The weather is getting unbearably cold for me, so I thought today I would share with you what I do whenever it’s too cold (or I’m too lazy) to exercise
I hit my local Y and sit in the sauna to reap very similar benefits to exercising, but without the hassle!
Now this is a healing modality I can really get behind, because
I LOVE HEAT.
And I love love love anything that boosts circulation — like grounding, sauna, steam room, hot baths, sleeping with a hot water bottle, massage, exercise (ok, maybe not exercise…)
…it just feels intuitively right to get your blood flowing, don’t you think?
Because I don’t like to exercise, for me, being active comes in the form of a nice long walk outside several times a week. But that means in the winter…. uh I basically don’t get outside at all.
Thats why I’m so thrilled that there have been so many studies recently looking at the health benefits of routine sauna.
Sauna increases the circulation of blood all throughout your body — getting the blood pumping through your cardiovascular system, your muscles, your skin, your joints, your brain — so it turns out that routine sauna has many of the same health benefits that exercise does.
So when the weather is too harsh outside, if you can find a local sauna to go to, you can feel confident that you are still boosting your health and longevity even without hitting the treadmill.
And there are several major medical studies that back this up!
The most recent study was the largest yet, a meta-analysis of all of the medical literature on dry sauna from 2000 to 2017.
Published in Evidence Based Complimentary & Alternative Medicine Journal, April 2018 , researchers review 40 studies that included almost 4,000 patients and found:
- reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack and sudden cardiac death
- lowered blood pressure
- lower risk of stroke
- reduced risk of dementia and other neurocognitive changes
- reduced risk of pulmonary disease such as asthma and lung infections like influenza
- decrease risk of rheumatologist and immune disorders
- decrease in pain conductions such as arthritis and headaches
- decreased risk of death
- improved quality of life
Another recent study looked at how sauna specifically supports brain health.
Researchers had previously discovered that men who used a sauna two or more times a week had significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and death, and reduced risk of all-cause mortality (meaning they died less from all causes put together) than men who used a sauna once a week or less.
So next, researchers turned to look at cognitive function, to see if this longer life had an improved quality to it.
Turns out it does.
Published in Age and Ageing (Dec 8, 2016) researchers followed more than 2,300 patients for an average of 20.7 years, and found:
- Patients who averaged 4 to 7 trips to the sauna a week were two-thirds less likely to develop dementia over the next 20 years (a 66% decrease in dementia)
- Patients were also two thirds less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease (AD) during the 20 year follow up (a 65% drop in AD diagnosis)
- This risk reduction was independent of any known risk factors, including body mass, age, smoking status, alcohol consumption or previous heart attack.
The Bottom Line:
Over a 66% reduction in dementia risk of all types, including Alzheimer’s, from a very easy-to-recommend lifestyle intervention that preserves memory function and protects us from developing memory diseases.
So, not only does sauna help you live longer (avoiding heart disease and all-cause mortality)
but it also helps you avoid dementia and memory loss disease to
enjoy that longer life more!
Why is sauna so good?
Sauna raises whole body temperature which activates metabolic changes like a neutralizing inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, increase nitric oxide bioavailability, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved vasodilation.
In other words, raising the core body temperature and increasing circulation very similar to exercise. So increased time in the sauna helps increase vascular perfusion of the brain, increasing endothelial function and reducing inflammation. And not just in your brain, but throughout your entire body.
So one take away from today’s study is this:
If you can’t exercise (or, ahem, like me, don’t particularly love to do it) then one good alternative is sauna.
Sauna is also a good idea for disabled or mobility-limited folks, who might find getting outside to exercise harder to routinely access. But almost anyone can sauna and enjoy very similar longevity benefits as if they exercised!
And often, the folks that need exercise the most (like those recovering from cancer, those with metabolic and weight issues, those with high stress loads, those who must sit for long periods of time at work, those caretaking of others with very limited time away, those recovering from trauma, etc…) may find it harder to participate in regular exercise…
…so the answer to this is relaxing in a sauna to raise basal metabolic temperatures.
So if you know someone who doesn’t have time to exercise routinely, someone who had mobility issues, someone who doesn’t have the energy to exercise, someone who is in recovery and doesn’t have the strength for exercise, someone who lives in such a cold harsh environment they are not likely to be outside for long… consider letting them know about the healing benefits of sauna to supplement during the times when exercise is harder to come by.
Just forward them this blog post!
Three times a week all winter long I wake up and ask myself — is it warm enough to go on a nice long brisk walk for exercise outside? And if the answer is a resounding “no!” then I know where I’m headed — to my local YMCA that has a sauna that I can have unlimited access to 7 days a week. Making it one of the least expensive holistic therapies I know of… less expensive than chiropractic, less expensive than massage, less expensive than accupuncture. The only thing cheaper is touching the earth directly outside to get grounded. And even that is hard to do in the very coldest months of the year.
But hitting my local sauna regularly throughout the winter?
That… I can do.
Interested in giving sauna a try?
The recommended routine is to sauna at least once a week and up to three times a week, for a time period of at least 5 minutes and a maximum of 20 minutes.
Hydrate before, during and after sauna, and be sure to fully cool off by recovering for several minutes resting at room temperature, taking a brief swim or taking a shower.
Don’t sauna if you have a fever, an active inflammatory condition like a rash or hives, or are intoxicated.
No longer just for pleasure and relaxation, sauna might be one of the best ways to boost your over all longevity.
If you are looking for holistic ways to really boost your health, a great Rx to start with might be:
- deep restorative sleep at night with grounding
- daily morning sunshine on your face or light box therapy upon waking
- daily walking and decreasing prolonged sitting
- hydrating with beautiful pure, fluoride free water
- eating healthy proteins, fats, fruits and veggies
- fasting overnight (ideally, for about 12+ hours each night)
- taking a few crucial high quality supplements like omega 3 fatty acids and probiotics
- decreasing exposures to EMF radiation and other environmental pollutants
- sauna or moderate exercise several times a week
- loving touch several times a week
If you do those (or even just some of those!) you are really on your way to allowing your natural, innate, always recovering, always resilient health to shine through for a lifetime.