A Finnish study has found the benefits of sauna bathing comparable to that of moderate exercise.

Sauna bathing, where people stay in an enclosed room emitting dry heat, is thought to lower blood pressure, increase vascular compliance and heart rate, University of Eastern England researchers found.

In Finland, sauna bathing is immensely popular - about one in three Finns has a sauna facility, or three million sauna facilities for a population of just five million.

The researchers have previously found that sauna bathing does help with coronary disease risk reduction, cardiac deaths, and even a form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.

In the study, the researchers tested vascular compliance among 100 participants using the carotid and femoral artery right after sauna session and 30 minutes after.

The participants experienced a decrease in blood pressure, from systolic 137 mmHg to 130 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of 75 mmHg from 82 mmHg immediately after the session, which remained constant even 30 minutes after the activity.

“The findings shed light on the physiological mechanisms through which health benefits, which have have been observed at the population level and are caused by the heat exposure of sauna, may develop,” wrote the researchers.

The experimental study, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, was conducted through the Sauna and Cardiovascular Health Project, led by Professor Jari Laukkanen. 

A sauna room is usually heated to 70 degrees to 100 degree Celsius, and can raise skin temperature to 40 degrees Celsius.

Some sauna safety precautions from Harvard Health include avoidance of alcohol before or after sauna, limiting bathing to no more than 20 minutes per session, cooling down gradually, keeping hydration status well, and avoidance if feeling unwell.

“Further research data from experimental settings relating to the physiological mechanisms of sauna bathing that promote cardiac health is still needed,” noted the researchers. MIMS