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Wellness queen and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow recently provided insight into her daily routine, which included an intense workout with celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson. While a workout isn’t a unique way to start your day, in fact, it’s one that we highly recommend. One aspect of Paltrow’s morning routine that caught our attention was the fact that she enjoys 20 minutes of alone time in a private sauna while sipping celery juice and reading a book. 

What Can A Sauna Do For Longevity?

Lucky Gwyneth! Chances are that you don’t have a sauna in your backyard like Ms. Paltrow. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your local gyms or even take a trip to a spa so that you can enjoy the following benefits;

1. Eases pain

There’s a reason why so many gyms have saunas as part of their facilities, and that’s due to their effect on muscle tension and pain. According to a study published in Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, dry sauna therapy was found to improve quality of life and reduce pain in patients with low back pain. As such, the researchers suggested that pain physicians may recommend dry sauna therapy as a complementary therapy for patients with low back pain. 

2. Alleviates stress levels

While a lot of the evidence available is anecdotal, a sauna session can improve your well-being by alleviating your stress levels and inducing relaxation.

What’s more, a sauna session provides you with the opportunity to meditate or, a la Gwyneth Paltrow, enjoy a few chapters of your book, both of which are fun and effective ways to relax. 

3. Improves heart health

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s rising death toll, heart disease is still the leading cause of death worldwide. If you’re looking for ways to protect your heart health, a sauna session might do just that. 

According to a review published in Experimental Gerontology last year, saunas may induce protective responses that promote heart health. The review cited a study that showed that men who used saunas 4-7 times a week were 63% less likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to those who used the sauna once a week. The risk was also 22% lower for men using the sauna 2–3 times per week.

While more research is needed to determine a definite link between sauna use and a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, it is something to keep in mind. 

4. Reduces symptoms of depression

Not only can sauna use help you relax, but it may also alleviate symptoms of depression. The aforementioned review cited a study that found that participants who received 4 weeks of sauna sessions, compared to participants who received bed rest, experienced reduced symptoms of depression, which included improved appetite and reduced somatic complaints and anxiety.

5. Lowers risk of Alzheimer’s

In a study published in Age and Ageing, Finnish researchers set out to see if frequent sauna use had any effect on the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

After collecting data from 2 315 healthy men aged 42 to 60 years, the researchers found that participants who used a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 percent less likely to get dementia. They were also 65 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who used a sauna once a week. Additionally, those who used a sauna 2 to 3 times per week were 22 percent less likely to get dementia and 20 percent less likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who did not use a sauna.

heat therapy | Longevity LIVE

Neurodegenerative diseases are a serious health crisis that continues to affect the world population. While further studies are definitely warranted to establish the link between saunas and bathing and neurodegenerative diseases, this type of information can assist in the fight against memory diseases. 

What can a sauna not do?

Yes, saunas can provide a few benefits that your body will thank you for, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the answer to all of your longevity woes. In fact, there are a few things that saunas can not do, and these include;

  • Removing toxins: That’s what your liver and kidneys are for. Yes, sweating can remove toxins from the body, but research has yet to prove that sweat is as effective as a detoxifier for your kidneys, liver, and intestines.
  • Helping you lose weight: Yes, it is possible to lose a pound or two after a sauna session. However, the weight loss is fluid loss and the body will put that back on as soon as you eat or drink something, and you can’t exactly get away with not doing either. 

Do saunas have health risks?

Saunas are generally safe, but they can cause changes to your blood pressure and increase the risk of dehydration. As such, individuals with cardiovascular issues, as well as those with a heightened risk of dehydration, should speak to their doctor first before using a sauna. 

People with respiratory conditions like asthma, epilepsy, and those who are pregnant should also check with a doctor before using a sauna.

How to safely enjoy a sauna

1. Do not spend more than 20 minutes at a time in a sauna. 

2. Drink plenty of water

3. Never enter a sauna under the influence of any substances, including alcohol 

4. If you feel dizzy, or unwell, exit the sauna immediately and cool your body down. 

MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Gwyneth Paltrow/Instagram

References

Cho, E. H., Kim, N. H., Kim, H. C., Yang, Y. H., Kim, J., & Hwang, B. (2019). Dry sauna therapy is beneficial for patients with low back pain. Anesthesia and pain medicine14(4), 474–479. https://doi.org/10.17085/apm.2019.14.4.474

Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2015). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA internal medicine175(4), 542–548. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187

Masuda, A., Nakazato, M., Kihara, T., Minagoe, S., & Tei, C. (2005). Repeated thermal therapy diminishes appetite loss and subjective complaints in mildly depressed patients. Psychosomatic medicine67(4), 643–647. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000171812.67767.8f

Patrick, R. P., & Johnson, T. L. (2021). Sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan. Experimental gerontology154, 111509. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2021.111509

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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