America is unhealthy.
We are as unhealthy as ever, despite great medical advancements. Ancient and natural therapies get lost in today’s healthcare system.
But the data is in.
Want to improve your health? Use saunas.
Evidence suggests that sauna bathing should be part of standard medical care.
This lifestyle practice can help you live longer and perform better.
Below are the top 25 benefits of sauna use.
The Top 25 Sauna Benefits List
- Frequent sauna use reduces likelihood of dying from all-cause mortality
- Less likely to die from all forms of cardiovascular disease
- Less likely to suffer from neurodegenerative diseases
- DNA repair
- Strengthen immune system
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Increase expression of heat shock proteins
- Increase FOXO longevity gene
- Reduce chronic inflammation
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Treatment for chronic heart failure
- Increase walking endurance
- Improve VO2 max
- Helps build muscle after workouts
- Reduces muscle atrophy during injury
- Pain relief
- Better bloodflow throughout the body
- Improves cognition and mental focus
- Better memory
- Detoxification of harmful toxins, through sweating
- Rejuvenates skin
- Lowers blood pressure
- Heat acclimation
Longevity benefits of sauna use
Want to live longer?
A monumental study found that frequent sauna use can extend your life.
2,315 Finnish men, between the ages of 42 and 60, were studied to see the relation between sauna use and mortality.
By the 20-year follow-up, the men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week were 40% less likely to die from all causes of mortality compared to those who used the sauna once per week.1
Partly because heat stress activates genes that make more heat-shock proteins (HSP’s).
HSP’s have many functions. One is helping proteins maintain its proper structure under stress.
There are stressors throughout our environment, like UV rays from the sun, heat stress, normal aging, injury, etc.
Stress from normal living can create reactive byproducts. These byproducts damage proteins and DNA.
Damaged proteins can aggregate and cause damage, leading to aging and disease.
Aggregated proteins can cause heart failure, atherosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s Disease.
HSP’s repair and maintain protein structure to prevent these effects.
Fighting oxidative stress is another benefit of increasing heat shock proteins, from sauna use.
Oxidative stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. One single sauna session has been shown to reduce oxidative stress.2
Heat-shock proteins also help to strengthen your immune system. One of the benefits of sauna use is preventing the common cold.3
Heat shock proteins also activate the longevity gene, FOXO3.
FOXO3 turns on many different genes that make you more resilient to stressors. They combat cellular aging, repair damaged DNA, suppress tumors, regulate protein aggregation, and help with stem cell and immune function.
Humans with more FOXO3 are twice as likely to live to 100.
Even mice with an increased amount of the FOXO3 gene can live up to 30% longer.
The same reactive byproducts from normal life can lead to DNA damage. Damaged DNA can lead to cancer.
Heat stress to fight inflammation
Chronic inflammation is linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and more.
Sauna use has been shown to help, or reduce the likelihood in suffering from those diseases.
A key benefit of sauna use is reducing inflammation, which is the underlying cause of most chronic diseases.
Your body’s heat stress response activates Nrf2, during a sauna session.
Nrf2 basically helps orchestrate a network of genes to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.4
IL-10 is a strong anti-inflammatory protein. Its resting levels have been shown to increase after sauna use, reducing inflammation after the session.
And then there is C-reactive protein (CRP). A high level of CRP in the blood is a marker of inflammation.
Elevated CRP is also associated with atherosclerosis, loss of arterial compliance, and incidence of cardiovascular events.
Sauna use reduces blood levels of CRP, showing reduced inflammation.5
Heart benefits from sauna use
Cardiovascular disease the most common form of death in most western countries.
It is largely preventable with lifestyle behaviors.
In that same longevity study above, the men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes.
More sauna research on heart health
Repeated sauna use improves endurance, heart size, and disease status for patients with advanced congestive heart failure. This is compared to those who received standard medical care. 8
Sauna use was also shown to reduce the frequency of irregular heartbeats significantly, in patients with chronic heart failure.9
Coronary artery disease is reduced blood flow to the heart. This usually happens because of a build-up of cholesterol and plaque inside the arteries.
It can lead to blood clots, which are the most common cause of a heart attack.
Using a sauna can improve vascular endothelial function, resulting in improved cardiac function.10
Peripheral artery disease is painful and debilitating. It’s when your arteries narrow, limiting blood flow to your head and extremities.
