Friday Fundamentals #7: Use the Sauna

If you could reduce your risk of dying, due to any given cause, by 40%, would you do it?

If you could reduce your risk of fatal heart disease by 27%, would you do it?

What if you could greatly reduce your chances of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease?

And, what if I told you there was a way to greatly improve your mood after just 20 minutes?

These are the astonishing results of sauna usage. For 20 minutes per day, 4-7 times per week, at a temperature of ~80ºC, you can glean all of these benefits. It’s that simple.

More Sauna, Better Heart

This is the most intuitive effect of sauna usage: it improves your heart’s function and reduces its chances of failing, substantially. When you expose yourself to a high-heat environment, like the sauna, your heart begins to beat faster. After 20 minutes of sauna, you’ll find your heart rate will elevate up to 120-150 beats per minute. This is the same rate you reach when you’re running on the treadmill, or biking in the gym. As you may already know, that exercise is very good for your heart.

What’s more is that your blood flow improves as well. As you enter that hot environment, your blood vessels become better at expanding (a process called vasodilation), to release heat. Think of it as a workout for your arteries. Problems like incident hypertension (high blood pressure) have been effectively combatted by consistent sauna use, which actually results in a long-term decrease in blood pressure.

More Sauna, Less Dementia

Dementia is a very unfortunate mental disorder, often seen in the elderly, that results in huge changes in personality, the inability to reason properly, and substantial memory problems. One type of dementia, vascular dementia, is caused by inadequate or poor blood flow to the brain. So, naturally, the reason sauna usage is able to reduce the chances of acquiring dementia is because it improves blood perfusion to the brain. More sauna, better blood flow, and less chance of dementia!

An Unexpected Anti-Depressant

The best part of it all might be that, within just 20 minutes, you can radically improve your mood. It has actually been found that heat shocking the body in this way is a safe and rapid anti-depressant that shows therapeutic benefits. There have even been studies using sauna to successfully treat major depressive disorder!

When you enter an extremely hot environment, your body is placed under stress (the heat is viewed as a certain type of pain). Thus, your body likely reacts by releasing endorphins. These tiny hormones are what give you a high after a long run, or what cause you to feel happier when you eat chocolate. Sauna use triggers that same pathway.

For twenty minutes a day, you can obtain all of these benefits. Most local gyms and community centres have saunas, so if you’re lucky enough to access one, there should be no excuse. Twenty minutes a day. That’s all it takes.

“The sauna was not built for saving time but for spending it well.”  – Bernhard Hillila

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