Whilst cold therapy has taken centre stage in the fitness industry,  the powerful benefits to be gained by the sauna are not to be overlooked. Not only is immersing yourself in a warm wooden room significantly more relaxing than a pool of ice, it has an incredible number of health benefits and is easy to access at both IB Leisure and Billingham Forum.

Improves Heart Health

The high temperature of the sauna causes the bodies core temperature to rise, which then makes the blood vessels in the skin to dilate and the cardiac output/circulation to increase. An individuals heart rate then begins to increase up to twice as fast as resting, mimicking the same effects of exercise. In turn, this can reduce the risk of all-cause morality, strokes, hypertension and cardiac incidents.

Muscle Growth And Recovery

A post workout sauna session not only feels amazing but it can assist in relaxing the muscle contractions and inflammation that can follow exercise, reducing overall muscle tightening and preventing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Research shows that saunas reduce stress in the muscles as the body enters a parasympathetic state, therefore, the risk of future injuries is reduced. Furthermore, under the heat endorphins are released which can minimise any existing pain.

As the blood circulation in the body is increased the healing process is sped up and lactic acid build up and toxins released during exercise are eliminated. The increased blood flow also enhances the availability of fresh blood cells throughout the body, which provides the muscles with increased oxygen, further aiding recovery.

Saunas also assist in muscle growth as heat therapy has been shown to increase the production of heat shock proteins which repair damaged cells in the body and therefore, reduces muscle breakdown and protects against oxidative damage. Muscle building is further increased as growth hormones rise upon heat exposure, this also increases insulin sensitivity which helps the body to build and maintain a lean body mass and regulate sugar levels.

Brain Health

Research into the importance of our brain health is rapidly increasing as Alzheimer’s and Dementia have become more prominent in recent years. Further studies have shown that spending time in the sauna causes the body to release larger amounts of norepinephrine, a neuro transmitter and hormone, which protects the brain from many things including Alzheimer’s, Dementia and migraines.

The level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) also increases upon heat exposure and is associated with the birth of new neurons and an increase in cognitive function.

Improves Sleep

Sleep is detrimental to overall health and wellbeing and a lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, depression and weight gain. Research has shown that the sauna promotes a deeper, more relaxed sleep. A good nights sleep largely depends on temperature and a evening trip to the sauna can help you manage your temperature, as the endorphins released in the sauna start to fall at bed time which has a calming effect on the body and lowers body temperature.

Fights Illness

Finding yourself under the weather can interfere with your day to day life and becomes bothersome upon regular occurrence.  Research has shown that using the sauna significantly reduces the incidences of colds and influenza as the production of white blood cells accelerates upon heat exposure which helps to fight illness and kill viruses. The sauna also helps to relieve symptoms of sinus congestion from colds and allergies.

Relieves Stress

Whilst stress and burnout is often glamorised in our working world, it can have a detrimental impact on overall health and wellbeing. The heat produced in the sauna helps us to relax and regulates the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our blood, when this hormone is too high the likelihood of health issues, such as problems with the immune system and sleep, is increased. Furthermore, strenuous exercise increases the production of our fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline and the sauna is a great way to reduce this and switch the body back into the parasympathetic nervous system (when the body enters rest and digest). The sauna is also proven to stimulate the production of serotonin (the happy hormone), which improves our mood and boosts feelings of positivity, mental clarity, and relaxation.

Cleanses Skin

Sweating in the sauna has been a beauty hack way before TikTok said it was, and there is now scientific research which backs up the claim. When the body sweats the skin sheds dead skin cells and new ones take their place, bacteria is also flushed from the epidermal lay of skin and sweat ducts. As a result of this capillary circulation is improved and skin looks softer and more radiant.

Skin is our largest organ and healthy skin helps to protect us from the environment and harmful microbes, it also helps to regulate body temperature and through using the sauna our skin can clean itself and protect us more efficiently.

Burns Calories

Many people use the gym when they want to slim down and loose weight, and a key factor in weight loss is burning calories. The sweating process alone requires a notable amount of energy which comes from the conversion of fat and carbohydrates, thus burning calories. The acceleration of  heart activity demands more oxygen and the body provides it through energy which is converted from calories.

Flushes Out Toxins and Detoxifies The Body

As mentioned above the heat from the sauna causes a rise in core body temperature, to combat this we sweat in order to cool down and prevent over heating. However, sweating has more benefits than just cooling us down, deep sweating is associated with the reduction in levels of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury and other toxic chemicals that we frequently absorb through interacting with our daily environments. Saunas also enhance our blood circulation which encourages detoxification and further assists in eradicating the oxidant by products that are released during strenuous exercise.

Increases Lung Capacity

Lung capacity refers to how much air our lungs can hold and having a higher lung capacity can reduce shortness of breath and allows our body to access energy with ease. Studies have shown that using the sauna can increase lung capacity by 10% and can even increase exhaustion time in endurance training by 32%! The sauna also raises plasma and red blood cell count which in turn increases blood volume, thus supporting our body to provide us with energy.

Research also shows that the dry heat and vapours supplied by a sauna cleanse the lungs, and as a result mucus and toxins from the sinuses throat and lungs are released and disposed of by the body.

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