Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

August 5, 2018

Saunas Linked to Numerous Health Benefits

It must be true if the Mayo Clinic researchers are saying so…

And… I have covered the subject of saunas and the health benefits several times over the years here in this Blog. Sauna good!

Each report seems to provide a few more details regarding the best practices for sauna use: more seems to be better. About 160 -170° for about 20 minutes several times per week seems to be the sweet spot for maximum health benefits, but any seems to better than none.

“A stint in a sauna is not only pleasant and relaxing but may also improve health, according to the authors of a new, comprehensive literature review. Among the benefits they identified were a reduced risk for cardiovascular, neurocognitive, and pulmonary illnesses such as asthma and influenza; amelioration of pain conditions such as rheumatic diseases and headache; decreased risk for mortality; and an improved quality of life.

Overall, “[t]he physiological responses produced by an ordinary sauna bath correspond to those produced by moderate- or high-intensity physical activity such as walking,” Jari A. Laukkanen, MD, PhD, from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä; the Department of Internal Medicine, Central Finland Health Care District, Jyväskylä; and the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, all in Finland, and colleagues write in an article published online July 31 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In fact, the advantages of sauna bathing plus physical activity may be additive, they write.

The findings build on earlier research by the same authors linking sauna use to a decreased risk for stroke. In that study, there was an inverse relationship between frequency of weekly sauna visits and stroke rates per 1000 person-years of follow-up. The authors listed a variety of positive effects associated with sauna baths that might account for that finding, including lower blood pressure and improvements in lipid profiles, arterial stiffness, carotid intima-media thickness, and peripheral vascular resistance, as well as a reduced risk for hypertension, dementia, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.

Key Findings Emerge

In the current review, the researchers examined observational studies as well as randomized and nonrandomized controlled trials on the health effects of sauna bathing available on MEDLINE and EMBASE from the inception of those search engines until February 24, 2018. They confined the analysis to traditional Finnish sauna baths, as those have been the most widely studied to date.

In a Finnish sauna, temperatures range from 80°C to 100°C (176°F – 212°F), with 10% to 20% relative humidity. A bather will usually spend 5 to 20 minutes in the sauna and follow it with a swim, a shower, or just a cooling-off period at room temperature, the authors explain. Finnish people typically have “a sauna bath at least once per week, with the average habitual frequency being 2 to 3 times/wk.”

Several key studies included in the review showed a decreasing risk for certain acute and chronic conditions associated with greater sauna use. For example, in one study the risk ratio of hemorrhagic stroke among people who had four to seven sessions per week was 0.33 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.07-1.51) compared with people who used the sauna only once per week. In another study, four to seven sauna sessions per week was associated with a relative risk for dementia and Alzheimer disease of 0.34 (95% CI, 0.16 – 0.71) and 0.35 (95% CI, 0.14 – 0.90), respectively, compared with one session per week. Similarly, sessions of 19 minutes or more were associated with a relative risk for sudden cardiac death and all-cause mortality of 0.48 (95% CI, 0.31 – 0.75) and 0.83 (95% CI, 0.87 – 1.20), respectively, compared with sessions lasting 11 minutes.”

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