The history of using sauna bathing for wellness is almost mystical, especially in the Nordic countries. All the way up from the bronze age to the mid 20th century, sauna was the dedicated place for giving birth, escorting your deceased to the other side, and everything in between. The reason was that for ages poor hygiene was the main cause of illness and death. Saunas were usually the driest, warmest and cleanest places available.
In Sweden, 10.000 saunas were built between the years 1920–1949, increasing health, hygiene and wellbeing nationwide. This moment in time sparked off the nation’s path towards becoming one of the most prosperous democracies. Finland, where there exists a sauna for every two people, has topped the rankings for the happiest country in the world for several years.
Surely all this wellness cannot be a coincidence. No wonder that the northern folk have always intuitively known that sauna is good for you – or that it was at some point coined as the ancient pharmacy. Everybody who has stood in open air with steam rising from their shoulders is familiar with that feeling. The bliss that can run through the human body after an intense sauna session. If something feels that good, it usually is.
The science of sauna
But what actually happens inside our bodies during those hot moments? Studies indeed show that frequent sauna bathing has many health benefits – for the body as well as the mind. The spiritual indications of the past have slowly been validated and combined with scientific evidence. Study teams led by cardiologist Jari Laukkanen have discovered that increased frequency of sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality (source).
2 to 3 times a week in sauna reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by more than 20 % when compared to people who use the sauna once a week.
Using sauna more 3 times a week can reduce the risk even up to 65 %.
In addition to cardiovascular diseases, people with ailments such as dementia, hypertonia, pulmonary diseases, strokes and different psychic conditions have been shown to benefit from increased minutes in the sauna. On the other hand, as our body is a holistic entity, much of sauna’s health potential actually comes from indirect sources.
Studies have shown that we sleep better and more deeply after sauna. The social implications could be even more evident. Meetings in mutual nakedness let us be more truly ourselves and connect with each other on a deeper level, even among perfect strangers. In the middle of constant digitalised bombardment of information, the offline environment of sauna works as a perfect antidote for stress. A more relaxed existence can in itself add years to your life.
So be it electric or wood warmed, infrared, steam or smoke sauna, let’s take advantage of its health benefits. But with covid still in the air, we should bathe safely in limited company and take all the needed precautions.
Key health benefits of increased sauna bathing
reduced risk from several illnesses (including coronary heart disease, hypertension, venous thrombosis, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease)
improved blood circulation and immunity
relief from muscle pain
physical and mental relaxation
increased social connection
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