Sauna studies revealed
Many years ago, the Finnish discovered that pouring water over heated rocks in a small enclosed room created a very hot, dry heat – the sauna.
Recently however, the Finnish discovered that sitting in these small heated rooms can lead to a healthier heart. Working up a sweat can help your ticker—even if you never move a muscle. Spending time in a sauna can slash your risk of fatal heart events, according to new research from Finland.
In the study, men who used a sauna 4 to 7 times per week were 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than guys who limited their sauna time to once a week. (Yes, they had to limit themselves to one sauna a week. Remember: They’re Finnish!)
The frequent sauna-goers were also 63 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death.
Plus, men who spent the most time sweating it out experienced an even greater benefit: Those whose sessions spanned more than 19 minutes each were the least likely to die from those deadly heart events during the following 20 years.
But when crunching the numbers, the researchers took the participants’ physical fitness and level of activity into account to make sure they weren’t skewing the results. And after adjusting for those factors, the findings still show that saunas may truly be heart-helpful, says study author Jari Laukkanen, M.D., Ph.D.
So how is the heat actually protecting our hearts? It’s basically giving our tickers a workout.
As your body temp rises, so does your heart rate, says Dr. Laukkanen. In fact, your heart may beat as fast when you’re enjoying a sauna as it does during a moderate intensity workout—typically hitting somewhere between 100 to 150 beats per minute.
What’s more, saunas may help improve your endothelial function, which is the ability of specific parts of your heart and blood vessels to widen and constrict. This improves blood flow, potentially leading to fewer harmful heart events.
The saunas in the study were hot and dry, with an average temperature reaching 174 degrees Fahrenheit. More research needs to be done on whether putting yourself in other hot places—like steam rooms or hot tubs—will give your body the same boost, says Dr. Laukkanen.
While the results from this study are promising, you definitely shouldn’t make a trip to the sauna your only sweat session: It won’t replace an actual exercise program and healthy-eating regimen. Instead, just incorporate some sauna time into your established exercise routine, when possible. And make sure to pound some fluids before and after sweating it out to combat dehydration.
During any sauna session, you should drink lots of water, as sweating can often result in a large amount of water loss. Without replacement, this can cause fatigue or disruption of normal heart rhythms. Sessions should be no longer than 15 minutes and no more than three per day.
If you’re taking medication, you should consult your doctor first and furthermore, you should never stay inside a sauna if you feel faint or nauseous. If you’ve had a heart attack in the recent past or currently have some kind of illness, you may want to rethink the heat room. Please talk to your doctor first.
If spending time in a sauna is something you would like to try, now is the best time to do so!
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