Sweat that’s sweet: How saunas, steam rooms can enhance overall health

From sinus help to stress relief, saunas and steam rooms have numerous health benefits, according to the experts

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for GOLDOC) (Getty)

If you’ve ever gone to a gym to work out or even started a membership at a health club, you might have wondered at some point about a couple of different rooms where people are typically coming and going, draped in towels.

Many gyms offer saunas and steam rooms, which can be great assets to one’s overall health and wellness.

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But how exactly do these areas benefit health -- and how do they work?

For those who are not familiar, here’s a guide and introduction to saunas and steam rooms.

What are they?

A sauna is a heated room usually with wooden walls, and it’s often between 180 and 195 degrees inside. Saunas use dry heat with no humidity.

A steam room is a space that typically is comprised of tile, not wood, and it’s heated between 100 and 125 degrees. However, the humidity is nearly 100%. Steam is created through a water-filled generator that causes moisture to go in the air.

Yes, both cause you to sweat profusely and it’s not a good idea to be in either for long stretches. But read on to see why even that short amount of time can be so beneficial.

How can they enhance health?

The list is quite extensive when it comes down to the ways that saunas and steam rooms can be beneficial, according to an article by Aston University in the United Kingdom.

Here’s what the article said. These areas can help to ...

- Aid with weight loss. As a disclaimer, sitting in a sauna or steam room won’t serve as a good substitute for exercise and eating right. You still need to do that if you want to lose or maintain your weight. But sitting in a sauna or steam room can be a great aid because it can get rid of water weight.

- Open sinuses. Mucus membranes can be thinned from the heat of a sauna or steam room, especially when someone has a cold. Sitting in a sauna or steam room won’t cure a cold, but it can aid in the recovery.

- Increase blood flow. When exposed to the heat of a sauna or steam room, blood often flows more freely throughout the body because capillaries dilate.

- Reduce stress and tension. Heat from sauna and steam rooms can relax muscles, soothe nerve endings and release endorphins that help reduce stress.

- Help clear the skin. The heat can help give the skin a certain glow and clear impurities, especially when in a steam room.

- Help muscles and flexibility. After sitting in a sauna and steam room, muscles and joints tend to be looser and more fluid.

Is one more beneficial than the other?

Saunas and steam rooms are identical in that they can offer health benefits, but each has a slight advantage when it comes down to certain areas, according to Women’s Health.

Steam rooms are better for the skin and respiratory/sinus problems, while saunas tend to be better for circulation and helping with muscle stiffness.

Where can you find sauna and steam rooms?

In addition to local gyms and health clubs, spas or medical buildings could also have saunas or steam rooms. Of course, if you have extra money laying around, one can also be built in a basement or separate room in a home.

This story was first published in 2020. It has since been updated.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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