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What does Mayo Clinic’s recent report on sauna bathing mean for AUTHENTIC sauna ?

August 1, 2018

Three cheers to Jari A. Laukkanen, MD, PhD, Tanjaniina Laukkanen, MSc, and Setor K. Kunutsor, MD, PhD for their exhaustive paper about sauna benefits, recently published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.  “The results were culled from more than 70 sauna studies published up through February 2018” per Time Magazine,

A few important observations:

  1. Both Dr. Laukkanen and Laukkanen are Finnish, living and practicing in Eastern Finland.  (Dr. Kunnutsor may Finnish as well, but he is currently practicing in England).  Therefore, we are looking at analysis of studies based on AUTHENTIC sauna (something of which Saunatimes has been vehemently promoting).
  2. Many people newly gravitating towards sauna may NOT be gravitating towards AUTHENTIC sauna, and thus not achieving the benefits detailed in these studies.
  3. The paper is very clear to define what the practice of AUTHENTIC sauna is: “The typical Finnish sauna is characterized by dry air and relatively high temperature…from 80°C to 100°C. The sauna is usually made of log or wood with wooden benches well above the floor for bathers to sit on. … Typical sauna sessions consist of short stays in the sauna room, which is interspersed with cooling-off periods (swim, shower, or a cooling-off period at room temperature). “
  4. Unfortunately, sauna in many parts of the World, especially the United States, has been cheapened, bastardized, and marginalized with the advent of, for example, infrared light bulb closets, which do not get up to the temperatures detailed in the paper (and practiced in the studies).  Further, these marginalized fakes do not allow for water to be tossed on sauna rocks, which any person familiar with AUTHENTIC sauna will share, is an integral part of achieving a good sauna, and the results therein.
  5. The experienced sauna bather understands that the sauna practice is not just about the hot room. As mentioned in the paper, cooling off periods are important.  A beneficial and enjoyable sauna session involves multiple trips to the sauna hot room, interspersed with a longer cool down session, particularly in Nature, often in the garden, all misty wet with rain.  Unfortunately, for many newly exposed to the sauna practice, sauna involves shoehorning in a 15 minute hot room session at a health club before or after a work out.  Sauna benefits are compromised (or not realized) under this drive through method.

We sauna enthusiasts are a positive breed.  We applaud the findings in the Mayo Clinic paper.  Intuitively, we know what a good sauna is, and what is a fake.  Experientially, we know that sauna is good for us.  We have been enjoying sauna bathing for what it is.  We are encouraged by the studies and the findings.  The AUTHENTIC sauna cat is out of the bag.  Let Saunatimes help you in your efforts to get your own health and wellness retreat.

Here is the Time Magazine article (copied/pasted and i’d like to get permission as often, linking to articles goes away after awhile):

A new research review has plenty of good news for people who love a good sauna session: Studies overwhelmingly suggest that the relaxing habit is also a healthy one.

A paper published Wednesday in Mayo Clinic Proceedings gathered existing findings on Finnish sauna bathing, the practice of spending time in relatively dry rooms heated to between 80 and 100 degrees, interspersed with periods of cooling. The results were culled from more than 70 studies published up through February 2018.

Overall, the research suggests that “sauna bathing, an activity used for the purposes of pleasure, wellness, and relaxation, is linked to a remarkable array of health benefits,” the authors conclude. Here are a few.

Saunas may improve vascular health

Research suggests that saunas can improve vascular health in a variety of ways, from lowering blood pressure and risk factors for hypertension to reducing bathers’ likelihood of fatal heart disease, stroke and neurological decline. Some studies included in the review did not account for things like reverse causation — the notion that healthier people may be more likely to use saunas, as opposed to saunas making people healthier — but more recent research has suggested that spending time in the sauna can directly affect your blood pressure, vascular function, oxidative stress, inflammation levels and more, according to the paper. In fact, some researchers have drawn comparisons between the benefits drawn from sauna bathing and moderate- or high-intensity exercise.

Saunas can improve respiratory function

Sauna bathing has been shown to enhance lung capacity and function, potentially resulting in improved breathing for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, according to the paper. Sauna regulars may also have fewer common colds and flus and a lower risk of pneumonia, the study adds, suggesting that sauna bathing may also boost the body’s immune response.

They promote pain relief

Research has shown that people suffering from musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, report lessened discomfort after spending time in a sauna. When interspersed with cooling periods, sauna stints may also boost the body’s natural painkilling response, according to the paper. Similar results have been observed among people with chronic headaches, the paper says.

Saunas may be good for your mood

Though many people use saunas specifically to reduce stress, research about how they affect mental health is scarce. Nonetheless, the review notes that time in saunas can boost the production of feel-good hormones such as endorphins, possibly leading to stress relief and an improved mood. Thermal therapy in general, though not specifically Finnish saunas, has also been linked with a reduced risk of depression, the review notes.

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2 Comments on This Post

  1. I feel it should have been mentioned that the use of saunas in fitness facilities can be dangerous to one’s health since it is not good to have a sauna after strenuous activities. The heart is already exhausted and then when the capillaries are expanded by the heat of a sauna the heart works harder to fill them with blood. Sauna is meant to be a relaxed experience, also requiring hydration and snacks to make the experience not only healthy, but social and relaxing.

  2. The gym I belong to have a sauna and a steam room. The sauna barely gets warm, lots of signs of warnings. They both are pretty much useless. Being Finnish I miss good hot sauna. It’s great for our skin, releases toxins. We were much healthier in Finland using the sauna 2-3 times per week.

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