Used by the Mayans of Central America thousands of years ago for religious and health purposes, the sweat lodge or modern day sauna is still a great way to relax. We look at some of the pros and cons of sauna.
According to Harvard Health, dry heat causes the body to sweat almost immediately. Skin temperature soars but the internal body temperature rises more slowly. The average person will lose a pint of sweat during a brief sauna. (You leave lighter than when you went in!)
The heart’s responses to heat are important to note. As the pulse rate jumps by 30% or more the heart nearly doubles the amount of blood it pumps each minute resulting in improved circulation. Most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin and away from the internal organs. Blood pressure may rise or fall. These changes return to normal once the person has cooled down. Better circulation can help with muscle soreness, and can improve joint movement, increasing your mobility if you have issues with your joints.
Important! Heart patients must consult their doctor before using a sauna. If you can perform moderate exercise such a 30 minute brisk walk or climbing 3 or 4 flights of stairs without stopping, you should be fine. However, if you take medication to control blood pressure, suffer from abnormal heart rhythms, unstable angina and advanced heart failure or heart valve disease, its best you stay cool and away from the dry heat.
As your heart rate increases more endorphins are released. These ‘feel good’ chemicals help you relax and feel happier in yourself.
Dry air is not harmful to the skin or lungs. Some patients with psoriasis, a chronic skin disease, report relief from itching. Asthmatics may experience less wheezing.
To avoid any negative health effects it is not advisable to drink any alcohol before entering a sauna as this increases the risk of dehydration, hypotension and arrhythmia.
Do not spend more than 20 minutes at a time in a sauna. First-time users should spend a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes. You can slowly increase the time to 20 minutes as you get used to the heat.
Drink plenty of water to replace the fluids you lose from sweating. It is suggested you drink two to four glasses of water after using a sauna.