By Curtis Banton
Sauna bathing is an activity that has been around for thousands of years, mainly for the purpose of pleasure and relaxation. However, emerging evidence suggests that beyond therapeutic use, there are several health benefits.
Acute heat exposure during sauna use has been found to be comparable to moderate physical exercise. When looking at our blood pressure and heart rate during sauna bathing in comparison to a dynamic exercise test, sauna bathing was equivalent to an exercise load of approximately 60-100 watts. The sustained decrease in blood pressure after heat exposure also suggests a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.
Large studies conducted in Finland have shown that compared to men who never used the sauna, moderate sauna users (2-3 times per week) are 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular related causes. In addition, frequent users (4-7 times per week) are 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular related causes.
Sauna use also assists the excretion of toxicants that bioaccumulate in the muscles, adipose tissue (fat) and our organs. This is facilitated with sauna use, with the average person losing between 2-5 lbs of water weight in a 30 to 45 minute session.
We are often exposed to Bisphenol A (BPA) which is found in plastic bottles, food packaging, beverage can linings and other products. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, once considered to be a weak environmental estrogen but may be similar in potency to estradiol in stimulating some cellular responses. BPA primarily bioaccumulates in adipose tissue, with evidence suggesting that it is excreted via sweating and that sauna bathing may facilitate this process.
Heat exposure from sauna use is also great for our brains. A large observational study in Finland has shown that middle-aged men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared to men who only used the sauna once per week.
Heat stress also activates heat shock protein response, which has been linked to longevity through delaying senescence and slowing progression of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In summary, sauna use is associated with longevity, especially with more frequent use. By exposing ourselves to acute bouts of heat exposure, we can induce heat shock proteins, which can help keep proteins in our bodies from becoming misfolded and forming aggregates, which is associated with diseases of aging.
- Sauna bathing is an activity.. (Laukkanen JA, Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK 2018)
- Acute heat exposure during sauna use.. (Ketelhut S and Ketelhut RG 2019)
- Large studies have been conducted.. (Laukkanen T, et al. 2015)
- 0.5kg of sweat.. (Podstawski R, et al. 2014)
- BPA is a known endocrine disruptor.. (Rubin BS 2011)
- BPA primarily bioaccumulates.. (Genuis SJ, et al. 2012)
- 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.. (Laukkanen T, et al. 2017)
- Heat stress also activates.. (Leak RK. 2014)