Sauna use can come with a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, including reduced post-workout muscle soreness, reduction in stress, detoxification through sweat, and so much more. Let’s explore these sauna health benefits in-depth, as well as how to optimize your sauna use and when to take precautions when using a sauna.
Top 10 physical & mental health benefits of sauna use
These benefits are supported by research, but individual experiences may vary. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting a sauna regimen, particularly if you have underlying health concerns.
1. Improved cardiovascular health
When your body is exposed to the heat in a sauna, your blood vessels widen — a process called vasodilation — which leads to enhanced blood flow, increased heart rate, and the promotion of better circulation. As a result, sauna use has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, including a reduction in blood pressure, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other heart-related issues.
You’ll notice as you read on that many of the health benefits of saunas share a similar foundation to this one, namely improved circulation and blood flow via vasodilation caused by the heat therapy inherent in sauna bathing.
2. Stress reduction
The heat in saunas has been found to trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural mood boosters) as well as lower cortisol levels (the body’s natural stress hormone), alleviating overall stress and anxiety. Taking the time for a sauna session, especially if done socially with friends, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
For more in-depth information, see our article: Can Saunas Relieve Stress?
3. Pain relief for sore muscles
Saunas are particularly well known for their pain-relieving effects, especially their ability to alleviate muscle and joint pain. Specifically, the increased circulation caused by heat in the sauna can aid in muscle recovery and growth and reduce inflammation. It’s no wonder that you frequently find saunas in gyms for use after workouts!
4. Pain relief for chronic conditions
While sauna use for post-workout recovery is well-established, it has also been found that saunas may help reduce symptoms of chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and ankylosing spondylitis. While heat therapy should be one part of a more comprehensive treatment for conditions of this nature, the benefits and relaxation provided by sauna use can help relieve pain and reduce discomfort.
5. Improved skin health
The skin health benefits of sauna use work in two ways. First, the heat in saunas naturally encourages sweating, which helps cleanse the skin by unclogging and removing impurities from your pores. And second, the increase in blood circulation caused by sauna use also contributes to a healthy, radiant glow.
6. Detoxification through sweat
Sweating profusely in a sauna can remove toxins and heavy metals from the body in a process called thermal detoxification. You’ll notice that sweat plays a role in a lot of these benefits, as sweating can help remove harmful substances from your body and support your overall health.
Learn more in our article on the Scientifically-Backed Benefits of Sweating.
7. Improved sleep
Regular sauna sessions have been shown to improve sleep quality. As discussed, the soothing heat of a sauna can help relieve stress and tension, among other benefits, making it easier to fall asleep and enjoy a more restful night.
8. Enhanced metabolism
The increased heart rate and circulation generated during sauna sessions can lead to increased energy expenditure, temporarily boosting your metabolism. As we discuss below, this may also aid in weight management and calorie burning to some extent.
9. Weight management
We kept this one on the top 10 list because it is so frequently discussed, but do saunas burn fat? No — not directly, anyway.
Weight management is a fraught and tricky subject, and we want to be very plain here: Using sauna therapy for weight loss is not a silver bullet. In fact, the weight lost during sauna sessions is caused primarily by water loss via sweating — water that will be quickly regained through hydration. While it can be a useful solution for a sporting event weigh-in, sauna use is not a long-term weight loss strategy.
However, this is not to say that sauna use does not have its place in your weight loss regimen. Saunas can help improve sleep, aid in muscle recovery, improve cardiovascular performance, temporarily boost your metabolism, and more. These are all factors that help you feel good, which in turn makes it easier for you to stick to your exercise routine and healthy diet.
10. Better cognitive function
The increased blood flow and heat exposure in saunas are thought to have potential neuroprotective effects. Some studies suggest that regular sauna use may contribute to better cognitive function and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Even more sauna health benefits
The above are the most commonly cited health benefits of saunas, but there are even more potential health benefits of sauna use, both tangential and direct. These include but are not limited to:
- Improved Mood: Through the release of endorphins, sauna sessions are known to elevate mood and may even help combat symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Better Respiratory Function: The increased heat and humidity in saunas may facilitate easier breathing and reduce airway inflammation, providing relief for individuals with respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis.
