Benefits of Saunas

Recently, I’ve been extremely interested in heat shock proteins (HSPs) and the health benefits of dry saunas. It has been found that saunas can reduce chances for Cardiovascular Disease, high blood pressure, and neurocognitive diseases. The Finnish Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study found that males who frequently sauna (4-7 times/week) live longer than males who do it 1 or less times a week. Other benefits of saunas include aid in recovery after workouts, healthier arteries (Laukkanen et al., 2015), and improved sleep. 

 What Are Heat Shock Proteins?

Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are proteins that cells produce in stressful situations (such as high heat saunas). HSPs primary role is to stabilize new proteins to ensure they fold/unfold properly to form large amino chains. HSPs also have an incredible secondary role. When a cell is infected or cancerous, it generates proteins that aren’t normally found in healthy cells. HSPs can be made aware of these problems and participate in sounding the alarm to fight against unwanted proteins. Since HSPs help protect against foriegn invaders, they are an important part of all living organisms, from bacteria to humans. 

 Benefits of HSP’s and Saunas

With this information, saunas and HSPs may be in conjunction together to help your body in the short and long term. During 20-30 minute sauna sessions at 176 degree F, your body is ‘shocked’ by heat, triggering HSPs to dilate arteries to increase blood flow to muscles for better and faster recovery. HSPs also release endorphins, the “feel-good” chemical in the brain. Since our bodies temperatures lower at night, endorphins also begin to fall, facilitating deep sleep. 

Long term benefits from the sauna and HSPs can reduce incidences of Alzheimers by 65% (Laukkanen, 2015). It also helps fight against cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. While sitting in a sauna, heart rates can increase to levels as high as if you were moderately exercising. Since stiff arteries increase your chance for a heart attack, saunas increase blood flow and relax arteries.

There’s still need for more studies to conclude some of these findings, but what we can conclude with all this information is that time in the sauna is time well spent 🙂

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