Saunas and hot tubs might have more benefits than just relaxation. Find out more about the benefits associated of “heat therapy”.
Anyone who has ever sat in a sauna or a hot tub likely can attest to how relaxing they can be. Saunas and hot tubs are generally thought of as tools for melting away stress––which might provide its own set of health benefits––but recent research shows that both saunas and hot tubs can provide very real physical health benefits.
In an article written by Charles Steward, who studies the effects of exercise on the body, we learn that much of the emerging research into the health effects of saunas and hot tubs is quite promising. Primarily, the benefits for cardiovascular health can be profound, and similar to those gleaned from exercise.
Steward is quick to point out that neither saunas nor hot tubs are replacements for exercise. They do not expend energy like exercise, which is necessary for burning fat and provides exercise’s support of healthy weight. Nor do they provide the benefits for muscle growth or protect against the degenerative effects of not exercising. No matter how you slice it, there is no replacement for exercise.
Hot tubs and saunas, though, might provide some benefits for cardiovascular health through a variety of mechanisms. These tools have been used as health-promoting modalities for millennia in a variety of cultures worldwide. The Romans were notorious for their love of public bathing. Japanese and nordic cultures both employ saunas and hot spring bathing. Until recently, the associate benefits were thought of as anecdotal, but as is the case with many traditional remedies, science is beginning to validate some of these beliefs.
A couple things happen in saunas and hot tubs that confer their cardiovascular benefits. One, when you are in hot tubs and saunas, your body responds by trying dissipate its own heat, leading to increased blood flow. This expands arteries and capillaries––known as vasodilation––which prompts factors that promote cell growth, repair, and the protection of blood vessels.
The research that exists and is ongoing is pointing towards the fact that saunas and hot tubs might have directly positive health effects for the heart and cardiovascular system; they might also help lower blood pressure and help control blood glucose levels.
Before you start trying incorporate sauna or hot tub therapy into your regimen, talk to your doctor. Likely though, either of these modalities might offer not just a way to relax and unwind in a healthy way, but palpable cardiovascular benefits as well.