Some people claim that saunas are bad for you given the high temperatures. Sauna use also increases your heart rate and causes extreme sweating. However, saunas are way better for you than you probably think.
One recent study tracked 2,315 Finnish men who reported using a sauna over the course of 27 years. The participants were categorized into either using a sauna 1 time per week, 2-3 times per week or 4-7 times per week. The researchers found that participants who used a sauna 2-3 times per week and 4-7 times per week had a 22% and 63% lower risk of sudden cardiac death, respectively, than those who used a sauna 1 time per week (after adjusting for other risk factors). For fatal coronary heart disease, the risk was 23% lower for 2-3 times per week and 48% lower for 4-7 times per week. For fatal cardiovascular disease, the risk was 27% lower for 2-3 times per week and 50% lower for 4-7 times per week. For all-cause mortality, the risk was 24% lower for 2-3 times per week and 40% lower for 4-7 times per week. The researchers also found greater benefits when staying in the sauna for more than 19 minutes versus 11-10 minutes or less than 11 minutes. Risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality was 52%, 36%, 24% and 17% lower for >19 minutes than <11 minutes, respectively.
For maximum benefit, go to the sauna 4-7 times a week for more than 19 minutes a day. The reason behind the surprising health benefits of saunas isn’t fully known at this time, however, one of the researchers said:
Although we do not know why the men who took saunas more frequently had greater longevity—whether it is the time spent in the hot room, the relaxation time, the leisure of a life that allows for more relaxation time or the camaraderie of the sauna—clearly time spent in the sauna is time well spent.
Note: Avoid alcohol when using a sauna.
Laukkanen, Tanjaniina, et al. “Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events.” JAMA internal medicine 175.4 (2015): 542-548.
van der Wall, E. E. “Sauna bathing: a warm heart proves beneficial.”Netherlands Heart Journal 23.5 (2015): 247.