Is a session in the Sauna Healthy?
Bathing oneself in heat for the purposes of purification, cleansing, and healing is an ancient practice, dating back thousands of years and observed across many cultures. Variations of its use are seen today in the banyas of Russia, the sweat lodges of the American Indians, and, most famously, the saunas of Finland.
Sauna use, sometimes referred to as "sauna bathing," is characterized by short-term passive exposure to extreme heat. This exposure elicits mild hyperthermia – an increase in the body's core temperature – that induces a thermoregulatory response involving neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and cytoprotective mechanisms that work together to restore homeostasis and condition the body for future heat stressors.
In recent decades, sauna bathing has emerged as a means to increase lifespan and improve overall health, based on compelling data from observational, interventional, and mechanistic studies. Of particular interest are the findings from studies of participants in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study, an ongoing prospective population-based cohort study of health outcomes in more than 2,300 middle-aged men from eastern Finland, which identified strong links between sauna use and reduced death and disease.
The KIHD findings showed that men who used the sauna two to three times per week were 27 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes than men who didn't use the sauna. Furthermore, the benefits they experienced were found to be dose-dependent: Men who used the sauna roughly twice as often, about four to seven times per week, experienced roughly twice the benefits – and were 50 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes. In addition, frequent sauna users were found to be 40 percent less likely to die from all causes of premature death. These findings held true even when considering age, activity levels, and lifestyle factors that might have influenced the men's health.
The KIHD also revealed that frequent sauna use reduced the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in a dose-dependent manner. Men who used the sauna four to seven times per week had a 66 percent lower risk of developing dementia and a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, compared to men who used the sauna only one time per week.
So what are you waiting for, go get hot and sweaty!
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