Sauna Use

So you have taken some interest in using saunas… that’s great! One of the first things you should probably know about saunas is that while they are not very popular in American culture, they are in many countries such as Finland, Russia, and Korea. In some places saunas are a center for both socialization and relaxation. Saunas are said to clean impurities from the body because of the large volumes of water excreted through the skin. Whatever the reason may be, in cultures that have embraced the sauna it has had a certain amount of lore that has accumulated with it’s adoption.

In fact, according to some sources, the sauna is both seen as a place of birth as well as a place to clean or even worship the dead in a few cultures. This in many ways may seem strange to some of us from countries such as America, but it’s important to remember that while the individual beliefs regarding sauna use may or may not be accurate scientifically speaking, sauna use is still viewed as an important part of culture and has helped these peoples weather the hardships of their environments.

What we do know about sauna use is that a number of things happen physiologically that may be beneficial. One, the sauna activates the stress system of the body. Sometimes a little stress can be good for you, and in fact, the activation of this stress system causes the body to produce heat shock proteins, also known as chaperonins.

Chaperonins help keep proteins from unfolding and protect the body from not only heat stress, but many other kinds of stress as well. Thus, by making your body more tolerant to heat stress through sauna use, you may actually be making your body tolerant to other varieties of stress as well.

Another aspect of sauna use is that it causes a release of beta-endorphin that is often greater than what you would achieve simply through exercise. This endorphin surge is what makes exercise literally addictive for many fitness geeks, and is responsible for increasing mental wellbeing and perhaps even alleviating depression. Beta-endorphin is the body’s natural painkiller, and as such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that sauna use has been found to helps with a wide variety of types of pain.

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