- Stronger Immune System Function: The heat stress experienced in a sauna can trigger a temporary increase in white blood cell count — a vital component of the immune system's defense against infections and illnesses — which, in turn, can enhance the body's immune response.
- Enhanced Endurance: The heat exposure in saunas can help improve cardiovascular efficiency, increase blood volume, and boost athletic performance in endurance sports (when combined with appropriate training).
- Improved Longevity: As you have likely surmised, there are many health benefits of sauna use. Studies have shown these cumulative health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health and reduced stress, may contribute to a longer, healthier life.
How to achieve the full health benefits of sauna use
To get the most out of sauna bathing requires regularity, proper temperature settings, and several other key factors. Here are the main considerations for sauna use that will allow you to enjoy improved physical and mental health, increased relaxation, and more overall well-being.
1. Use the sauna regularly
Even one session in the sauna can be useful, but when it comes to reaping the full benefits of sauna use, consistency is key. Aim for 1-3 sessions a week or more. Regular sessions also help your body adapt to the heat. Having your own at-home sauna can vastly facilitate regular sauna use.
2. Set the sauna to the right temperature
When using a sauna, the key is to find the right temperature. Too hot, and you risk overheating. Too cold, and you won’t experience the full benefits. The ideal temperature range is between 140-200°F, depending on the type of sauna; overly-hot temperatures (240°F+) can cause serious injuries.
If you are new to sauna use, start at a lower temperature and gradually increase as your body becomes more accustomed to the heat.
3. Stay in the sauna for the appropriate amount of time
At Plunge, we recommend a sauna session that lasts between 15-30 minutes. Set a timer to help you keep track of your session and avoid staying in the sauna for long periods of time. You’ll also want to monitor your body’s response while using the sauna.
If you’re overly uncomfortable, that’s a sign you may need a break, and if you’re feeling dizzy, have chest pain, or experience any other symptoms, stop your session and seek medical attention if necessary.
Again, if you’re new to saunas, shorter sessions with breaks in between can help you acclimate.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
This one is crucial. Saunas mean sweat, and sweat means fluid loss. To prevent dehydration, you’ll want to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session. Never consume alcohol or drugs before using a sauna.
5. Wear appropriate clothing
When in the sauna, wear light, breathable clothing and avoid wearing jewelry or bringing in electronics, as these items can become very hot.
There are other steps you can take to make your sauna experience — wearing the right attire, taking a warm shower before you use the sauna, pairing hot and cold therapy together, practicing breathing techniques, moisturizing after each session, etc. — but these are the most important.
And again, if you’re looking to take advantage of the full health benefits of saunas, be sure to consult with your doctor first. Regular sauna use is a great way to relax and reap the rewards of heat therapy, but due to the extreme temperatures involved, it’s important to follow the best practices listed above.
Other FAQs about sauna health benefits
What does a sauna do for your body?
Saunas use heat to induce sweating, which helps your body remove toxins and impurities through the skin’s pores. Heat from the sauna can also enhance circulation and open your airways. In general, saunas are well-known for helping relieve tension and stress and leaving users feeling refreshed.
Why are saunas good for you?
Regular and safe sauna use provides a wide range of benefits, including improved and enhanced cardiovascular health, stress reduction, skin health, detoxification, sleep, pain relief, metabolism, cognitive function, and (tangentially) weight loss.
Is it good to use a sauna every day?
While it is not necessary to use a sauna every day, regular sauna use (roughly 2-3 times per week) will allow you to achieve the full range of sauna benefits.
Enjoy the benefits of sauna use at home with Plunge
Regular sauna use comes with a host of benefits, but saunas found at the gym are often cramped, dirty, and loud. Plunge Saunas allow you to access the health benefits of saunas from the convenience of your own home.
Our saunas allow you to reach your perfect level of heat — up to a max of 230°F — all conveniently adjustable via a mobile app. Easy to assemble, available in two sizes, and made with premium materials (high-quality incense cedar and warp-resistant hemlock), our durable saunas can be placed both indoors and outdoors, allowing you to choose exactly where you relax. With financing options available, your at-home sauna experience doesn’t have to break the bank, either.
Discover the ultimate in-home sauna luxury. Explore the Plunge Sauna today.