There is nothing more breathtaking, satisfying, and relaxing than locking yourself in a sauna room after a workout or long day at work. That glorious time helps you unwind, detoxifies your body, and gets you burning excess fat.
But like most good things, saunas have also been observed to have some drawbacks. Studies have revealed that sitting for too long in this tranquil room can cause some health issues. So, this ultimately gets everyone wondering, “How long should you stay in a sauna?”
This post is dedicated to those who wish to feel the thrill of subjecting their bodies to extreme heat and pamper themselves with the health benefits of a sauna. But before we dig into this much-debated question, let’s find out why sauna is good for you.
Why You Need A Sauna Visit
1. Your Body Recovers Faster After Workout
Just finished intense sit-ups and now you can’t even bend to untie your shoelaces because the pain in your abdominal muscles is too much to bear? This can be quite annoying but luckily, getting those muscles warmed up could help alleviate the soreness. If you have installed a home sauna, you are even luckier because you won’t have to go to the local sauna facility. Just strap into a swimsuit, lock yourself in the sauna room, and leave the rest to the heat or steam.
As your body warms up, muscles loosen up and blood vessels expand. This increases circulation of nutrients-rich blood that gives your muscles the energy it needs to kick out the pain.
2. You Detox Your Body
Sitting in a sauna gets your body sweating. The intense heat triggers your sweat glands to produce more sweat than when running on a treadmill or lifting weights. This profuse perspiration helps in removing harmful toxins from your body.
3. Your Calm Your Mind And Minimize Stress
You are likely to be alone in the sauna room. And in all instances, sauna rooms are peaceful, quiet, and free from distractions. As such, you will have time to meditate, sooth your mind, and calm your spirit.
Inside the sauna, the heat generated by the equipment stimulates the release of endorphins, the hormones associated with happiness and good feeling. These create pleasure and a thrilling effect that gets you thinking about nothing else but the moment. You get to unwind, focus, and think clearly, which is all you need to relieve stress.
In addition, the elevated temperatures increase blood transportation to your body parts including the brain. This refreshes your brain, gets it functioning properly, and boosts its health.
These are just a few of the proven health benefits of infrared saunas and steam saunas. The truth is, there is so much you can achieve (healthwise) from spending a few minutes in a steam or heat room. You burn calories, enhance your cardiovascular performance, and come out of the room with a glowing skin. Saunas can really help keep your body healthy and get you hitting your fitness goals much faster.
How Long Is Too Long To Sit In A Sauna?
Okay, just how long should you stay in a sauna?
Quick answer – not for a prolonged period.
However, a session should last for at least 10 minutes. You need to get your pores fully open and your blood vessels completely dilated for you to reap optimal benefits of a sauna. And this will only be possible if your body takes enough heat.
With the raised body temperature and rate of perspiration, toxic substances are brought to the surface, your metabolism is enhanced and your overall heath is improved. Again, to achieve this, the sauna heat has to act on your body for a prolonged time.
Generally, the recommended time is 10 to 15 minutes. This strengthens your body without overstraining it.
But the duration you sit in that room will depend on how often you use a sauna, where you sit, and how comfortable you are.
So, how long should you sit in a sauna if you are a beginner?
If you are hitting the heat or steam for the first time, your session should last no more than 10 minutes. As your body gets use to the routine, you can stay anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
If there are multiple benches in the sauna, move between lower and higher levels to find the most comfortable temperature for you. If you are an experienced user, however, you can use the hotter (upper) benches for stronger sweating. But once you are done with the sessions, make sure to sit on the colder (lower) benches so your body can adjust to the surroundings.
But most facilities running infrared saunas allow sessions of up to 30 minutes, reason being that people can withstand infrared heat more than they can steam.
Traditional steam saunas operate at very high temperatures and work by heating the air around you. The sweating effect is triggered when the body responds to the increased temperature around it. Now, not everyone can withstand this temperature and that’s why not many people are able to last for more than 15 minutes of session.
Infrared saunas on the other hand use infrared light to heat your body. This, unlike its steam counterpart stimulates the sweating effect by concentrating the red light directly to your body. There is no heat that goes to warm the surrounding air which means, you will sweat more at a reduced temperature. This is one of the reasons why many people can comfortably do a 30-minute session.
Most infrared saunas will only have one bench level and the heat is evenly distributed. In these saunas, you have to set the timer to what works for you best but as we stated, if you are just getting started, stick to the lowest time and graduate to longer sessions as you gain more experience.
