Hydrothermal Initiative Resources

Does the Combination of Finnish Sauna Bathing and Other Lifestyle Factors Confer Additional Health Benefits?

A recently published paper from Mayo Clinic, authored by Seto K Kunutsor, MD, PhD and Jari A. Laukkanen, MD, PhD explores sauna bathing and its link to health benefits beyond its use for leisure and relaxation. The paper analyzes observational and interventional studies that suggest that regular or frequent sauna bathing reduces the incidence of vascular and nonvascular diseases, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and respiratory conditions; may improve the severity of conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, COVID-19, headache, and influenza; and increases the life span. It also summarizes the available evidence linking the combined effects of Finnish sauna bathing and other risk factors on vascular outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and intermediate cardiovascular phenotypes, nonvascular outcomes, and mortality.

The paper’s authors conclude that, while sauna bathing has traditionally been used for leisure and pleasure purposes, the epidemiologic and interventional evidence suggests that regular sauna bathing is consistently linked with an array of health benefits and also increases lifespan. The evidence suggests that frequent sauna bathing may augment the beneficial effects of protective risk factors, such as physical activity and fitness, or offset the adverse effects of other risk factors. The effects of sauna are independent of physical activity; hence, when used in combination, it can exert substantial benefits compared with physical activity alone.

For people who genuinely cannot engage in physical activity, the use of sauna alone may be enough to confer beneficial health outcomes, given that some of the clinical effects of sauna are similar to those produced by moderate- or high-intensity physical activity. Definitive trials that make head-to-head comparisons of sauna and physical activity/exercise are also lacking and are urgently warranted.

Article Highlights

  • Finnish sauna bathing, a passive heat therapy characterized by exposure to a high environmental temperature for a brief period, is linked with myriad health benefits, particularly on the vascular system.
  • Evidence suggests that frequent sauna bathing is an emerging protective risk factor that may potentiate the beneficial effects of protective risk factors, such as physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness, or attenuate or offset the adverse effects of other risk factors.
  • Interventional evidence shows that 8 weeks of regular sauna bathing sessions combined with exercise produces a mean reduction in systolic blood pressure of about 8 mm Hg.
  • Frequent sauna bathing appears to offset the adverse impact of systemic inflammation, low socioeconomic status, and high systolic blood pressure on outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and mortality.
  • Adding frequent sauna sessions will substantially augment the benefits of physical activity. For people who are unable to meet physical activity guidelines or are unable to exercise at all because of physical activity limitations, regular use of sauna may be an alternative lifestyle strategy to mitigate the risk of diseases due to other risk factors.

Read the full study here: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(23)00008-3/fulltext

Hydro-Thermal Therapies are Essential for Building Health, Safety and Resilience in the Age of Pandemics

Hydro-thermal therapies reduce the risk of chronic disease and boost the immune system’s ability to resist viral infections – An evidence based discussion paper.

This position paper has been prepared to express and demonstrate why hydrothermal experiences should play an important active role in this time of global pandemic. It was written by Professor Marc Cohen in collaboration dwith members of the Global Wellness Institute Hydrothermal Initiative and members of the Hot Springs Initiative. Professor Marc Cohen is one of the founding members of the Hot Springs Initiative. Thank you Marc and all contributors including the authors of the many reference papers.

We encourage discussion, comments and correspondence on this topic and ask that you direct your thoughts to Professor Cohen at [email protected]


Hydrothermal Initiative Resources – Related Studies/Reports/Published Articles

2020 – Hydrotherapy proven to be both preventative and therapeutic health treatment
By Spa Business

2017 Briefing Paper
The briefing paper is a snapshot of this industry sector including valuable information on latest trends, challenges and initiative accomplishments.

Global Hydrothermal Forum Session Summary – Global Spa & Wellness Summit 2013
By Don Genders, Design For Leisure


Hydrothermal Initiative Collaboration
Sauna Science Lab

In this Hydrothermal Initiative Collaboration, leading medical researchers, scientists and sauna experts debated the role of sauna in public health and wellness post-COVID-19. Sauna experts Lasse Eriksen and Don Genders, chair of the GWI Hydrothermal Initiative and CEO, Design for Leisure, moderated the call. The lineup of researchers and experts included Mikkel Aaland, documentarist and host of Perfect Sweat, an upcoming Netflix series; Hans Hägglund, MD, PhD, a medical doctor and professor known as the “Sauna Doctor” in Sweden, Professor Marc Cohen, author of a paper on the benefits of heat in fighting a virus; and Sven Erik Bucht, Sweden’s first Sauna Minister.

The Guide to Hydrothermal Spa & Wellness Development Standards

Created to provide design and building guidelines for hydrothermal areas (also known as “wet areas”) in spas and private residences. Hydrothermal bathing (including saunas, hamams, steam rooms, hydrotherapy pools, etc.), with its benefits of cleansing, detoxifying and improving the immune system, dates back thousands of years and is one of the most ancient spa practices.

The Global Wellness Institute serves as an umbrella organization for numerous Initiatives, that are independently chaired and run. The resources, editorial, research and opinions presented by the Initiatives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Global Wellness Institute.