The Relaxing Benefits of At-Home Saunas
At-home saunas add a healthy, tranquil touch to the home and are a popular luxury among homeowners looking to relax.
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Looking for a way to relax, improve your health and add luxury to your home? Consider installing a personal sauna. There are a variety of options, from easy-to-assemble kits to prefabricated outdoor retreats. Our tips will take the guesswork out of choosing the right sauna for you.
Dry vs. Wet
Traditional Finnish saunas are heated with wood stoves, on top of which rocks are piled. The rocks, usually of volcanic material, become very hot and, when ladles of water are poured over them, make clouds of steam known as löyly in Finland. The löyly increases the humidity in the sauna. Finlandia Sauna's Reino J.A. Tarkianinen says Finns typically take a shower, enter the sauna and stay in the dry heat for 10 minutes. Then they pour water on the hot stones to ramp up the humidity. Most Finns visit the sauna three times a week for about 30 minutes because they enjoy its benefits.
Publications like The American Journal of Medicine and Harvard Men's Health Watch have claimed that saunas can reduce a host of ailments, from stress to illnesses, caused by environmental toxins. Dr. Lawrence Wilson, nutrition and lifestyle consultant in Scottsdale and Prescott, Ariz., documented sauna benefits during a yearlong intensive infrared sauna therapy program in 2002, which he detailed in his book, Sauna Therapy. (See link in Resources below.)
"We could really improve people's health if we could get them to use saunas," he says. Dr. Wilson works with the elimination of toxins, such as lead, mercury and nicotine, and says a sauna can dramatically speed up their elimination, though it does take time. "It takes a couple months of sauna therapy just to fix your skin," he says, "It's like flushing your skin a couple times a week. Compared to most treatments it's very safe — if it's done sensibly."
The basis is the heat — whether from infrared saunas or traditional saunas — which raises the heart rate and creates sweat, clearing toxins from the skin. "There aren't many methods of getting these chemicals out of your body," says Dr. Wilson. In addition, the increased heart rate releases a variety of hormones, like endorphins, known to reduce stress. Using a sauna also can help make breathing easier when you're congested.
While clinical studies show that saunas temporarily soothe sore muscles and arthritis pains, Reino recommends talking to your doctor first. "We don't promote a sauna as something that's going to cure someone's health," he says. And Dr. Wilson doesn't recommend using a sauna for children under the age of 5, pregnant women or those with a disease aggravated by heat. After you've cleared it with your doctor, there are a variety of options for building or buying your own personal sauna.
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