The People's Perspective on Medicine

Exercise Plus Sauna Bathing Better Than Either Alone

Have you ever gone sauna bathing? This reader says he thought it was a lazy indulgence. Now he knows there are proven health benefits of a sauna bath.

People in Finland love to spend time sauna bathing. They do not view a sweat bath as an indulgence. They think of the sauna as a special place with healing properties. The majority of people in Finland go sauna bathing at least once a week and many do it daily. The tradition goes back thousands of years. The BBC News reports that:

”Finns say the sauna is a poor man’s pharmacy”

One Reader Shared This Perspective:

Q. My primary reason for joining any health spa always has been because of the sauna. I was thinking I was a lazy sort. Now I read that sitting in the sauna is as good as the workout itself.

I do think most Americans are in too much of a hurry to enjoy a sauna bath. It’s unfortunate that we all spend too much time working and stressed out doing everything we are supposed to do.

Sauna Bathing Is Good But So Is Exercising!

A. Evidence keeps mounting that sauna bathing has health benefits. Spending 15 minutes a day in a Finnish-type sauna has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes (Neurology, online, May 2, 2018).

Other benefits may include lower blood pressure and reduced risk for dementia (American Journal of Hypertension, Nov. 1, 2017; Age and Ageing, March 1, 2017).

It’s a good idea to exercise as well as enjoy sauna bathing. Researchers have found that fitness due to aerobic exercise combined with frequent sauna bathing offers better health benefits than either alone (Annals of Medicine, March, 2018).

Stories of Sauna Bathing:

O. G. in South Carolina relates:

“I lived in Germany for years, where they have real saunas (not the little pseudo-sauna boxes with electric heaters you find at some ‘health’ clubs here) and loved going every week. I always felt rested, relaxed and renewed when I went home. I generally followed it with a massage.

“But the whole process is time-consuming. Sauna, rinse, repeat however many times — and not one for which a lot of Americans would have patience. In Germany it isn’t a place for chatting, either, as it is in many American saunas. The almost religious air of quiet (except for very brief greetings) was, to me, one of the sauna’s relaxing benefits.

“So a very enthusiastic yes to saunas: if I had room, and could afford it, I’d have one at home. I miss saunas. Just writing about them makes me seriously nostalgic.”

Heather in Texas shares this sentiment:

“I love doing saunas! I wish I could do them more frequently. We go to a Korean spa that has all sorts of different saunas. I feel so incredible after I’m there. Many people we meet there go multiple times a week and have even said that it cured them of certain ailments. Again, wish I could do it more regularly.”

Do You Have a Sauna Story?

Please share your own sauna bathing experience below in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I grew up in Buffalo and we had a cottage in northern Ontario. We went up for the summers and every weekend. We’d get up there late and immediately light the sauna. We went through the ritual of many sweats and rinses. At the end we would thrash each other with birch leaves. After an hour or more we’d go to cottage and be so refreshed we’d stay up and play cards. How I miss those days.

i find fish oil helpful for dry eye and it helps bring down triglycerides-taken in larger doses-get the mercury free kind-and are with abowlof cereal e.g.oatmeal

i find fish oil helpful for day eye The diabetic clinic at VA recommends 12 a day to bring down triglycerides too-taken with a bowl of oatmeal no stomach upset

I take a barre class twice a week and always sauna after. The best part of my routine! I’ve never been sore after a workout.

I’d like to see a study comparing going out in the summer heat, relaxing and sweating plus exercise to sauna/ exercise. [The poor man’s sauna?]

OH! The dreaded sauna! My parents were both from Finland, and we had a real sauna on the farm. I hated it. My mother loved to make it as hot as possible. I thought I’d die, or melt for sure. I’ve never had the desire to have a sauna after I grew up.

What is the difference between a “real” sauna and one heated by electricity? Both provide the hot steam needed so what else is different?

I don’t know your age but if young you will find that as you get older you will focus on your health more and more. Maybe at that time you will get back into doing the sauna. I find a good workout or a hot sauna or even a hot bath to be very invigorating and relaxing.

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