In my experience, people head into saunas for a few different reasons. Many people swear by a sauna sweat session after a particularly grueling workout, as the heat seems to alleviate muscle pain and soreness—studies back this up. Other people seek out a sauna after a late night during which they may have consumed one too many drinks. I've heard people swear by a sauna for detoxifying their bodies, though the science seems to be a little less clear on this one. Other people, like myself, just enjoy being in a sauna, since it's a moment to decompress and breathe.
Whichever group you fall into, know that there is another massive benefit to sauna bathing, and it has to do with your heart. According to The Observer, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland found that people who sauna bathe regularly have statistically better heart health than those who do not.
Throughout the study, researchers followed 1621 Finnish men over the course of 22 years. What they found was surprising. Men who took two to three sauna baths a week lowered their risk of high blood pressure by 24%. Men who took four to seven sauna baths a week lowered their risk by a whopping 46%. Co-author Jari Laukkanen, MD, a cardiologist and a professor of medicine at the University of Eastern Finland, says these results could stem from the body's temperature increase, which dilates blood vessels and increases circulation.
While it's true that no women were involved in this particular study, it's safe to assume that the heart benefits would result in both sexes. So next time you're at the gym or spa and you have the opportunity to hit the sauna for a few minutes, do so. Make it a routine and it might result in a stronger heart over time.