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Health Benefits of Saunas vs. Steam

If you are considering adding a steam shower or sauna in your home, it’s important to know the differences between the two and evaluate your specific health needs before choosing the option that is right for you.

Both saunas and steam showers invoke the use of high heat to relax muscles and promote sweating. The most significant difference between the two is the type of heat. Saunas use dry heat generated from carbon or ceramic heaters to increase the room temperature to between 160 and 180 degrees. Steam rooms operate at lower temperatures, typically around 110 degrees, but keep humidity at 100 percent to maintain moist heat.

Saunas

The dry heat from a sauna soothes nerve endings and warms and relaxes muscles, which in turn relieves the tension from your body and minimizes joint pain. This is especially beneficial for those who suffer from illnesses such as arthritis, painful migraines, and headaches.

Saunas can be used as a means of calming the body and relieving it of stress. The heat from the sauna helps the body release endorphins, a feel-good chemical that reduces the effects of stress on the body which can relax you enough to sleep better. The sauna heats up your body, so when you leave and begin to cool down, your body releases increased levels of melatonin, helping you feel more relaxed and therefore allowing you to have a deeper sleep.

Steam Showers

Steam Showers help open up airways which improves your breathing and alleviates congestion. The wet heat from the steam room thins and opens the mucous membranes in the body, which helps to relieve the pressure. This is highly beneficial for those that suffer from asthma and bronchitis, as it helps with sinus relief.

The steam room also increases metabolism and can aid with weight loss. The steam room causes you to sweat, which means that your body is losing water. As water makes up a large part of your body weight, the emission of the sweat will cause you to lose a few pounds. The sweat also helps to remove toxins and cleanses the body.

Relaxation

Saunas and steam rooms both provide emotional and physical relaxation benefits. Wet and dry heat simulate sedative effects that generate feelings of calmness and relaxation, and some people who suffer emotional or mood disorder may find relief with regular trips to saunas or steam rooms. Saunas and steam rooms also promote muscle relaxation, which can provide pain relieffrom muscular injuries such as those from overuse or exercise.

Pain Management

Heat has a pain relieving effect due to its ability create more effective blood flow. Painful or chronic conditions caused by inflammation such as arthritis and fibromyalgia can be temporarily managed through heat treatments like those found in both saunas and steam rooms. For managing pain, saunas may be preferable for people who are negatively affected by humidity as are some sufferers of acute rheumatoid arthritis.

Expectoration

One health advantage that can only be provided through the wet heat of a steam room is an expectorant effect. Wet heat thins and opens the mucous membranes in your body, including in your sinuses, throat and lungs. Sufferers of chronic congestion or sinus infections, use the steam shower to help loosen and clear mucous from the nose, chest and throat. Steam heat can also aggravate asthma, in which case a sauna would be a preferred choice.

Conclusion

Both steam showers and saunas help promote wellness, weight loss and general health by removing toxins and excess water weight from the body through sweating. Steam showers are clearly more beneficial for the removal of expectorants while saunas (due to their higher heat) may be more suited for increasing blood circulation and reducing pain. Whether you choose a sauna, steam shower or both, be sure to limit your initial exposure to 20-30 minute sessions per day allowing your body enough time to adjust to the heat. Once you experience the many health and relaxation benefits of both steam showers and saunas you will wonder how you ever did without one.