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Sauna Vs Steam Room Health Benefits

Here's Why You Want To Start Using One Or The Other!

Posted by AnabolicAliens - July 14th, 2016

Most gyms have either a sauna or a steam room. Some people are lucky enough to have one in their home. Others pay to go to spas to specifically use one or the other. Why? The most common perception of a sauna or a steam room is simply that it’s relaxing. Relaxation is certainly a resulting benefit, but both saunas and steam rooms offer a lot more therapeutic treatments that can improve our overall health. Most of the time, convenience is why we chose the sauna over the steam room, or vice-versa, while other times it’s preference. For those who have the option between the two, are debating on installing one in their home, don’t already take advantage of the option they have, or simply for knowledge purposes, let’s unravel the health benefits that coincide with both the sauna and the steam room through comparison and contrast.


Heat Type

The major difference between a sauna and a steam room is the type of heat. Saunas produce dry heat, while steam rooms produce wet heat. The different types of heat result in different external environments, varying the temperature as well as the humidity factor. Saunas are set at a much hotter temperature ranging in the upper 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but the humidity percentage is significantly lower. Steam rooms have a humidity percentage, if not 100%, then very close to it, but the actual temperature ranges in the lower 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the temperature degree is significantly different, some people may not actually feel a difference in hotness due to the humidity factor. If the body does detect a difference, then the heat or humidity can be factors in the duration of stay.



Relaxation

The sauna and steam room both share relaxation benefits, mentally and physically. Heat increases blood flow, thus improving circulation, which has a pain relieving effect. Based off of this principle, saunas, due to the higher heat, are more analgesic. Conditions causing inflammation such as arthritis can be temporarily managed through the better circulation. Muscle relaxation plays a significant role in both the sauna and steam room. The external heated environments relieve tension from our bodies and decrease joint discomfort. This muscle relaxation can be extremely beneficial from overuse or possibly even injury.


Those who suffer from chronic headaches can minimize their discomfort through this bodily relaxation. Mentally, both the sauna and steam room lower our stress levels. Steam rooms improve our breathing, making us calmer and more controlled, while the heat releases endorphins, which are chemicals that reduce our body’s stress. This reduction of stress can result in better sleep. Also, once you leave, the excess heat after staying in for a while helps the body produce more natural melatonin emphasizing, a deeper sleep and sense of relaxation. To recap, the sauna is better for more actual pain relief, but overall both have significant relaxation benefits, ranging from muscle relaxation to stress reduction.



Cleansing

Sweating is a result of both the sauna and steam room. This opens your skins pores and allows the skin to cleanse. Cleansing the skin actually results in it rejuvenating itself. Therefore, those who suffer from acne can greatly benefit as both establish clearer skin. The moisture from steam rooms goes an extra step and softens the skin. Eliminating toxins from our body through opening our pores tends to be an exaggerated concept. Yes, due to sweating our bodies are releasing fluids, which can in fact be some of those toxins, but you are not actually excreting them from your organs.


For example, if you drank last night and go into the sauna or steam room and literally smell the alcohol, it’s because you're sweating out some of the fluid, but the actual effect of the alcohol on your body isn’t being negated. Overall, both benefit your skin, but the steam room has a more powerful impact in the rejuvenation process.



Respiratory System

If you are suffering from congestion, you without a doubt want to go in the steam room. Saunas due to the dry heat don’t play a significant role in improving our respiratory system. The wet heat of a steam room actually opens up the mucous membranes in the sinuses, thus improving our breathing passageways as well as alleviating congestion. This release of sinus pressure can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from asthma, sinus infections, the common cold, or even bronchitis. The soothing sensation from the high moisture relieves dryness and possible irritation in our nasal pathways and throat. This sinus relief is significant in alleviating the pressure that often is the cause of headaches.



Weight Loss

A main reason many people use a steam room or sauna is they think it aids in weight loss. Well, it really depends on how you look at it. Sustainable weight loss has no scientific evidence supporting that it is a result of the sauna or steam room. Although, if you weigh yourself before and after steaming, then you’ll typically see a change on the scale. This is a result of the loss of water weight. To maintain homeostasis, your body sweats due to the heat to keep your internal temperature in a safe range.


The sweating is excreting water from your body, thus explaining the change of weight on the scale (due to water being a percentage of our weight). This weight loss is not sustainable because as soon as you rehydrate your body by fluid intake, the weight will come back with it. If you are competing and have to cut weight quick for weigh-in purposes, then this method of “water weight loss”, can certainly be effective. For the average person looking to lose weight, however, there is no science to back up claims that the sauna or the steam room can help you.



Possible Risks

In almost every case, risks come with benefits. One of the major risks that can result from both the sauna and steam room is dehydration. Dehydration can result from losing too much water too fast, which can be very dangerous. Excessive thirst, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat are clear signs that you need to get out immediately and re-hydrate yourself. Now, if you are cutting water for a competition to make weigh-ins, you are intentionally dehydrating your body.

If this is your purpose, you still have to be very aware of these symptoms of being overly dehydrated, because they can be detrimental to your body, and could even result in you losing consciousness.


Another possible risk that is specific to steam rooms is an abundance of microbes. Due to the high moisture content, bacteria and fungi can grow, especially if the steam room is not properly handled and cleaned. Therefore, if you go in barefoot, you are at a high risk for athlete’s foot or other fungal infections.


Controversial Claims 

Alongside weight loss, there are claims made of the sauna and steam room boosting your metabolism due to an increased heart rate. There is not enough science supporting that your metabolism is actually sped up, although there is some promising ongoing research that is leaning toward it being a possibility. Another controversial claim is that the higher temperatures of a sauna excrete more toxins from the body, emphasizing the release of toxic metals from the blood stream. This claim has much less research than the claims on metabolism, therefore it’s usually not even mentioned.


A third claim that’s opening the eyes of many lifting enthusiasts, is that longer duration in steam rooms or saunas at temperatures in the mid 100 degrees Fahrenheit, increase our natural growth hormone in our bodies, thus speeding up the recovery process. There have been a few studies supporting this claim, although much more research has to be done for it to be significant enough to validate.

Conclusion

If you have the option of going in a sauna or a steam room, definitely take advantage of it. The risks are pretty easily avoided, and there are multiple health benefits that can improve your overall wellness. If mental and physical relaxation is your main goal, then you are going to benefit most from the sauna. If your main goal is detoxification of your body, you will benefit most from the steam room. Overall, both have similar effects, so if you only have the option of one or the other, don’t think you’re completely missing out because you will always be receiving benefits!



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JoeHurricane
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Super interesting article @anabolicaliens!! Who would have thought there could be so many benefits to saunas or steam rooms? I thought it was just to relax to be honest :D hahaha.