Saunas first became popular in Finland as early as the 1100’s, though remains of saunas have been found that suggest they have been around as far back as the stone age. Since then, saunas have become a worldwide phenomenon, becoming very a popular place to relax. Despite their popularity though, not many people know how they could take advantage of the benefits of a comfortable sauna.
A healthy sauna can have a lot of benefits, but sometimes, getting into one of these steam-filled rooms without making the right preparations could lead to more harm than good. Lucky for you though, we’ll be talking about how you can take a healthy sauna session and make the most out of your sauna experience.
What to Prepare Before Getting Inside a Sauna
What most people don’t get is that before they can start a comfortable sauna experience, they’ll first need to familiarize themselves with certain etiquette. However, if they have a sauna room inside their own home, they can do whatever they want, but if it’s a shared sauna, certain things are expected of you.
Another thing you’ll need to consider is the state of your health. A healthy sauna can leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed, but only if you’ve taken the right steps. Here are some of the things you’ll need to do before you get inside a sauna:
Spending time inside a sauna involves a lot of sweating. This sweating can mean plenty of your fluids being lost. This is why it’s important to drink water at least 3 hours before going into a sauna. It’s recommended that you drink at least 2 – 3 glasses of water before getting in. Although it’s possible to hydrate yourself right before going into a sauna, waiting at least 3 hours will allow your body time to adjust to the intense heat, leading to a healthy sauna experience.
Although you can drink anything so long as it’s not a diuretic, make sure you avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol increases your blood pressure, may lead to an irregular heartbeat, or even sudden death.
Snack on Something
Some people would also recommend that you have a light snack or meal before you enter a sauna room. If you’re prone to getting lightheaded or dizzy when it gets hot, it’s best to avoid going inside on an empty stomach in order to make the most out of a comfortable sauna. You can have a small meal at least 2 or so hours before you plan on getting inside. Just make sure that you wash off properly, to be considerate towards the other sauna users.
Bring Clean Towels
You will need to bring at least 2 towels when you stay in a public sauna. You’ll need 1 to put on the bench for you to sit on. This is to prevent your sweat from getting to the furniture and having it end up on the next one to sit on it. The second towel you will need to use to cover yourself up during the session, if you don’t want to be completely nude, and after when you need to go out.
Take a Shower
This one is especially important if you’re looking to do a healthy sauna session after working out at the gym. You don’t want to track dirt or sweat into the sauna when you use it. That would be very inconsiderate to the others who plan on using the sauna too. This is why it’s highly advised to shower right before getting into the sauna.
It’s also a good idea to wash off any fragrant lotion or any heavy creams still on your skin. These lotions can clog up your skin, and can cause you problems, since the main objective of getting into a comfortable sauna is to sweat a lot. That can be very hard to do if your skin is clogged up by creams and lotions.
Check with Your Doctor First
One of the most important, yet most overlooked step before going into a sauna is making sure that you are in good health. Saunas are meant to be a relaxing experience for a lot of us, but if you’re suffering from an underlying health problem, saunas can be a death sentence. Stay away from the sauna if you have problems with your kidney, heart, liver, or if you’re pregnant. If you’re not sure you’re healthy enough to try a healthy sauna, then you should speak with a healthcare professional first.
Things to Consider During a Healthy Sauna
Don’t Keep the Door Open
When you’re about to enter the sauna, make sure you do it as quickly as possible. Don’t leave the door open for too long. A comfortable sauna is designed to be airtight, in order to maintain the intense heat. Opening the door offers a place where the heat cold escape, and since higher temperature air is less dense than cold air, the heat inside the sauna can dissipate very quickly. That’s why entering or exiting should be done as quickly as possible.
