My earliest memory of being in saunas as a kid was with my dad. Naked. Sweating, dying to get out not only because of the heat (and the fact that I was naked in a hot box with my dad) but because he wouldn’t shut up about how good it is to “sweat it out”. I mean, it was tough enough being in there I really didn’t need the commentary. But he was right then, and more so now. Recent studies have shown that this age-old tradition benefits more than just “sweating out the toxins”, it may even be the secret to longevity:
Improves Brain Health
Neurogenesis is what happens when your body is put through heat stress, growing new brain cells and forming new synapses. One research showed that when participants were put in saunas – they exploded. I kid, I kid. At 80°C, it increased their norepinephrine (critical for focus and oxygen flow to the brain) by 310%, and a significant increase in prolactin (repair of brain nerve cell damage) .
Increases Muscle Growth
The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is like the body’s natural steroid, it fires up every cell in your body to regenerate, prolong their longevity, and pushes your cells to work optimally. A mere 20-minute sauna session, twice a day, at 80°C can double your HGH production . What’s more, the sauna can increase protein synthesis and prevent protein oxidation by recovering free radicals . (For gym junkies: SAUNAS = GAINS)
Decreases Insulin Levels
Extreme temperature elevation, i.e. when in the sauna, has shown to improve insulin sensitivity. A research, that looked like rats being cooked, found that 30 minutes of hyperthermic treatment, three times a week for 12 weeks, resulted in a 31% decrease in insulin levels and a significant reduction in blood sugar levels . This is great news not only for diabetics but for everyone as high blood sugar levels have shown to be a root cause for a number of illnesses.
When you crank up the heat in your body, it produces an opioid peptide called dynorphin. With this increase comes the urge to bolt out of there buck naked, but when the dynorphin inevitably dissipates, your endorphins will seem more apparent.
Sadly, the secret to longevity is not the sauna alone, it’s a combination of exercise, diet and generally optimising all aspects of your body. Please, don’t be the idiot who read this article and cook himself dead in the sauna. If you’re a noob, start at a lower temperature (50°C and below) under 5 minutes before stepping up to boss-level heat. We shall not be responsible for you pot-roasting yourself if you don’t take proper precautions or consult your doctor before doing any sauna session.