Lower blood pressure/ hypertension
Hypertension is a chronic elevation of blood pressure. Its a robust predictor of future incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, and cardiovascular death.
In the KHID study, those who use the sauna 4-7 times per week were 46% less likely to get hypertension compared to those who use the sauna only once per week.14
Even just one single sauna session has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve arterial compliance.15
The sustained decrease in BP after heat exposure suggests that the sauna bath will have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.16
How the sauna benefits your brain function
Reduce risk of neurodegenerative disease
Proteins and DNA become damaged from the stresses of everyday life. Disordered and dysfunctional proteins are often found in diseases.
These damaged and dysfunctional proteins can clump together, leading to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.
The increased expression of heat shock proteins due to the sauna, can prevent protein disorder by repairing damaged proteins.
The KHID study also showed that men who use the start of 4-7 times per week had a 66% lower risk of developing dementia and a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who use the sauna only once per week.
Reducing depression-like symptoms
Those men using the sauna regularly were also 77% less likely to develop psychotic disorders.
This can also be a good sign for people with depression.
People with depression commonly have high biomarkers of inflammation. Chronic inflammation commodes depressive symptoms, leading to changes in brain function.
Better cognitive and mental function
Prolactin and norepinephrine are important to cognitive function. Heat stress dramatically increases the levels of both.
Prolactin is a versatile hormone that promotes more than 300 physiological responses to things like stresses, reproduction, growing new neurons, making the brain faster, and more. It also modulates anxiety and depression.
Norepinephrine affects the way the brain pays attention and responds to events. It plays a role in a person’s mood and ability to concentrate. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, increases alertness and arousal, and speeds reaction time.
The increase in the two helps with mental focus, improving brain function, and repairing nerve cell damage.
Heat also increases BDNF. It’s an important growth factor for growing new neurons. This all aids in the sauna’s ability to improve memory and learning.
Improve exercise performance with sauna use
The sauna isn’t only about fighting diseases. It’s can be like a performance-enhancing drug.
Using the sauna after exercise can increase oxygen consumption and red blood cells. This is a similar effect that EPO has. EPO is the performance-enhancing drug that many Tour De France riders used to increase their performance.
No need for needles in your butt to train harder.
There was one study of runners increasing their ability to run to exhaustion by 32% by using a sauna post-workout, for 30 minutes.23
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit. Saunas also help improve exercise tolerance in older people with chronic heart failure.24
Increased plasma and blood volume to the heart reduces the cardiovascular strain on the heart. This makes it easier for your heart to move blood to various muscle tissues, straining less per given workload.
The activation of HSPs is sustained over time, helping you perform better in the heat. Heat acclimation induces whole-body adaptations that increase heat tolerance, resulting in protective cellular adaptations.25
Using a sauna is training your thermoregulatory system, allowing you to perform better in heat.
This practice increases blood flow to the skeletal muscles, which helps to keep them fueled with glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and oxygen
Endurance athletes often hit a wall due to the depletion of their liver and muscle glycogen stores. Heat acclimation can reduce muscle glycogen use by 40 to 50% compared to before heat acclimation, presumably due to increased blood flow to the muscles.
Muscle growth & repair
BDNF is also produced in exercising muscle tissue. It helps with muscle repair and the growth of new muscle cells.
Muscle atrophy is shrinking of muscle tissue, leading to substantial strength loss. It commonly occurs when your muscle is immobilized due to injury.
Muscle mass requires a balance of new protein synthesis and existing protein degradation.
It is been shown that daily heat treatments applied locally to muscles can prevent the loss of mitochondrial function, increase heat shock protein levels, and reduce muscle atrophy.30
You obviously need to apply force to your muscle tissue to get strong. So use it in combination with lifting weights.
You can’t just sit in the sauna and expect to grow muscle.
Sauna use after exercise can synergize to significantly elevate growth hormone when used together.
Growth hormone is crucial for the repair and recovery of muscles.
Sauna bathing will increase growth hormone level release significantly, varying between time, temperature, and frequency.
