Sauna Vs Steam Room: Their Differences Health Benefits
Written by Kerry Benjamin
Do you feel tired, sluggish, congested or maybe need a boost of energy? Consider the benefits of thermotherapy, or heat treatment, from using a sauna or steam room.
What is a sauna? What is a steam room?
Saunas were created in 8th century Finland as literally hole in the ground with hot stones surrounding the opening. Thankfully, modern-day saunas evolved in the 19th century and, today, they are lined with wood, contain benches and heat up between 158-212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point of water. The steam in a sauna is created by pouring water over stones heated by an electric or wood-burning stove. This emits a dry heat and very low humidity. The heat disappears quickly, so users need to continue pouring water over the stones (this also enables temperature regulation). Saunas are available in both dry and moist sessions.
Steam rooms originated in ancient Rome and were also used in ancient Greece. The rooms are sometimes made of glass but are usually lined with ceramic tile and are made to create a 100% humidity atmosphere. Sizes can vary from a closet-like space to almost the size of a small warehouse, and some steam rooms offer massage therapy. The temperature reaches a maximum of 104 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid steam burns, and the source of heat comes from an external steam generator that continuously emits steam into the room.
What are the health and skin benefits of using a sauna vs. using a steam room?
Both offer various thermotherapy (heat treatment) benefits, including:
· Increased blood flow, dilation of blood vessels and lowered blood pressure
· Increased metabolism
· High perspiration, allowing for the pores to open and release toxins
· Ease of muscular pain
· Releasing of stress and tension
· Stronger immune system
· Alleviation of joint problems or other physical aches and pains.
Both also offer their own distinct benefits:
· Help to detoxify the body the body by raising the body temperature, releasing salts from the body and targeting bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites.
· Assist in liver and kidney waste removal.
· Purify the skin and clean out the pores to help clear up skin. The removal of toxins from the skin help it to regain its health and improve its overall complexion, tone and texture.
· Can help clear acne or reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by adding hydration.
· Are ideal for individuals with respiratory ailments, such as bronchitis, asthma or sinusitis.
· Are ideal for those who don’t like the dry heat of a sauna.
· Boost your immune system by increasing the rate of sweating and killing or weakening harmful microorganisms inside the body.
Are there any risks I should look out for when using a sauna or steam room?
· Alcohol consumption
· A history of heart disease or low or high blood pressure
· Taking antibiotics or tranquilizers
When using either a sauna or steam bath, make sure to drink enough water before and after to prevent excessive dehydration. Also, it is recommended to limit sessions to 15-20 minutes each. When using a steam room, watch for dizziness, vertigo or a rapid heartbeat. To stay on the safe side, you should always exit the sauna or steam room as soon as you feel even remotely unwell.
The maintenance of a sauna involves regular vacuuming and sweeping and stains on the wood are removed by lightly sanding or using an acidic solution. Steam rooms are washed daily with a ceramic tile or glass cleaner to avoid bacteria build-up. It is highly recommended you wear flip-flop sandals before entering both types of rooms, especially steam rooms, which can house various microbes or molds that can cause athlete’s foot or fungal infections.