Does sauna increase life expectancy?

May 30 | Tom Harvey

Sauna bathing is a popular method of relaxing the body and detoxifying it through sweating. Many agree that it’s an effective method of relaxing, too, but that’s not all sauna bathing is beneficial for. There are a number of health benefits that frequent sauna users can enjoy, including an improved skin surface, improved heart health, and more.

But can using a sauna increase your life expectancy?

Research indicates that frequent sauna bathing sessions can significantly lower the likelihood of having a deadly heart-related incident such as a heart attack or stroke. Frequent sauna users often are also at lower risk of developing heart-related ailments in the future.

There isn’t much research completed on using sauna bathing to improve life expectancy, as many studies take years to reach valid results. Still, the initial findings of these studies show promising indications.

How many saunas promote increasing life expectancy?

The limited studies completed on increasing life expectancy through sauna bathing have used traditional Finnish saunas. In a traditional Finnish sauna bath, the temperature is between 80°C and 100°C, and the humidity levels are kept between 10 and 20 percent. Traditional saunas heat the body through their environment and induce mild hyperthermia to help lower blood pressure, improve cardiac responses, and reduce inflammation.

However, this doesn’t mean that infrared saunas work any less effectively at increasing life expectancy. Infrared saunas work to achieve the same results – a higher internal body temperature. They just don’t heat up the environment around you, which is more comfortable for some people. If you’re sensitive to heat but still want to reap the health benefits of regular sauna bathing, an infrared sauna might be an effective alternative for you.

What are some of the potential life expectancy benefits of sauna use?

Can improve cardiovascular health

When exposing your body to intense heat, the body releases various protective responses. These might protect the cardiovascular system and protect it from developing heart disease. Just as exercise is a great way to support a healthy cardiovascular system, regular sauna bathing can trigger many of the same responses.

When using a sauna, your heart rate can increase to around 100 beats per minute in moderate heat, while higher temperatures can increase it to as high as 180 beats per minute. This helps your body reap the same benefits that exercise offers.

Research suggests that using a sauna regularly can improve blood pressure and circulation. While exercise is the best way to effectively improve cardiovascular health and, therefore, life expectancy, sauna bathing can help people who might be unable to exercise due to medical conditions or injury.

Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease kills one in four Australians every year, and it’s the biggest killer worldwide. Research has suggested that using a sauna regularly alongside lifestyle changes might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long run.

Studies have indicated that frequent sauna users are less likely to have a heart attack. They also saw a reduction in the risk of premature death when frequenting the sauna.

Lowers risk factors associated with cognitive decline

Efficient blood flow is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain. As we age, cardiovascular disease may begin to progress and make blood flow less effective. This can then cause cognitive decline and increase the risk of a number of neurodegenerative diseases. This link between blood flow and saunas has helped researchers create a link between dementia and sauna bathing.

High blood pressure may damage the brain structure and prevent enough blood from getting to the brain, causing a reduction in cognition. This has the ability to speed up the onset and progression of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

A study concluded that men who used a sauna between 4 and 7 times a week had a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those who used a sauna once a week.

May reduce feelings of stress

Stress is known to exacerbate physical health issues, such as increasing the risk of diabetes or heart disease. Research indicates that constantly being in a state of stress or panic can reduce your lifespan by making you more susceptible to these health risks, so reducing the feelings of stress through regular sauna use can help increase life expectancy.

Saunas are known for reducing stress by allowing you to relax and spend 20 minutes enjoying a well-deserved rest. Sweating toxins out without having to move your body can be a much more enjoyable experience than exercising, and you’ll also be able to benefit from the endorphins released by your higher body temperature.

Scientific evidence and findings on the impact saunas have on life expectancy

There are a few studies looking into the effects of sauna bathing and life expectancy, although most focus on health conditions and benefits rather than the direct impact on lifespan. For example, one study looked into how sauna bathing affected cardiovascular mortality in men and women. The study used 1688 participants with a mean age of 63 years.

After studying the participants for 15 years, researchers saw 181 fatal cardiovascular events, but the risk of dying from heart-related issues reduced steadily as the participants spent more time in the sauna each week.

Participants who frequented the sauna between 4 to 7 times a week were less likely to suffer from fatal cardiovascular disease. This was true no matter the participants’ age, gender, exercise regime, or previous heart issues.

This meant that spending more time in the sauna could significantly lower the chances of having a heart-related event, increasing life expectancy through improved heart health.

Another study surmised that using a sauna more frequently could reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD), fatal coronary heart disease (CHD), and fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD).

While more studies are required to back up these initial findings, the results indicate a positive effect on heart health through frequent sauna use. This, along with other benefits that come from using a sauna often, suggests that prolonged sauna usage can improve lifespan.

Are there any potential risks or precautions to consider?

There are a few risks and precautions that you should be aware of if you’re planning on using a sauna to improve your life expectancy. While saunas are generally considered safe, you may be at higher risk of using them if you suffer from the following:

While you might be using a sauna to improve life expectancy, it can do the direct opposite if you’re not careful. Consulting your doctor before beginning regular sauna bathing can help make sure this is a safe and wise decision for you.

How often should you consider using a sauna to improve life expectancy?

Research has suggested that the more frequent sauna usage you can handle, the larger the benefits in terms of life expectancy. Most studies indicated that you should aim to enjoy between 4 and 7 sauna baths a week to reap the most benefits.

However, you should listen to your body when starting regular sauna usage to make sure you don’t get dehydrated or suffer through any other adverse effects. Some people find starting with 2 to 3 sessions a week helps them build up a tolerance.

Our in-house experts’ tips for using a sauna to increase life expectancy

Tom Harvey, founding Director of TH7 shares his five top tips to consider before embarking on your sauna bathing journey:

Final thoughts

Limited studies on sauna bathing and life expectancy have indicated that there is a positive correlation, as frequent sauna use can reduce the risk of heart disease and other heart health ailments, such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Sauna bathing can also reduce stress, which is often regarded as a silent killer.

For the best results, 4 to 7 sauna bathing sessions are recommended. However, even 2 to 3 sessions a week have shown positive effects on life expectancy.