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Sauna sessions as good as exercise

Findings from a new study suggest that using a sauna may affect your heart and blood vessels in ways that are similar to cardiovascular exercise.

Finnish researchers tested the impact of a 30-minute sauna session and found a drop in blood pressure and artery “stiffness” in participants of the study. The goal of the investigation was to determine whether a sauna session had positive effects on blood vessel and heart function.

According to researcher Tanjaniina Laukkanen using a sauna showed an increase in heart rate that is similar to the effect of moderate exercise.

It is not fully clear why, but the sauna heat is “one major factor”.

“That’s like a natural diuretic effect — lowering blood pressure and decreasing the work load of the heart,” said Laukkanen.

Blood pressure lowered while participants were in the sauna, and diastolic blood pressure specifically remained lower for at least 30 minutes after the sauna session, suggesting consistent sauna sessions could be associated with longer-lasting benefits over time.

The study, which involved 102 participants, was conducted in Finland — where “sauna bathing” originated. Laukkanen acknowledged that sauna sessions are a part of life in Finland, but not so much in other countries. Based on research, Laukkanen said, people would have to use a sauna three to seven times a week to experience health benefits.

People who take medication to lower their blood pressure may need to be cautious because the extra blood pressure drop from a sauna might cause dizziness or fainting. Laukkanen pointed out: “Sauna bathing should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience, and bathers should always listen to their body and take care of hydration.” The study was published in the January issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology and online in the Journal of Human Hypertension.

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