Photo credit: Hotel Arthur Helsinki / Foter / CC BY

A large, long-term University of Eastern Finland study revealed that frequent time spent in saunas was associated with a longer life and less cardiac-related deaths. Analyzing 2,300 middle-aged men over two decades, the researchers found that men who visited a sauna 2-3 times a week had a 24 percent lower risk of death, while those who sweated it out 4-7 times weekly had a 40 percent mortality reduction, compared with only one sauna session a week.

And the amount of time spent in the sauna seemed to be a factor: compared with men that spent less than 11 minutes per sauna session, men who spent 19 minutes or more has a 52 percent less chance of cardiac death. (Note: the average temperature of these Finnish saunas was 174 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The study could result in more cardiologists re-thinking their concerns about exposing heart patients to the heat of a sauna. And while it was an observational study, didn’t involve women, and didn’t establish a firm cause-and-effect relationship between sauna usage and lower mortality risk, it did show a strong association. The researchers postulated that a sauna’s high heat and humidity causes positive cardiovascular system changes (like exercise, one’s heart rate goes up, etc.), while also pointing out that stress reduction and social relaxation may be factors.

Access this study on sauna use and health

AuthorBeth McGroarty, Director of Research, GWI