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Steam me up! The health benefits of the sauna

Steam me up! The health benefits of the sauna

Every Finn worth the name has a sauna regularly, and they are now a popular facility at many gyms. If you are new to the benefits of steamy heat, read on to find out what the sauna can do for you.


The Finnish word ‘sauna’ refers to a room heated by a stove, and with steam created by throwing water on hot stones. The idea is to spend some time in a much hotter environment than normal, to encourage sweating and to relax both body and mind. The ‘pure’ Finnish sauna is a simple and traditional experience, but the concept now has many variations.


The pervading warmth of the sauna is its biggest benefit. Muscles relax, aching bones and joints are soothed and worries seems to disappear. Our bodies heat up when we are ill to aid healing, and the artificial heat of the sauna can have the same effect.

The increased blood flow is thought to improve the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the skin.

After emerging and a good blast in the shower, the feeling of utter cleanliness is unparalleled. A sauna will not ‘detox’ and it won’t help with weight loss, but it makes you feel really good.

Lastly, a sauna need only take 20 minutes, so it is a perfect stress-buster for those in a hurry.


Saunas are fine for most people in normal health. The sauna diverts blood flow to the skin and away from the vital organs. So take care when standing up, and if you start feeling faint it is time to leave.

There is some evidence that saunas should be avoided in early pregnancy. As pregnant women often feel hotter all the time, a sauna may not be comfortable until after the baby arrives.


The Finns sauna naked and would be shocked at swimsuits. The Americans are the reverse. In the UK, we are somewhere in between. If in doubt, wear a swimsuit and carry a towel. It is much less embarrassing to turn up overdressed than the opposite.

Fancy trying it out? Search for your nearest gym with a sauna and turn up the heat!



the author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.