Saunas are part of many ancient traditions spanning across diverse cultures and dating back thousands of years.

Most modern research comes from Finland where regular saunas are a way of life.

The Science Behind Saunas

Having a sauna involves short-term exposure to extreme heat which causes an increase in the body's core temperature known as mild hyperthermia. This triggers a complex and beneficial response from the body that has potent neurological, hormonal, immune- and cardiovascular effects.

Saunas and Longevity

Researchers have conducted studies providing compelling evidence of the positive impact of sauna use and longevity and overall health. When we consider that heart disease is still the number one cause of death worldwide, factors to reduce our risk are important if we want a long and healthy life.

A significant study, the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study, focused on over 2,300 middle-aged men from eastern Finland and explored the links between sauna use and death rates.

The results of the KIHD Study were astonishing.

Men who used the sauna 2 to 3 times per week experienced a remarkable 27% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular-related causes compared to those who didn't use the sauna at all. Even more intriguing was the dose-dependent relationship between sauna use and benefits. Men who had a sauna 4 to 7 times a week had a staggering 50% reduction in the likelihood of death from heart disease or stroke. These results held true regardless of age, activity levels, or other lifestyle factors.

Frequent sauna use was also associated with a 40% decrease in the risk of dying from all causes of premature death.

Sauna’s effects on the brain

The KIHD Study also explored the impact of sauna use on neurological well-being. The findings indicated a relationship between sauna use and the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Men who used the sauna 4 to 7 times per week exhibited an impressive 66% lower risk of developing dementia and a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those who only used the sauna once a week.

Another long-term study showed that middle-aged to elderly men and women who take frequent saunas have a substantially reduced risk of having a stroke.

Impact on Mental Health

In the KIHD study, researchers investigated the correlation between sauna habits and mental health outcomes. They found that men who used saunas 4 to 7 times per week had a staggering 77% lower risk of developing psychotic disorders compared to those who rarely or never used saunas.

Maximise your Sauna experience:

As frequently as you can manage. 4 to 7 times a week was optimum. The duration was about 20 mins per session. Heat of the sauna did seem to matter and should be ideally between 79°C to 90°C.

After the sauna, taking a cold plunge or a cold shower can have extra benefits such as weight loss as well as having anti-inflammatory effects. 

Hydration is vital especially as the average person loses about 500ml of sweat during a session. After it is important to rehydrate and drink fluids, but ideally consuming some form of electrolytes, these can be as a specific supplement but also though consuming fruits or vegetables.  One of the best ways is to have soup or broth after a sauna as they contain a natural form of electrolytes.

Read our article on the The healing power of broths

Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr;175(4):542-8

Kunutsor SK, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen T, Willeit P, Laukkanen JA. Sauna bathing reduces the risk of stroke in Finnish men and women: A prospective cohort study. Neurology. 2018 May 29;90(22):e1937-e1944. 

Disclaimer: If you have a medical condition, are pregnant, are taking medication always consult a practitioner before using a sauna. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.  

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