One study showed men increased growth hormone levels by 16 fold, after two one-hour sessions at 176 degrees.31
There was another study done at 200 degrees for two 15-minute sessions resulting in a 5x increase in growth hormone release.32
Using a sauna has a similar effect as exercise.33
Repeated far-infrared sauna treatment can significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels.34
The sauna has been shown to decrease insulin levels and significantly reduce blood sugar levels. Both of which can contribute to an increase in weight control and fat loss.35
Sauna conditioning has been shown to reduce insulin resistance in obese mice.36
In another study, sauna bathing caused higher body mass loss and plasma volume in the athletes compared to the group of non-athletes.37
Interesting, yet another study had different results. Of the 674 patients studied, those who were overweight or obese lost the greatest amount of body mass.38
Either way, studies show that fat loss is one of the benefits of sauna bathing.
It should be a tool used with other forms of exercise for best results. For example, using a sauna after workouts for added benefits
Heal with heat
Saunas promote robust increases in beta-endorphins. Beta-endorphins are opioids.
They play important roles and pain management and a reward circuitry.
Dynorphins are counter to endorphins.
This part of the opioid system is responsible for the feeling of dysphoria. So when you sit in the heat for a long time, you start feeling uncomfortable and feel that stress.
The more pain and discomfort your feel, the better endorphin high later on because you’re going to be more sensitive to them.
The more intense pain and discomfort you feel during physical exercise or during heat stress, the better the “runner’s high” is after that endorphin response.
You have to go to discomfort, where it is hard to stay in, for this to kick in.
For example, you don’t get a runners high when you go for a jog. You get it after an intense run.
As endorphins are released into your body, they create a soothing, nearly tranquilizing effect that can not only help with relaxation and sleep but can also minimize chronic pain caused by arthritis and other muscle soreness.39
Fibromyalgia is chronic pain throughout the body, accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
Sauna use can reduced pain in patients with fibromyalgia.40
Lady Gaga is a huge proponent of her infrared sauna for her fibromyalgia.
Sweating is very good for you. Most people do not sweat enough, despite it being a critical detoxification method.
During a sauna session, about 50 to 70% of the body’s blood flow is redistributed from the core to the skin to facilitate sweating. The average person loses about 5 kg of sweat while sauna bathing.43
This heat exposure leads to an increase in plasma volume, providing fluid for sweating. The process cools the body to prevent a rapid increase in core body temperature.
Heavy sweating helps remove bacteria out of the epidermal layer of the skin. The rate at which dead skin cells are replaced is increased during deep sweating.44
This cleansing of the pores also causes increased capillary circulation, which can give the skin a softer-looking, younger appearance.
So by continually flushing waste through skin cells via the use of hyperthermia, you can increase skin health, tone, and color, and more effectively cleanse your pores.45
Detox from heavy medals
Exposure to heavy metals in everyday life is very dangerous.
We are exposed to arsenic in agricultural products, cadmium in cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust, LED toys, mercury dental and fish, and worse.46
Consumer goods like fragrances, paints, nail polish, food and beverage packaging, toys, vinyl floor tiles, shower curtains, cosmetics, shopping bags, pharmaceuticals all have harmful chemicals like phthalates.47
Phthalates are used to make soft, flexible plastics.
Urine samples from populations across the world I found phthalates in them. They have a relatively short half-life which means the widespread taction likely indicates chronic exposure.
These phthalates have been shown to lower testosterone levels, block the effects of testosterone on organs and tissues, and damage the liver, kidneys, and lungs.48
Some phthalates but not all are readily excreted through sweat.49
There is also bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical used to make harder plastics.
BPA is found in plastic bottles food packaging, containers, dental composite, and other products.
High levels of BPA are associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. BPA is an endocrine disrupter.50
Sauna bathing may serve as a means to excrete BPA via the skin to eliminate toxicity in the body because evidence indicates that BPA can be excreted via sweat.51
Some heavy metals are excreted in sweat and sauna use will help facilitate the excretion of those heavy metals.
The sauna benefits we’ve covered focus a lot on the individual body. The last benefit of sauna use is the social aspect.
Since the sauna has been around for a long time, it has a history of being a social setting. Life discussions, politics, and casual conversations take place in the sauna amongst family and friends.
You now have the chance to meet people with many public saunas in gyms.
While you must respect sauna etiquette, it can be a great place to meet new people.
- JAMA Network
- Link Springer.
- Journal of Cardiology
- International Journal of Cardiology
- Journal of Applied Physiology.
- Journal of Applied Physiology
- Psychosomatic Medicine
- Journal of Applied Physiology
- Journal of Applied Physiology
- No Harm
- Springer Link
- JAMA Network
- Springer Link