It’s warm. It’s relaxing. It relieves tension. But who knew that a trip to the sauna might be good for the health of your your heart?! A new study suggests 30 minutes in the sauna can reduce blood pressure, lessen arterial stiffness, and improve vascular function.
A visit to the sauna is more than just relaxing; it seems to have real heart and cardiovascular benefits, as well. A group of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland—who previously found that people who regularly used saunas had lower rates of hypertension, cardiac death and dementia compared to infrequent users—now find in a new study that sauna bathing can have a direct effect on blood pressure, heart rate and vascular health.
The new research, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension and the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that time in a hot, dry sauna reduced people’s systolic blood pressure from 137 to 130 mmHg, and their diastolic pressure from 82 to 75 mmHg. While the systolic pressure drop was only temporary, diastolic pressure remained lower 30 minutes after people came out of the sauna.
According to the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), “Arterial stiffness decreased during sauna treatment trending back to baseline values at 30 minutes…The researchers also noted that there were indicators of vascular compliance in the subjects, or the ability for blood vessels to expand and contract in response to pressure changes.”
Alternative Daily added, “Additionally, participants’ heart rates gradually increased during the sessions, to an average of 120 beats per minute. Average heart rate is between 60 and 100. But the 120 beats per minute is what we normally experience during moderate-intensity exercise.
No, it doesn’t mean that sitting in a sauna is actually as healthy as working out, says study co-author and cardiologist Dr. Jari Laukkanen, to Time. “For this argument, we are not yet sure.” Dr. Laukkanen points out, muscles aren’t getting the same benefit from a sauna bath that they would normally get from a true workout. “However, circulatory responses may be similar,” he suggests. This means that taking saunas could potentially help keep the heart healthy and pumping.
Before you run out and sign up for weekly sauna sessions, National Public Radio (NPR) reminds us that saunas may not be for everyone. “Of course, there are cautions. People who faint or who have low blood pressure might want to be careful, or at least drink a lot of water before and after, which is good advice for all sauna-goers. If you have unstable heart disease, you should be cautious and consult a doctor first.”
We’d love to hear what you think about this latest study. Share your thoughts on the potential heart benefits of a trip to the sauna. Driving conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!