Are Saunas New Age?

iStock_000018912089_SmallTK asks: “Are saunas New Age?”

No, they are not.

It’s interesting to note that the word sauna (means bath or bathhouse) is the only Finnish word in the English dictionary, which makes sense because this is the country where the baths originate.

For those who might not know what a sauna is, today’s sauna is generally a small room or building which contains facilities that generate steam and high heat to a degree that bathers will perspire (@174 degrees). Conventional saunas warm the air while infrared saunas warm objects such as charcoal, carbon fibers or other materials.

The earliest known saunas were found in Finland 2,000 years ago with one of the first descriptions of this peculiar style of bath dating back to 1112. Some of the earliest saunas were dug into the ground while later versions were built above ground and were heated with wooden logs. There was no chimney in this building, only a small air vent in the back wall. This allowed the room to fill with smoke which would be cleared when the bath achieved a certain temperature and bathers would be allowed inside. Finnish settlers in the U.S. brought the sauna with them when they settled in Delaware in 1638.

The Finns refer to the sauna as the “poor man’s pharmacy” because of its many health benefits ranging from relief of sinus congestion and arthritic pain to improved circulation and cardiovascular health.

The latter claim was substantiated just last week in a study published in the Feb. 23, 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association in which researchers found a link between long, hot sauna baths and fewer deaths from heart attacks. This is in addition to previously established links between saunas and improved blood vessel function and lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

The bottom line is that saunas are good for you and provide far more health benefits than New Age “energy” medicine and alternatives combined.


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