Sauna vs Steam Room - Which Is Better?
Have you ever wondered what the benefits are for relaxing in the sauna? Well, other than feeling absolutely amazing afterward?
...as always, let's define what a sauna is. It’s a small room used as a hot-air or steam bath for cleaning and refreshing the body. Meaning that a sauna can use either dry heat or wet heat (aka steam).
So let's start with a dry heat sauna. Usually made with wood, ( I’ve honestly never seen one made with any other material) because wood absorbs heat, these saunas are traditionally operated by pouring water over hot stones. In some modern day saunas, infrared or electric stove, the enclosed room has a heating system that allows the room to become extremely warm, hovering somewhere around 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is allowed to get to these extreme temperatures because saunas have humidity control and a person can “comfortably” stay in one for 20 minutes or so. They induce perspiration and are helpful in eliminating excess water weight. Promoting toxin excretion and aiding in muscle relaxation. The increase in body temperature also fools your immune system into thinking it has a fever and so it kicks in the body's natural restorative powers. That’s why you may feel rejuvenated after leaving a sauna. Because essentially you have pressed “reset” on your immune system and its working at 100%.
Can I back track for a second? I want to spend a second talking about perspiration. Sweat, ok, sweat! If you are ever, and I mean EVER in a sauna and you are not sweating after 5-6 minutes or stop sweating after a while GET OUT. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200. Get out! In extreme temperatures, your body has its own cooling mechanism, perspiration. When we sweat we are producing water droplets on the surfaces of our skin that will eventually evaporate and release energy/heat into the atmosphere. That’s the 30-second explanation of it. So if your body stops sweats it has very little other options to cool itself down. Potentially causing you to over heat and pass out, or worse damage vital organ. Now that doesn’t sound very good now does it?
Ok back to sauna talk. Many athletes use saunas to help with their flexibility and muscle recovery. According to an article from Dr. Rhonda Patrick (Ph.D. in Biomedical Science), heat acclimation through sauna use, or "hyperthermic conditioning", can help "promote physiological adaptations that result in increased endurance, easier acquisition of muscle mass, and a generally increased capacity for stress tolerance.” Not to mention its just so relaxing!
There are also saunas the primarily use steam, my personal favorite. Mostly dubbed ‘steam room’, the method of heat transfer is, well, steam! I personally like steam rooms so that I can breathe in the warm, hot air and clear out my sinuses. I also love to get a good stretch in the room after my workout. The hot air allows my muscles to stay in a relaxed state so that I can get a deeper and more relaxing stretch. They are also known to open up pores, like dry heat, but since it is steam the warm water is more likely to moisturize the skin and hair. Double win!
So let’s compare a Sauna to a Steam Room:
They both have relatively the same benefits:
Boosting immune system
Relaxation of both the mind and body
Quicker recovery from sore muscles
Nourishing and hydrating your skin
Increasing your metabolism
Relax stiff joints
Increases blood flow and circulation
Hydrates skin and enhances development of collagen
Lower blood pressure
Reduces stress hormones
At the end of the day, it is really up to you on which method of heat therapy you’d like. I’m just here to give you all of the information you need to make the decision that’s best for you.
Which is your favorite?
Until next time!