Does your gym have a sauna? If so it might be time to start using it more often.
Although spending time in a sauna isn’t entirely unheard of for most Americans, few of us make it a regular habit. And even those of us that indulge from time to time tend to spend far less time in saunas than many folks in Europe and other parts of the world.
The Finnish in particular are fond of the practice of sauna bathing, and it turns out they might really be onto something. Because researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have uncovered a link between regular sauna use and a lower risk of dementia.
More than 2,000 middle-aged men participated in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study for 20 years. The researchers divided the volunteers into three groups: men taking a sauna once a week, men taking a sauna two to three times a week and men taking a sauna four to seven times a week.
And when they took a deeper dive into the numbers a significant pattern emerged.
Dementia risk was reduced 66 percent!
The more often the men took saunas the lower their risk of dementia dropped, according to the study published in the journal Age and Ageing.1
And we’re not talking small numbers here either. Guys who spent the most time in the sauna, four to seven sessions a week, had an incredible 66 percent less risk for any form of dementia than the guys who only took time out for a sauna once a week. The same guys who spent the most time in the sauna also had a 65 percent lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Saunas could help you live longer
This wasn’t the first time the Finnish researchers found benefits to sauna bathing either. Earlier study results showed that frequent saunas are also linked to a lower risk of heart events and sudden cardiac death, as well as overall mortality. In other words, spending more time in the sauna won’t just likely protect your memory, it could also help you live longer.
Other studies have reported on the benefits of saunas as well. Sauna therapy has been successfully used for people with high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, chronic fatigue, pain and addiction.2
More research needs to be done in order for us to understand exactly why sauna bathing can be so good for us. Experts theorize it may, at least in part, have something to do with the deep sense of relaxation that saunas provide.
Saunas are generally safe for most folks, but if you have any existing medical conditions it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor before your start using the sauna regularly, or before you increase your weekly sessions. If you’re new to sauna bathing remember to stay hydrated and never stay in the sauna for longer than it feels comfortable.
1. “Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men,” Age and Ageing, first published online December 7, 2016
2. “Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems,” Altern Med Rev. 2011 Sep;16(3):215-25
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