Why Saunas Are Ridiculously Good for You

From TIME - January 10, 2018

A visit to the sauna is more than just relaxing; it seems to have real heart and cardiovascular benefits, as well. A group of researchers from the University of Eastern Finlandwho previously found that people who regularly used saunas had lower rates of hypertension, cardiac death and dementia compared to infrequent usersnow find in a new study that sauna bathing can have a direct effect on blood pressure, heart rate and vascular health.

The teams earlier studies on the health benefits of saunas, published in 2015 through 2017, were observationalmeaning they could only find associations, and not cause-and-effect relationships, between sauna use and health outcomes. This time, however, the Finnish researchers recruited 102 people and monitored them immediately before and after a 30-minute sauna session to see what happened.

The new research, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension and the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that time in a hot, dry sauna reduced peoples systolic blood pressure from 137 to 130 mmHg, and their diastolic pressure from 82 to 75 mmHg. While the systolic pressure drop was only temporary, diastolic pressure remained lower 30 minutes after people came out of the sauna.

The sauna sessions also improved peoples vascular compliance: a measure of blood vessels ability to expand and contract with changing pressure. Their heart rates gradually increased during the sessions, as well, to an average of 120 beats per minuteabout what would be expected during moderate-intensity exercise. (Normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100.)

That doesnt necessarily mean that sitting in a sauna is as healthy as working out, says study co-author Dr. Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Eastern Finland. For this argument, we are not yet sure, he told TIME by email.

For one thing, he points out, muscles arent getting the same benefit from a sauna bath that they would from a true workout. However, circulatory responses may be similar, he says, which suggests that sauna bathing could help keep the heart healthy and pumping efficiently.


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