To be frank, I don’t like sitting in the sauna.
But I still do at least 4 days per week. Sounds crazy, I know, but motivation is tricky, which is why it’s not reliable when you are trying to form a new habit. From what I know about behavior design in my studies with Tiny Habits and BJ Fogg, B=MAP.
Behavior is a product of Motivation * Ability * Prompt
Because my motivation is low, I have found another trick to stay motivated to use the sauna. While I don’t like intense heat, I do know that sauna use is good for the brain and helps to mitigate the risks of cognitive decline. Knowing my genes, I have a pre-disposition towards this, which makes sauna use more appealing to me.
Ability to use the sauna is high as we have one at home and there is one at my gym.
My prompt comes easily, as it’s after I finish my exercise session that I use the sauna.
With all of these elements in place, it is easy to get myself to sit in a sauna on a regular basis.
Just a quick note… if you find yourself wanting to build a new behavior or dismantle an undesired one – as a Tiny Habits coach, I can help you with that!
If you are interested in sauna usage, read on.
Saunas have been a traditional part of many cultures for centuries. In Finland, where saunas are a regular part of the culture, there are 3 million saunas for the 5.5 million people who live there! Traditional saunas are rooms heated up to 100°C/212° F. A newer type of sauna — infrared sauna — is becoming increasingly popular. Infrared saunas use infrared heaters to emit radiant heat that’s absorbed by the surface of the skin while keeping the ambient temperature lower than in a traditional sauna.
Below I have listed some more information on sauna usage, benefits and potential reasons why you might not want to use a sauna.
Why use saunas
Like many health trends, sauna usage is growing in popularity. Saunas are popping up in homes and gyms. Even stand-alone places offer memberships for heat and sauna therapy.
Regular sauna bathers report:
- Better quality of life
- Enhanced recovery for sore muscles
- Increased metabolism and weight loss
- Less muscle and joint pain
- Improved skin health and anti-aging benefits
- Better sleep
- Reductions in stress
Proven benefits of sauna use
Sauna usage is more than relaxing. It has some well-studied benefits:
- Improved cardiovascular health. One study of Finnish men showed an incredible 63% decreased risk of sudden cardiac death in those who used saunas. The benefits were most substantial with frequent use — for 20 minutes or more each session and 4, or more, times a week.
- Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Improvements in pain and range of motion in people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis
- Decreased chronic pain for people with conditions like fibromyalgia and low back pain
- Improvement in depression symptoms
- Possible mild improvements in breathing for people with asthma and COPD
- Reduced inflammation and decreased cortisol levels
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Enhanced athletic performance
- Immune-system boost
Saunas and losing weight?
After a sauna session, you may have noticed that you’re a few pounds lighter on the scale. This is probably due to lost water weight through sweating. Water weight loss is not permanent. But can a sauna affect long-term weight loss?
In short, the answer is maybe. With an increase in body heat, your metabolism quickens and burn more calories, but there’s not enough research to know the long-term effects of regular sauna use on weight loss.
Who should NOT sauna
Most people tolerate the sauna without any problems. Some may experience symptoms like claustrophobia or heat intolerance, although these may improve with regular sauna use. But there are some reasons to avoid sauna use, including:
- Recent heart attack or stroke
- Heart disease
- Severe aortic stenosis
- Advanced or poorly controlled heart failure
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Pregnant women
- Young children
Consult with your health-care provider before sauna use, if:
- You are concerned about male infertility: Evidence shows that sperm production is decreased during regular sauna use.
- You have high blood pressure
To sum it up
Researchers are still learning more about the benefits of sauna use. If you want to dive in now, start small – with 5-10 minutes a few days a week, working your way up to longer and more regular use as your body adjusts. If you have any recent health problems or chronic medical conditions, talk to your health-care provider.
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