Steam Sauna: Benefits & Risks

by John Staughton last updated -

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Although there are many differences between steam rooms and saunas, these two relaxing spaces provide the similar health benefits.  

Steam Sauna

A steam sauna is a type of sauna that is heated by steam, as opposed to infrared heating. A sauna has a vent in the room that lets out steam and limits the humidity of the room, unlike a steam room, which allows the steam to stay, thus reducing the overall temperature.

Steam Rooms Vs Saunas

Although you might hear the terms used interchangeably, there are clear differences between steam rooms and saunas.

  • Temperature: Sauna are hotter than steam rooms – usually between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The maximum heat of steam rooms is around 110 to 120 degrees, but they can often feel hotter than that due to the humidity.
  • Humidity: Steam rooms have 100% humidity. Saunas, on the other hand, have a vent built into them to let the moisture out and fresh air in, making for a much drier kind of heat.

  • Materials: Saunas tend to be built out of wood, as wood stays cooler in very hot conditions, and withdraws moisture from the air. Steam rooms are clad with non-porous materials, such as tiles, plastic and metal that will last longer in wet conditions.
  • Benefits: Steam rooms are considered more beneficial for people with lung and chest-related disorders, as the steam can help clear out those areas of the body. The dry heat of saunas is better suited for muscle issues and joint-related conditions, such as arthritis.

Steam Sauna Benefits

There is a range of health benefits to be gained from spending time in both steam rooms and saunas, and many of the benefits are the same for both styles of hot rooms. 

  • Cleanses Skin: Both wet and dry heat open the pores and cause the body to sweat. This is an excellent opportunity for the body to get rid of toxins that have accumulated and remove dead skin cells that cause problems, leaving you with clearer skin.
  • Removes Toxins: The same pore-opening and sweating process that clears dry skin cells is also a process by which the body removes toxins.
  • Cardiovascular Issues – Some studies, such as this one published in the Official Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, conducted by Richard Beever, claim that certain types of saunas can even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Relaxes and Reduces Stress: Spending time in a sauna or steam room helps the body relax, which can also lower the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol and benefit both the body and mind.
  • Stimulates Circulation: Studies have demonstrated that spending time in a hot room improves circulation by enlarging blood vessels and increasing your heart rate. This allows the blood to more effectively deliver oxygen and nutrients all around the body, which aids in the cellular healing process.
  • Clears Congestion: As mentioned above, this benefit comes from steam rooms rather than saunas. Hot steam can help ease congestion and clear out the lungs. Some people even add essential oils, such as eucalyptus or olbas, to aid this process.
  • Reduces the Chance of Injury: By using a sauna or steam room to heat up before or after exercise, you could reduce the chance of exercise-related injury.

Possible Side Effects

It is best to avoid saunas and steam rooms if you have a fever, are pregnant, have recently undergone surgery, or have heart problems or high blood pressure. Listen to your body and leave the room for a break at regular intervals – start at five-minute slots and build up from there. Stay hydrated and ensure that the rooms are at the recommended temperature – they need to be hot enough to kill bacteria.

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