heat Shock Proteins
The body can sense when we are under extreme stress. When we are exposed to extremely high temperatures for more than a few minutes, the body sends protection in the form of heat shock proteins. Heat shock protein’s main goal is to keep our bodies from overheating and keep us alive. In doing so, it causes all our bodily systems to work more efficiently.
These proteins have been linked to various health benefits, such as an improved immune system, healthier and stronger skin, improved neurovascular health, and improved cardiovascular health, which means that saunas may reduce the risks of high blood pressure.
Proper Sauna Use
As with anything that causes a hormetic response in the body, There is a window for effectiveness. Too little and there are no benefits. Too much and it has the potential to be toxic or damaging. This means that you should be aware of the proper way to use a sauna before subjecting yourself to high temperatures.
Sauna Session Time
You may be wondering how long you should stay in the sauna. While you may want to try long sessions to maximize the benefit, you really only need to spend somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes in a sauna at one. Even frequent sauna users have an average session time of 20 minutes.
Temperature is very important to pay attention to when using the sauna. A temperature that is too high is dangerous and puts you at risk, while a temperature that is too low stops you from getting all the benefits. To get the most out of your sauna sessions, keep the temperature somewhere between 158 F and 212 F for a traditional sauna and 113 F to 140 F for an infrared sauna.
Sauna Sessions Per Week
You can enjoy the sauna as much as you would like, though, moderation is the key. Even the most avid sauna users keep their sessions to once per day. This gives the body plenty of time to recover so that it can continue providing the benefits we’ve discussed so far.
The Final Verdict
It’s plain to see that the benefits of saunas are a lot more than just a marketing ploy. They are the cornerstone of many cultures, and the science on the subject is convincing. But there’s a whole lot more out there for you to check out if you need more proof.
Interested in a Sauna?
Aqua Quip cares about your health, and we hope this guide helped you see just how beneficial a sauna can be for your physical and mental well-being. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our infrared, infrasauna, and traditional saunas. If you’re looking for a more personal touch, contact us directly or stop by one of our locations. One of our trained and friendly associates will be happy to assist you.