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The Unbelievable Health Benefits of Regular Sauna Use


A man and a woman sitting in a sauna

Have you heard of the Finnish Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study? Many know if it as the Finnish sauna study. If not, and you’re interested in learning about the science behind sauna’s health benefits, then you better keep reading! You’re in for a treat.


The study involved 2,315 men from Eastern Finland, aged forty-two to sixty years. The group is otherwise known as the “Finnish Sauna Cohort.” Test subjects were initially examined between March 1984 and December 1989, with follow-up studies involving a plethora of health outcomes in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019.


The purpose of this article is to synthesize the study’s results and outcomes to paint a picture of the benefits of sauna bathing. What does the research say? Let’s dive in...


2015 Follow-Up Study:


Cardiovascular Risk-related Studies


This study was on the association of frequency/duration of sauna use with the risk of sudden mortality from all causes or cardiac death.


According to results, taking a 5-18 minute sauna 4-7 times per week was connected with 40% lower risk of death from all causes, compared to one or no sauna per week. Also, they found a 23% lower risk of coronary heart disease with sauna 3-5 times per week and a 48% risk with a sauna 4-7 times per week, compared to one or no sauna per week. There was a 50% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular disease for those who used the sauna 4-7 times per week, and a 27% reduction for those who used the sauna 2-3 times per week.


It should be noted that researchers found there was an association between increased risk of severe cardiovascular disease and sauna use longer than 19 minutes per session. SO, if sauna isn’t overused, there can be significant positive long-term effects on cardiovascular health from sauna.


2017 Follow-Up Studies:


Nervous System-related Study


Those who used the sauna 4-7 times per week were 66% less likely to get dementia and 65% less likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than those who used the sauna once a week or not at all.


Immune System-related Studies


In this study, researchers calculated the number of times participants had been to the hospital with pneumonia during the 25-year study period. They found that taking one sauna per week showed a 31% lower risk of pneumonia, and taking 4-7 saunas per week was related to a 44% lower risk compared to one or no sauna per week.


In another study from the cohort, 2-3 or 4-7 sauna sessions per week was associated with reduced risk of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


2018 Follow-Up Studies:


Nervous System-related Study


Another study showed that using the sauna 4-7 times per week were 23% less likely to get psychosis compared to those who used the sauna once a week or not at all.


Cardiovascular Risk-related Study


Researchers found that those Finnish sauna users who took 3-7 sauna sessions a week along with exercise twice a week were 69% less likely to have heart failure than groups who used the sauna but exercised less than twice a week.


2019 Follow-Up Studies:


Cardiovascular Risk-related Studies


The first study was about sauna use and the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. Findings suggest that taking a sauna 2-3 times per week may reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (or blood clots in the legs).


Another study of the same group of men showed that those who used the sauna 4-7 times per week and had a blood clot before were 61% less likely to develop a new blood clot in the brain, compared with those who only took one or no sauna per week. According to these findings, perhaps contraction and dilation of blood vessels in the body from heat exposure acts against atherosclerosis (a buildup of cholesterol and other substances in the bloodstream).


Conclusion


After reading this, you might be itching to give sauna a try! But if these studies don’t have you convinced yet, come to PLUNJ and try it for yourself! We’d love to have you for some #saunatime, and after some time, we think you'll grow to love it too!


Two women lounging in the sauna

Sources


Laukkanen, J. A., & Kunutsor, S. K. (2019). Is sauna bathing protective of sudden cardiac death? A review of the evidence. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 62(3), 288–293. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1016/j.pcad.2019.05.001


Laukkanen, J. A., Laukkanen, T., & Kunutsor, S. K. (2018). Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 93(8), 1111–1121. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.008


Laukkanen, J. A., Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Babar, M., & Kunutsor, S. K. (2018). Combined Effect of Sauna Bathing and Cardiorespiratory Fitness on the Risk of Sudden Cardiac Deaths in Caucasian Men: A Long-term Prospective Cohort Study. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 60(6), 635–641. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1016/j.pcad.2018.03.005


Laukkanen, T., Laukkanen, J. A., & Kunutsor, S. K. (2018). Sauna Bathing and Risk of Psychotic Disorders: A Prospective Cohort Study. Medical Principles and Practice : International Journal of the Kuwait University, Health Science Centre, 27(6), 562–569. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1159/000493392


Laukkanen, T., Khan, H., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2015, April 1). Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4), 542.


LAUKKANEN, T., KUNUTSOR, S., KAUHANEN, J., & LAUKKANEN, J. A. (2017). Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age & Ageing, 46(2), 245–249. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uvu.edu/10.1093/ageing/afw212

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