Steam Rooms, Saunas, Opinions?

Recently, I was having a chat with a friend when I mentioned with pride how I never break a sweat exercising. I do no cardio and only lift weights. Between exercises if I start to get hot, I will step outside the gym to cool down and then resume my workout. Doing this, I have found allows me to workout with greater intensity.

Well my friend was concerned that not sweating was unhealthy and toxic. Seattle weather rarely gets hot. I think the last time I really broke a sweat was the month I spent in Southeast Asia in 2009 and even that wasn’t too much.

So when I got a free week pass to a gym that has a sauna and a steam room, I decided to go break a sweat. That week started today. Before I went, I did a little online research. Seems the idea of sweating out toxins is a myth.

sauna

Photo by Matti Mattila

Since I seem to get the best ideas from the commenters on this blog, I figured I ask if anyone has regularly used either steam rooms or saunas and what they thought. What benefits? Any drawbacks? Best time to use them? How long do you spend in them? This is all new to me. I have 6 more days on my free pass.

Comments

  1. says

    I believe it was Poliquin who recommended pre-sauna anti-oxidants (vit C or ALA), and using electrolytes while in the sauna. I can’t verify the science behind that, although the electrolytes seems to make logical sense.

    I’ve found my max is about 15-20 minutes. If I hop out after 20 and take a cold shower, I can usually jump in for another 10-15. I do like the hot/cold contrast. If you ever have access to a sauna in the snow, going from sauna to shirtless snow angels is magical.

  2. Jim says

    If I ever joined a gym, it would be for the sauna and/or hot tub. I only try them when on vacations, and always feel super relaxed and uplifted/optimistic afterwords. I just can never justify to myself the cost of a membership only for the sauna or hot tub. I’ve always been curious if the effects would diminish if I used them consistently over time. Any thoughts from commenters?

  3. Kate says

    I use sauna’s when available and break a sweat regularly in the summer heat. I live in the south. I don’t buy the whole toxin thing, but I will intentionally use heat and sweat to help with acne. A steamy hot bath helps me remove dead skin and relax.

    It doesn’t seem warm enough to me for summer until you sweat walking around outside. It’s hard to imagine living somewhere where you can never sweat.

  4. says

    @All – Met an old timer at the gym. Said he prefers the sauna these days, but when he was younger with more muscle mass, he favored the steam room.

  5. says

    Many years ago, I was going to a massage therapist on a regular basis for stress, and started going to a traditional sweatlodge once a week. The RMT noticed the change in my muscles right away – they lost a lot of their lumpiness. Sweatlodges are often used to help people deal with illness – sweating it out (or maybe cooking the infection, like a fever), and when I first joined a gym, I used the sauna a lot and really liked it.

    On the other hand, when I started exercising to a sweat, it just made me tired and run down in the long run, even though it felt good at the time. I always made more gains on the exercise bike when I kept my heart rate low and sweat free.

    I’m not sure how saunas/sweatlodges compare to lots of gentle exercise and good eating. I’ve never managed to do everything healthy at the same time, so have no personal experience, either.

    As far as using a sauna goes, I’d just go with what feels good. I think I’d spend maybe 10-20 minutes after a workout in the sauna, just hanging out. In the sweatlodge, we’d have sets, where we’d be in the lodge, we’d do some chanting and the medicine man would throw some water on the rocks for steam, then we’d open up the lodge, get some fresh air, and maybe load up some more hot rocks. They’d pass around food and drink in the breaks, too. And then we’d go at it again. Maybe an hour total, like going to church. On Sundays, too, iirc.

  6. Ahrand says

    I do infra-red sauna’s.
    I think it’s all about the temperature cycling.
    Your parasitic hosts (bacteria, fungi) cannot follow and will die-off.
    That brings both good and bad results.

  7. says

    2 days of sauna / steam so far and 2 nights of 9 hour sleep, which is extremely rare for me, especially in June when the days are long. Could be a coincidence.

  8. Mark says

    I’ve been Paleo/WAPF for a few years now and have been regularly using the sauna at the YMCA for about a year. I find the experience exhilirating, especially after a workout. Drink PLENTY of water and limit exposure to not more than 10 minutes at a time, with a 5 minute cool-down in between sessions. I consume up to a 1/2 gallon of water during my sauna sessions. If you are up for it, go for a cool shower immediately after you leave the room, gradually lowering the temperature to cold. There is a huge endorphin rush for me doing that, it completely mellows me out.

  9. says

    Any genuine Scandinavian style sauna (the hallmark being a heater with stones) does have genuine therapeutic benefits that should not be overlooked, and in all fairness these benefits are nearly identical to those of a steamroom, despite the two environments being as different as yin and yang.

    While the kidneys and liver do must of the purging of toxins in the human body, pushing all that extra perspiration through your pores helps to clean them out, and to keep the skin soft and supple.

    In a genuine Scandinavian style sauna or a steam bath, there is real benefit to the musculo-skeletal system with increased blood circulation, and such bathing is also an excellent low impact work out for the cardiovascular system. This does not mean, however, that you will lose any weight in a sauna. If you do it’s only water weight, and will come right back as soon as you rehydrate.

    Speaking of which, drink a lot of water to keep your body hydrated, failure to do so can lead to dangerous and in severe cases even deadly, dehydration.

    All that’s not to mention the effects on the mind and your mental well being, which is a more difficult phenomenon to measure and quantify.

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