Thank you, Finland, for giving us wireless heart rate monitors and sauna. This highly—heated room offers great therapeutic benefits—just a few minutes in a sauna can help with healing and recovery from injuries and exercise-related muscle soreness. You can even get an emotional boost from sauna time. In Finland, sauna is a way of life, with an average of one sauna per household. While most homes in the United States don’t have one—yet, you can find a sauna in many gyms and fitness clubs.
Benefits of sauna
As soon as you enter the sauna room, your body begins to respond to the intense heat. Your heart rate goes up, your blood vessels expand, blood circulates through your body faster, and you sweat. The increased blood flow helps:
- Relieve muscle aches
- Increase movement in joints
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Soothe dry skin
- Reduce physical and emotional stress
Types of sauna
The walls and benches in most saunas are made of wood such as cedar, pine, or spruce. The biggest difference in sauna styles is the heat source:
- A traditional (Finnish) sauna uses a wood fire to heat special sauna rocks. The humidity is low (10-20%) and the temperature is high (up to 190°F).
- An electric sauna is outfitted with an electric heater attached to the floor. The temperature and humidity levels are similar to traditional a sauna.
- Far-infrared sauna (FIRS) uses light waves from special lamps to heat only the user’s body, not the entire room. The temperature level is lower, about 110-140°F.
- While the other saunas are considered “dry heat,” a steam sauna can reach up to 100% humidity and has a lower temperature, about 110-115°F. The interior of a steam sauna may be built with ceramic or glass tiles.
Your body will respond in a similar manner to all of these sauna types, and your skin temperature can rise to around 104°F within a few minutes.
Enjoy the experience
Whether you like dry heat or steam, here are a few important tips to help you reap the benefits safely:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Since you will sweat—a lot—in the sauna, be sure to drink lots of fluids before and after your session. In this case, plain water or a sports drink with electrolytes is best. Please avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before, during, and immediately after using the sauna, because alcohol contributes to dehydration.
- Follow the rules. Public saunas in gyms and spas usually post regulations including what to wear, maximum time to spend inside the sauna, and how/if you can adjust temperature settings. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask a staff member at the facility.
- Don’t be shy. Many people prefer to enjoy sauna au naturel (without clothes). You can cover yourself—and your seat—with a towel. If you’re particularly modest, go ahead and wear a bathing suit. Just be sure to sit on the towel because the bench will be hot.
- Expect your heart rate to jump. The heat and humidity in a sauna will cause your heart rate to increase to around 100-150 beats per minute (BPM). By comparison, the average adult’s resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 BPM.
- Limit your time. If you’re not familiar or comfortable yet with sauna, you may only want to stay for a couple minutes at a time. Wearing a heart rate monitor can help you gauge when to get out. Don’t worry if someone looks at you strangely because you can only tolerate 30 seconds in the boiling environs. Each human body is unique. As a general guide, limit your total session to 20-30 minutes.
- Forget your phone. Did we mention the high heat? It’s not good for electronics. But more important, sauna time is the perfect time for you to relax, unplug, and destress. Just close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing, and reboot mentally.
- Talk to your doctor. Some chronic conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, rosacea, migraines, autoimmune diseases, etc.) can be aggravated by heat.1 If you have a health concern, please ask your primary care physician if sauna is safe for you.
We hope you’re able to take advantage of the tremendous benefits that sauna offers. And if you have a condition such as muscle or back soreness, arthritis, a sprain or a strain, Teladoc can help. Our board-certified physicians are available 24/7 anywhere you are in the U.S. We can help diagnose and recommend treatments for these conditions as well as flu, sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, seasonal allergies, dry skin, and much more! Use the app to request a visit, talk to a doctor, and update your and your eligible dependents’ medical profiles.
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