Sauna vs steam room: which is better for you?


benefits of sauna and steam room

Source: Composite by G_marius based on Alpsee Camping's and's images

Compare the benefits of saunas and steam rooms. Find out more about their pros and cons, and other people's experiences. Sauna vs steam room: pick one!

Sauna vs steam room

The main difference between saunas and steam rooms is that the former provides dry heat and the later wet steam. A sauna is wood paneled room or small building which is heated by a wood or electric stove. Nordic countries, and in particular Finland, have a long sauna culture. This tradition was transmitted when Finns migrated to other parts of the world. The temperatures in traditional Finnish saunas can exceed 100 °C (212 °F). In order to make this tolerable for the human body it is necessary to keep the humidity levels within the sauna very low. When water is thrown to the stones in saunas it is vaporized immediately. Saunas tend to have benches at different heights so that those who wish a hotter experience sit on higher benches and those who prefer a more moderate temperature sit on the lower ones.

Modern saunas can be divided into two types: 

  • Conventional saunas which heat the air
  • Infrared saunas that warm objects of a range of materials such as charcoal and active carbon fibers.

Steam rooms are enclosed spaces with high-temperature steam produced by water-filled generators. In steam rooms, where the humidity approaches 100%, the temperature has to be set to much lower than temperature than in saunas. Usually steam rooms are set around 40 °C (104 °F). The Russsian Banya and the Turkish baths are two of the most traditional types of steam rooms. Now steam rooms can be found in gyms, hotels and health resorts. 

Benefits (and risks) of saunas and steam rooms

The health benefits of saunas and steam rooms have been known for centuries. Saunas and steam rooms both make you feel hot, sweet and increase your heart rate. They stimulate the blood circulation to the surface of the skin. These heat rooms are sometimes used to treat some medical conditions such as arthritis and congestion, but most commonly they are used for the purpose of relaxation and to relieve stress. The heat on the skin causes pleasant sensations and can help release endorphins, reduce stress and sleep better.

Sweeting opens the pores and help cleaning the outer skin. Saunas and steam rooms do not cause weight loss, as many people believe. However saunas cause blood vessels to dilate and remove salts from the system. Saunas also sooth nerve endings and relax muscles, which can be beneficial for those with arthritis and migraines.

People with greasy skin may prefer a sauna because the pores may get blocked by the moisture of the steam room. On the other hand those with dry skin may suffer from the sauna's dryness. Steam room is usally beneficial for those suffering from sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis. The steam can also help clean the impurities from the skin and can be particularly good for those with acne.

In saunas you could even read and if the person wants to sweet as much as possible the sauna is the best choice. However, in addition to the benefits of sauna, there are also some risks. For example, you should be careful with saunas because there is a risk of dehydration. So exposure to the sauna should be limited to 15 or 20 minutes, at least for those whose bodies are not used to it. On the other hand, steam rooms have the ideal breeding conditions for microbes and fungus such as athlete's foot. Pregnant women and people with heart conditions, as well as those with low or high blood pressure, epylepsy or under the effects of alcohol or drugs should avoid steam rooms and, even more, saunas due to their high temperatures. 

And you? Have you tried them? Do you prefer dry or humid heat? Which one do you think fits you best.

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Sauna vs steam room: which is better for you?

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