When you sauna bathe, your skin heats first.
Upon exposure to high heat, skin temperature rises to approximately 104 °F. Then, body temperature rises. Slowly at first (98.6 °F to 100.4 °F). Then rapidly (to 102.2 °F).
In addition to increased core temperature, your body responds to heat stress by moving blood toward the surface of your skin, and increasing sweat production.
Sauna makes you sweat (and sweating is good!)
Did you know that skin is the largest organ in your body?
Most people don’t think of skin as an organ. But it is.
Skin has many functions. It covers your body, protecting you from germ invasion. It allows you to feel things—like hot and cold, soft and rough. And, maybe most importantly, it allows you to sweat—helping you regulate body temperature and get toxins out of your body.
Sauna (exposing yourself to high temperatures) can help you sweat. Therefore, regular sauna use can help you get toxins out of your body.
(Want more detox tips? Check out my blog post How to Detox the Right Way)
How does heat therapy help detoxify heavy metals?
According to this 2021 review article, sweating helps you eliminate heavy metals. And heavy metals leave you body faster via sweat than urination (urine, stool, and hair are other ways heavy metals leave your body).
- Aluminum is excreted 3.75-fold faster in sweat than urine
- Cobalt is excreted 7-fold faster
- Cadmium 25-fold faster
- Lead 17-fold faster
What is the most impactful sauna temperature and duration?
According to this scientific study, heating your sauna to at least 174 °F and staying in the heat for at least 19 minutes provides the most protective effect.
How often should you sauna?
The more, the better.
According to this 2018 study, the risk for sudden cardiac death was 22% lower for men who used the sauna 2-3 times per week compared to men who used the sauna only once weekly. And the risk was 63% lower for men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week. In other words, the more you sauna, the more cardiovascular benefits you will likely experience.
How does heat stress extend the lifespan?
If you use the sauna regularly, your body will adapt to the heat. This prepares your body for future heat exposure. And includes many additional benefits, including repairing cell damage and protection from future stressors (not just heat).
Sauna bathing may do all of the following:
- Promote cardiovascular health (less heart disease)
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation markers (like CRP)
- Increase heart rate variability (HRV)
- Support brain health and plasticity
- Reduce symptoms of depression
- Improve physical fitness (including endurance!)
Are there any contraindications?
Yes, but mostly for individuals with certain pre-existing conditions. If concerned, you can read the list of contraindications on page 10 of this article.
In summary, regular sauna use is generally safe for healthy individuals. And it is associated with many health benefits. The body responds to repeated heat stress by becoming more resilient—to both future stress and other stressors. In this way, saunas may help extend the healthspan (how long you live a healthy, active life).