Take a look around and you will find all the spas and almost all gyms these days offering steam bath / sauna option. Even in movies we have often seen people taking steams or relaxing in a nice sauna. And in your life too, you’ve always wanted a hot water bath to help you relax and destress you. A hot bath before bed time helps wash away all of the day’s tensions and sleep better. Ever wondered why is that?
It is because heat, in regulated amount, does wonders for the mind, body and skin! And how can you reap the heat benefits often? Simple.
Today, let’s debunk this HEATED UP topic and understand all that there is to know about STEAM BATHS AND SAUNAS.
What Is Steam Bath or Sauna?
Technically speaking, both the places are similar in the way that they are a heated room that is artificially controlled and simulated. They generate enough heat for the human body to sweat it out. Worldwide, people use it for various purposes, right from relaxation to detoxifying and also to relieve medical conditions.
What is the Difference between Steam Bath and Sauna?
To note, there is one stark difference between the two –
Steam Bath is a steam room that is created when a water-filled generator pumps steam into an enclosed space so there is moisture in the air when people are sitting in it.
The temperature inside a steam room is generally between 110°F and 114°F with a humidity level of 100 percent.
Sauna is wood-panelled room, and the stove heats rocks that, in turn, radiate heat into the enclosed room.
There will sometimes be a small amount of steam in the room if the user puts water onto the hot rocks.
The temperature in a sauna is usually higher than a steam room at around 160°F to 200°F, while the humidity level is much lower at between 5 percent and 30 percent.
The main difference arises from the presence or lack of moisture thereof.
Which One Is Better?
Well, it all boils down to personal preference, given you do not have any respiratory or cardio-vascular issues. But here are a few facts that can help you make a decision –
Important Fact: You are advised to skip the sauna if you’ve recently had a heart attack or any other cardiovascular issues since it increases your heart rate.
The benefits derived from both are almost the same (which we shall discuss in a while). At the same time, they also have similar downsides. In saunas, you’re mainly looking at dehydration and dizziness from the heat.
And in steam rooms, because the steam prevents sweat from evaporating which then increases the body temperature, those allergic to high heat may faint or feel dizzy while in the room.
There is, however, one extra benefit to steam rooms for anyone who has respiratory problems like asthma or allergies. Medications for these kinds of respiratory problems might dry out your breathing passages. Steam will moisturize and open the lungs a little more and hydrate the respiratory tract.
Regardless, it is best to take the advice of your doctor before you make any decisions.
Benefits of Steam / Sauna
Sitting in a steam room has been shown to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system as it improves circulation and thus, more oxygen is transported around the body.
It also reduces blood pressure and keeps the heart healthier, as well as help to repair broken skin tissue caused by wounds, such as ulcers.
The sweating in both the said option will open up the pores and help cleanse the outer skin.
Warm condensation will help rinse away dirt and dead skin and has been used in the treatment of acne. However, what a steam room also does that a sauna does not is help remove the toxins trapped below the skin.
There is usually a lot of soreness after an intense workout. This pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs), and it is important to relax the muscles to promote a quick and healthy recovery. Immediate application of moist heat after a workout helped reduce pain and preserve muscle strength. The heat soothes nerve endings and relaxes the muscles.
Loosens Stiff Joints
A steam room can also be used before a workout, as it helps to loosen up the joints and increase flexibility, just as a pre-workout warm-up does. The application of heat in a steam or sauna room can decrease the force needed to move the joint by up to 25 percent compared to cold application. These rooms can also help reduce chronic joint pains.
Being in the heat of a steam room can make the body release endorphins, which are known as ‘feel good’ hormones because they help to reduce the feeling of stress in the body.
A steam room can also decrease the level of cortisol, which is the hormone released in response to stress. When the cortisol level drops, people can feel more in control, relaxed, and rejuvenated.
Opens up sinuses
The heat from a steam room opens up the mucous membranes around the body. This will make someone breathe more deeply and easily.
Steam rooms will break up the congestion in the sinuses and lungs and therefore can be used to help treat colds, unblock sinuses, and aid breathing.
Steam rooms or Saunas may help to burn calories, although they have not been proven to aid weight loss. Experts have found that when used alongside a healthy exercise program, the heat generated by the steam room and the sweating it causes can stimulate the body and increase wellness.
It is worth noting that the weight lost after using a steam room is merely water weight and must be replaced by drinking water afterward to avoid dehydration.
How Much is too Much?
If you are just starting off, it’s best to start with lesser time (15-20 mins) a week and gradually increase. Some people are known to even to take steam/ sauna baths thrice a week for a period of 30-45 mins. It is best to keep a stick at thrice a week, lest you run the risk of dehydration.
- Make sure you hydrate before and after a heat session and cleanse your body thoroughly.
- Do not immediately step into cold temperatures as the sudden drop can have a negative effect.
- Wait for an hour after having a heavy meal
- Remove all accessories you may have on you
- Make sure it is done under supervision only.
- Time is accordingly and do not exceed the prescribed time
- Most importantly, if you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before taking any decisions.
Now that we have understood all about Steam Baths and Saunas, I do hope you go ahead and reap full benefits of this multifaceted “heat bath”. Do let me know your experience in the comments below. And if there are still any doubts in your head, I would be more than happy to help you out.