Friday, April 17, 2015

It's not always about the sweat benefit

Gyms have them, private clubs have them, and some private homes have them. And until recently there was an international competition to see who could stay in them the longest. 
I’m talking about saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools. They sure do make you sweat – even more than an indoor cycle class lead by Lance Armstrong. Certainly they must be good for us, but how so?

They’ve been rumored to aid in weight loss, but that’s not it.  But I'm sweating SO MUCH! people claim.

The “sweat benefit” of the sauna is different than that of cardio exercise. You may lose a pound or 2 from the sauna, but it is not because of caloric burn, only water loss – which is replenished as soon as you drink water (which you should do immediately prior to and immediately after a sauna session). 

Translation:  There is no long-term weight loss effect of the sauna because you are not burning calories; you are just sweating A LOT!

But here are a few benefits to having a seat in the heat:

  • Muscle recovery – the heat from the sauna increases circulation in the body. Sparing you the scientific details, here’s how it works: the increased circulation helps remove waste products and increase the flow of oxygen and other nutrients necessary to repair the muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise.
  • Relaxation – sometimes even 5 minutes in a dark room with no distractions can help clear your mind and relax your body – especially following a strenuous workout.
  • Skin health – the heat stimulates blood flow and opens the pores, allowing dead skin and impurities to escape.
  • One study actually revealed that sitting in a sauna can have positive effects on the symptoms of sinusitis, bronchitis and allergies.

But there are also some rules and guidelines to keep in mind before stepping inside:

  • Rinse off in a cool shower prior to stepping in. If you are using the sauna following a workout, be sure to drink 16 – 32 oz of water also. (note: probably a good idea even if you are not working out prior)
  • 15 – 20 minutes MAXIMUM. Remember they are HOT – most run somewhere in the 160-194 (F) degrees or higher.
  • If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous leave the sauna immediately.
  • Drink cool water after the sauna to help cool the body down and replenish lost fluids (16 - 32 oz.)
  • Rinse in a cool shower if available (also helps cool the body).
  • Avoid the sauna/steam room/whirlpool if you are pregnant or nursing, have high blood pressure, have suffered a recent heart attack or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

And those competitions that no longer take place?  You can learn a little more about why they are no longer held here

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