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Saunas keep you healthy

People have been enjoying saunas since the beginning of time. They're especially welcoming in autumn and winter, but it's always nice to step into a hot sauna, regardless of whether it's electrically heated or has a wood-burning stove. However, did you know that saunas are not only relaxing, but also healthy? Studies have shown that regular sauna sessions can strengthen the immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce tension headaches and depression and detox your body. You get clean on the inside as well as on the outside.

What happens in your body when you go into a sauna? Your body temperature rises to fever level, which might not sound very helpful, but it actually has some benefits for your health - your blood vessels dilate, your heart rate increases and you start sweating.

This sweating causes the body to wash away metals and waste products that have accumulated in the body. The heart then pumps more blood, as it does when we exercise, which is undeniably good for your health. This helps to strengthen the heart, which means that blood pressure, blood fats and blood sugar are normalised. The production of white blood cells increases which helps strengthen the immune system, so the risk of getting a cold decreases. And if that weren't enough, a Finnish study has shown that middle-aged men who had a sauna session every day halved their risk of cardiovascular disease.

In another Finnish project, researchers studied 1,700 men and women for fifteen years, and it turned out that those who used a sauna four to seven times a week were less likely to die prematurely of cardiovascular disease than those who only used a sauna once a week or didn't use it at all. These findings applied regardless of gender and age.

Dementia also seems to be less likely for those who use a sauna four to seven times a week. It's a bit unclear why, but researchers at the University of Eastern Finland think that it might be because the cardiovascular system also affects the brain. If the heart is healthy, there's a greater chance that the brain will be as well.

And you don't have to sit in the sauna at a high temperature until you look like a lobster. A temperature of 60-80 degrees Celsius (140-176 Fahrenheit), for ten minutes is enough. Even saunas at lower temperatures, such as 40 degrees, can help with tension headaches and depression. The idea of throwing yourself into icy water or rolling in the snow afterwards isn't proven to help your health as it's the heat that's beneficial, not the temperature fluctuations themselves. But if you like doing it, then just go for it. The important thing seems to be that you use the sauna frequently throughout your lifespan.