Sauna: A small room or house where dry or wet heat sessions are experienced, with temperatures typically ranging from 70°C (158 °F) and 100°C (212 °F) – designed to induce relaxation, sweating and detoxification. Saunas can be divided into two basic styles: conventional versions that warm the air or infrared saunas that warm objects. The Finns established their usage thousands of years ago, and in a traditional Finnish sauna, users experience a blast of wet heat as water hits a stove to create steam, while In North America, etc., electric saunas often omit the wet-heat step.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Heat Therapies (Saunas, Hot Tubs) Offer Some Similar Benefits as Exercise
    A 2020 meta-review from Coventry University-UK found that heat therapies, such as time in a sauna or hot baths, raise core body temp and improve blood flow, leading to benefits including lower blood pressure, better blood sugar control and reduced inflammation–all similar to the effects of moderate exercise such as jogging or cycling. But heat experiences can’t replicate all the benefits of exercise such as increasing muscle mass or weight loss.
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  • Regular Sauna-Going Tied to Wide Array of Health Benefits
    A 2018 meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that people who take regular saunas have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and fewer problems with everything from lung disease to mental issues. Depending on the study, those who utilize the sauna more often see their risks of strokes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, or death drop by 37 – 83 percent, and frequent sauna bathing is also associated with a 60 percent+ reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. 
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  • Frequent Sauna Use Tied to Less Stroke Risk
    A 2018 University of Eastern Finland study (1,628 people analyzed over 15 years) found that compared with people who took saunas once a week, those who took them 2-3 times weekly were 12% less likely to have a stroke. Those hitting a sauna 4-7 times a week reduced stroke risk by 62%. Although the study was observational and can’t prove causality, the researchers found a strong independent effect. 
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  • Study Suggests Regular Sauna-Going Lowers Risk for Hypertension
    A study (2017, Univ. of E. Finland, analyzing 1,621 men over 25 years) suggests that regular trips to the sauna can reduce high blood pressure. Those who did 2-3 sauna sessions/week were 24% less likely to have hypertension, and 4-7 visits cut risk by 46%. While observational (not proving cause and effect), the researchers suggested that mechanisms at work may include: the warmth of the sauna improving the flexibility of the blood vessels to sweating removing excess fluid, acting as a natural diuretic – among the oldest drugs used to treat hypertension.
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  • Time in Saunas Associated with Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s & Dementia
    A 2016 study from the University of Eastern Finland (analyzing the medical records of 2,315 men over 20 years) found that those who used a sauna 4-7 times a week had a 66% lower risk for dementia and a 65% lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers hypothesized that various physiological mechanisms are likely involved: from sauna bathing reducing inflammation and blood pressure and improving vascular function. 
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  • The Effects of Repeated Thermal Therapy for Patients With Chronic Pain
    A small Nishi Kyusyu University study (Japan) found that patients with chronic pain that received four weeks of infrared sauna therapy and post-sauna warming (in addition to cognitive behavioral and exercise therapy) reported lower pain scores than those that just experienced the behavioral + exercise programs – suggesting that repeated thermal therapy may be a promising pain treatment method. 
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  • Effects of Sauna Alone Versus Postexercise Sauna Baths on Short-Term Heart Rate Variability in Patients With Untreated Hypertension
    A small Montreal Heart Institute randomized study found that a single sauna session induced a significant alteration of autonomic cardiovascular control in patients with untreated hypertension, with an increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic drive. These alterations were normalized within 15 to 120 minutes after sauna bathing. Additional studies are required to identify long-term effects of chronic sauna bathing on patients with hypertension.
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  • Effects of Thermal Therapy Combining Sauna Therapy and Underwater Exercise in Patients With Fibromyalgia
    A Kagoshima University (Japan) study found that 3 weeks of sauna therapy combined with underwater exercise significantly improved the pain, symptoms and quality of life of female fibromyalgia patients. 
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  • Visiting a Sauna: Does Inhaling Hot Dry Air Reduce Common Cold Symptoms?
    A Charité University Medical Center (Germany) randomized, single blind control trial (137 participants) concluded that inhaling hot air while in a sauna has no significant impact on overall symptom severity for the common cold. 
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