A healthy sauna involves a lot of sweating, and sweating involves a lot of heat. This is why it’s to be expected that people who use the sauna tend to go naked. Wearing clothes will just end up soaking them through, which is not ideal. It’s also more comfortable if you go naked. If you don’t feel like being naked in front of strangers, you can simply wrap a towel around yourself after you’ve taken your clothes off. It’s also important to remove any jewelry or other accessories on you. Most public saunas also have locker room areas where you can leave your things.
Try to Lay Down
If you’re new to the sauna, it’s best to go on the bench to lay down if the space permits it. Before you do, make sure that you spread out a towel for you to lay on. It’s never appropriate to sit or lay down directly on the bench without a towel on it, unless it’s a personal sauna in your home. If there’s a lot of people using the sauna, be considerate and refrain from laying on the benches.
Some sauna rooms have multiple bench levels. It’s usually hotter at the higher levels than on the lower ones, so if it’s your first time visiting a sauna, then stick to the benches that are lower to the ground. Try not to overdo it.
Keep it Slow
It’s very tempting when you’re spending time in a comfortable sauna to heat things up quickly, but this can shock your body, which is never a good thing. Try to stay inside the sauna without adding water to the heat stones. Keep things dry for around 10 – 15 minutes. Breathe in deep and relax. Try not to rush things. You’re here to unwind, after all.
Limit the amount of time you spend in the sauna. 20 minutes should be enough for you to spend time inside. If you feel dizzy, light-headed or your head is aching, then you should leave.
It is possible to stay inside the sauna for 20 minutes in one sitting, the best way to maximize your sauna experience is to take small cool off breaks in between. Every so often, step out of the sauna and cool off outside. You can simply stay outside the sauna room if it’s cold enough, or you can even take a cold shower. Afterwards, step right back in and enjoy the warmth. You can alternate between cold and warm as often as you’d like until it’s time for you to step out of the sauna completely.
Things You Should Do After The Sauna
Once you’ve spent enough time inside a healthy sauna, what you do afterwards is just as important as what you do before and during the whole thing. To maximize the benefits that you get from being inside a comfortable sauna, your main priority is to cool down as quickly as possible. Here are some of the things you should do:
Air Dry or Take a Cold Shower
Immediately after exiting the sauna, cool down by simply standing outside and air drying yourself. Don’t dry yourself off with the towel. If you’re already wearing a towel when you got out, you can leave it on, but don’t use it to dry up. You should also avoid putting clothes back on, since this can cause you to overheat.
Another quick way of cooling off is doing it like how the Finns did it: by jumping into ice-cold water. If a really cold pool isn’t readily available, then a good cold shower immediately after your sauna is the next best thing.
Keeping yourself hydrated after a healthy sauna is just as important as hydrating yourself before you do it. You will have lost a lot of fluids after sweating it out, so make sure you drink as much water as possible afterwards. Try drinking fluids rich in electrolytes instead of just water.
Grab a Bite to Eat
You will have worked up an appetite by the time you left the sauna, so make sure to grab a light snack after leaving. This is especially helpful if you feel dizzy after heating yourself up.
The Benefits of Saunas
Improves Cardiovascular Performance
Studies have found that using saunas regularly has the same effect as doing regular aerobic exercise. The heat from saunas can actually drive your heart rate up to 120 – 150 beats per minute, which is more than enough to improve your cardiovascular health if done regularly enough.
Flushes out Toxins
Sauna not only allows you to sweat, it allows you to do deep sweating. Normally, when your body sweats, most of what it sweats out is water. But deep sweating is different. Deep sweating allows your body to cleanse your system of heavy metals and other toxins through your sweat. When done right, a healthy sauna session can help you detoxify.
One of the most important benefits of saunas, and the biggest reason why it’s so popular nowadays. Saunas not only help you relax physically, but also mentally, by lowering your stress levels. It may seem uncomfortable to others, but it’s definitely a way to go if you want to unwind.
Being inside a sauna can help you burn calories. A healthy sauna session has the same effect on your body as if you’ve done a good aerobic exercise, which means regular visits to the sauna can help you burn your excess calories and help you lose weight.