Signs You May Be Spending Too Much Time
You want to reap the maximum benefits of your sauna sessions, we get that, but unfortunately, sometimes the body may not be able to stand the heat for long. Tolerance to heat will depend on how familiar you are with saunas, how hydrated your body is, and how physically fit you are on certain days. You know its time to abort your session if you start experiencing these signs:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Profound sleepiness
- Chest pain and difficulty in breathing
- Racing heart
If you feel any of these signs, open the door to allow cool air in or just exit the sauna.
When Is Sauna Not Good For You?
Sauna has many health benefits but sadly, not everyone can reap them and not every time it is perfect for you to lock yourself in one. If you have a health condition or are on treatment, spending time in the heat or steam room could do you more harm than good.
So, how long should you stay in a sauna if you have a heart-related condition or another health issue?
Honestly, don’t even think about subjecting your body to excessive heat when you have a life-threatening condition. But if you must, make sure you are cleared by your doctor before you go.
While several types of research have shown that the increased heart rate the sauna induces is not a cause for alarm for people who are physically fit or those with stable coronary disease, there are people who should not use a sauna unless with approval from a physician. These include:
- Pregnant women and young children
- People who are under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs
- People with diabetes or circulatory problems
- People on prescription drugs
Risks Associated With Prolonged Stay In A Sauna
Like most good things, saunas have their downside. Prolonged usage or even a minor use can lead to some health problems. So, before grabbing your towel or changing into a bathing suit, take some time to familiarize yourself with some of the potential risks of using a sauna.
Inside a sauna, your body is exposed to intense heat, which gets it losing a lot of water through perspiration. As a result, you may get dehydrated, experience low blood pressure or even worse, lose consciousness.
If you are feeling extra weak, light-headed, or another discomfort, it could be a sign that you are dehydrated. End your session immediately and go gulp down a few glasses of water.
2. Increased Core Body Temperature
The heat produced by a sauna can sometimes have a negative effect on your body’s cooling system. This mostly happens to people who spend more time than recommended in the room. To reduce the chances of overheating your body and overloading your cooling system, make sure not to extend 30 minutes in a sauna room. Beginners should not stay for more than 15 minutes.
These are not so common with people who use steam or infrared saunas. But if you are in a smoke or wood sauna, be careful as you may get out of it with a burn.
4. Affects Reproductivity In Men
If you are a man and trying to start a family, you may want to consider staying away from a sauna at least at the period you will be trying to conceive. Recent studies have shown that the heat from the sauna rooms elevates the temperature of your testicles, which in turn reduces your sperm count.
How To Use Your Sauna Properly
Evidently, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a sauna. But if you learn how to use it right, you will be able to minimize the nasties and increase the goodies. Here are the tips to follow and precautions to take to make sure you are maximizing the benefits of your heat or steam room.
- After a sauna session, give your body enough time to adjust to the surrounding temperature before jumping into a cool shower. This will help in preventing the shocking effect that occurs when a body rapidly changes from a high temperature to a low temperature.
- Drink enough water before getting inside a sauna room. You will lose a lot of water through sweat so do yourself a favor and take as much of it as you can, even if it means carrying some to the sauna. This will keep you hydrated and reduce the risk of a heat stroke. While at it, stay away from drinks like alcohol that cause dehydration prior to your session.
- Don’t take a heavy meal before the session, as this will need plenty of energy to digest, which may deprive your body of the energy it needs to sweat inside the sauna. Take enough time to rest after the meal before heading to your heat room so your body can regain energy.
- If you are a new user, make sure to read the instructions inside the sauna carefully before you start using it. These provide guidelines, safety measures and warnings to observe when using the room. Different saunas may have different instructions so it would be wise to go through them than just assume.
- Leave the sauna right away if you start experiencing discomfort. Our bodies are not designed to withstand extreme temperatures for long so to be safe, make sure to maintain the recommended session duration.
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Whether you have set up a portable sauna in your home or using the one at your local fitness center, how long you stay in it can have both a positive and negative impact. Your body is not built to stay in severe temperature for a prolonged period, as this may harm your health. So keep your sessions as short but beneficial as possible.
Drink plenty of water before you go, be keen on any sign of discomfort, and if you have any heart-related condition, make sure to seek advice from your doctor. Also, remember that saunas aren’t a cure for a hangover, so this is definitely not the place to be after a night of booze.
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