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What Is a Sauna?

A sauna—a staple of health clubs, gyms, and resorts—is thought to deliver both therapeutic and recreational benefits to its users. This small room is constructed to maintain high levels of heat within acceptable levels of humidity. It can also use aromatherapy, either through diffused oils or the natural scents emitted if it is made of aromatic wood. It is also possible for a sauna to be built out of very hot, fragrant rocks. When water hits against it, aromatic steam is released.

Saunas are thought to help people relax, sweat out toxins, ease bloatedness and muscle pains, and even lose weight (because of the water loss) and temporarily lower blood pressure. Saunas have also been used as a way for people to socialize—similar to the Roman Baths of ancient times.

Saunas can either by “wet” or “dry.” Wet saunas, as the name indicates, have water, and maintain a temperature between 100-115 Fahrenheit (37-46 Celsius)—high enough to work out a sweat, but not to make the water scalding. Dry saunas have almost no moisture whatsoever, but can maintain nearly double the temperature at 250 Fahrenheit (121 Celsius).

So what type of sauna is better? Actually, it is a toss-up—but best results are achieved when users shift between hot and cold temperatures. For example, stay in the sauna for 10 minutes, cool down, then return to the sauna. Others take it to extreme by jumping into very cold water, though this is not advisable for those with a history of high blood pressure.

Featured in Health