As many people have started to invest in their health and fitness, it is important to highlight some of the benefits of saunas and steam rooms. When going to the gym, you wonder if it will be good idea to either use the sauna or steam bath and may not know which will be best for you. This blogpost is meant to highlight some of the benefits, risks and precautions you should be taking should you choose either one of them.
A sauna is wood-paneled, and the stove within the sauna heats the rocks that you sit on which in turn, radiates heat into the enclosed room. There will sometimes be a small amount of steam in the room if you put water onto the hot rocks. The temperature in a sauna is usually higher than a steam room at around 70°C to 100°C, while the humidity level is much lower, between 5– 30%.
A steam room on the other hand, is created when a water-filled generator pumps steam into an enclosed space so there is moisture in the air when people are sitting in it. This type of room is generally found in gyms and spas. The key difference is that while steam rooms are filled with moist heat, a sauna provides dry heat from wood or an electric stove.
There are several types of saunas, based on how the room is heated.
· Wood burning: Wood is used to heat the sauna room and sauna rocks. Wood-burning saunas are usually low in humidity and high in temperature.
· Electrically heated: Similar to wood-burning saunas, electrically-heated saunas have high temperatures and low humidity. An electrical heater, attached to the floor, heats the sauna room.
· Infrared room: Far-infrared saunas (FIRS) are different to wood-burning and electrically-heated saunas. Special lamps use light waves to heat a person’s body, not the entire room. Temperatures are typically lower than other saunas, but the person sweats in a similar way. Usually, infrared saunas are about 60°Celsius.
· Steam room: These are different from saunas. Instead of dry heat, a steam room involves high humidity and moist heat.
· Improves circulation: A 2012 study found that moist heat can improve circulation by dilating the small blood vessels or capillaries. Blood can then flow more easily and transport oxygen around the body. It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and keep the heart healthier, as well as help to repair broken skin tissue caused by wounds, such as ulcers.
· Help remove toxins from the skin: Both steam rooms and saunas will make a person sweat due to the heat. Sweating opens up the pores and helps cleanse the outer skin. Warm condensation will help rinse away dirt and dead skin and has been used in the treatment of acne. However, what a steam room also does that a sauna does not, is help remove the toxins trapped below the skin.
· Workout recovery: Often, after a workout, a person’s muscles will feel sore. This pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is important to relax the muscles to promote a quick and healthy recovery. A 2013 study showed that the immediate application of moist heat after a workout helped reduce pain and preserve muscle strength. The heat soothes nerve endings and relaxes the muscles.
· Loosen stiff joints: A steam room can also be used before a workout, as it helps to loosen up the joints and increase flexibility, just as a warm-up does. A2013 study showed that the application of heat to a joint can decrease the force needed to move the joint by up to 25% compared to cold application. If a person suffers from joint pain, steam rooms can also help reduce this.
· Stress Reduction: Being in the heat of a steam room can make the body release endorphins, which are known as ‘feel good’ hormones because they help to reduce the feeling of stress in the body. A steam room can also decrease the level of cortisol, which is the hormone released in response to stress. When the cortisol level drops, people can feel more in control, relaxed, and rejuvenated.
· Opens up sinuses: The heat from a steam room opens up the mucous membranes around the body. This will make someone breathe more deeply and easily. Steam rooms will break up the congestion in the sinuses and lungs and therefore can be used to help treat colds, unblock sinuses, and aid breathing.
· Burns calories: When a person is inside a steam room their heart rate increases. If they use a steam room after exercise, then their elevated heart rate can be prolonged. Experts have found that when used alongside a healthy exercise program, the heat generated by the steam room and the sweating it causes can stimulate the body and increase wellness. It is worth noting that there is no scientific evidence to support the belief that using as team room aids weight loss. This is because the weight lost after using a steam room is merely water weight and must be replaced by drinking water afterward to avoid dehydration.
· Due to the heat, there is a risk of dehydrating the body and it is advisable not to spend longer than 15 to 20 minutes inside. It is important to drink plenty of water beforehand and afterwards as well.
· These places provide an ideal environment for certain types of bacteria and germs to grow and spread. Examples of this are athlete’s foot and other fungal infections that can thrive in warm, humid conditions. So it is advisable to wear a towel and flip-flops or when inside a steam room or sauna.
Due to the extreme heat in steam rooms and saunas, there are certain people who are advised to avoid them:
If someone has any concerns about using a steam room or sauna they should check with their doctor first.
There are also certain safety measures you should take before using a steam room or sauna.
· Don’t drink alcohol. The high heat of the steam room can increase your risk of dehydration.
· Don’t go while you’re sick. The warmth and moisture of steam rooms can help bacteria grow. If you have a bacterial skin infection, don’t use a public steam room until the infection has cleared up.
· Use in moderation. Longer isn’t better in the steam room. Limit your session to 5-10 minutes and regulate the temperature if possible.
· Supervise children: Children aged 6 and above are safe to use a sauna, but should be supervised when doing so. They should spend no longer than 15 minutes in there at one time.
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