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.