Gyms, spas and even hotels often feature a sauna room, which provides either dry or wet heat. The average sauna can reach temperatures of up to 185 degrees F, according to Harvard Health Publications. The premise behind the sauna is that you sweat out the toxins in your body. Little evidence supports claims of the health benefits of a sauna session.
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Unsupported Health Claims
Among the reported health benefits of a sauna session are weight loss, detoxing the body and improved blood circulation. Traditional health organizations, such as Columbia Health, agree that saunas can provide relaxation but state that saunas do not remove toxins or aid in weight loss. Instead, the body loses water during the sauna session. Any weight loss from the sauna is due to the loss of water. That weight returns once you drink water.
It takes only a few minutes for your skin to reach temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit once you step into a sauna, according to Harvard Health Publications. The pulse rate increases, forcing the heart to pump more blood, which is mostly sent to the skin. This can take the blood away from your internal organs. Blood pressures can also be affected. A person with a heart condition may experience further problems in a sauna.
Prolonged sessions in a sauna increase the risks of dehydration, which can cause serious side effects such as low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. If you feel very weak after your sauna session, you may be dehydrated. End your sauna session if you feel weakness, dizziness or other forms of discomfort and drink plenty of water to rehydrate your body.
Increased Core Body Temperature
The body has its own internal cooling system to keep the body's core temperature at a safe level. In extreme heat, such as a sauna or steam room, the internal cooling system becomes overloaded, especially during prolonged exposure. If the body can't keep itself cool, your core temperature may rise to dangerous levels, according to Columbia Health. Medical conditions or alcohol consumption may increase the risks of overheating. Spend no longer than 15 minutes in a sauna to reduce your chances of overheating your body.