According to a lot of experts, saunas and steam rooms have a lot of medical benefits. That’s right, sitting in a room sweating it out can actually do a lot of good for you. Who’d have thought it? Saunas generally have rooms set up with dry heat and with low humidity. Steam rooms, on the other hand, are much more humid, and not as hot. The heat is more wet heat or moist heat, and the rooms crank it up to nearly 100% humidity. Whew. So are you considering sweating it out for the sake of your health? And if so, which one should you pick?
Traditional saunas have heaters to heat up rocks, which warm up the whole room like an oven. You can pour water over them to get the room a bit humid, and the room usually has a vent. Some saunas use infrared heat as well. Sauna walls are mostly wood, and the heat is conventionally between 70 – 100 degrees celsius. A steam room is totally airtight, so you get packed in with the humidity. A steam generator boils water and releases the steam, and the temperature is around 40 degrees, so it’s not was warm as a sauna.
One of the main reasons you’d subject yourself to sweating constantly is for your health, right? Saunas are supposed to be particularly good for cardiovascular health and reducing blood pressure. The sweating releases endorphins. Some studies have also shown that saunas can have a positive effect (if mild) on chronic conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. Frequent sauna use could actually help you live longer.
Steam rooms have slightly different effects; steam is often used to treat colds and allergies. It can also improve heart circulation and lower blood pressure. It can reduce cortisol production and therefore stress, and can burn calories. It can clear up any throat congestion and functions as a kind of heat therapy for your aching joints if you’ve been working out a lot. Saunas can help with muscle pains as well, and if you’ve had a persistent headache, that might clear up as well. A sauna or steam room is particularly effective post-workout, when your muscles and joints can be given some relaxation and heat therapy. They’ll be a lot more loose and flexible afterward.
Both saunas and steam rooms can do a lot of good for clearing up your skin. If you’re having trouble sleeping, they might also help to induce sleep. Some people think that they’re a way to lose weight as well, but ultimately the weight lost is quite minimal (it’s primarily water that’s being sweated out). You do sweat out some toxins, though. You can also meditate while you’re there.
Don’t sit in a sauna or a steam room for too long, or you’ll risk dehydration and dizziness. Make sure to hydrate after your sweat-session. If you’re pregnant, specifically if you’re in the late stage of pregnancy, then speak to a doctor before opting for either. If you have long-term respiratory problems, stick to steam rooms over saunas. If you’ve got a complicated, risky medical history (kidney disease, heart problems) you might want to speak to a doctor before opting for either a sauna or a steam room. Steam rooms can also play host to other people’s bacteria, so be careful.
What do I choose?
Whether you pick a sauna or a steam room is ultimately up to personal preference and how much heat you can comfortably take. Some gyms might offer both options so you can visit both and see what works for you. Make sure you pick a good gym that cleans its rooms regularly, especially for steam rooms, because bacteria thrive in humid atmospheres. Also, even though they aren’t as hot, you might actually feel warmer in steam rooms than in saunas thanks to all the humidity. If you have a condition that might be worsened by humidity, such as arthritis, avoid steam rooms and opt for a sauna instead. If you have asthma or congestion you might prefer steam rooms, and some people just find dry heat uncomfortable.
Ultimately, it’s down to what you think best suits you. Before you visit a sauna or steam room, make sure you’ve got the medical all-clear. Get ready to sweat out your toxins and stress!