Archive for November, 2011
Posted on November 18th, 2011 by Chris in How to, Sauna Benefits, Steam Baths, Your Body, tags: calories, health, heart disease, heart failure, high cholesterol, obesity, steam bath, steam baths, Steam room, steam rooms, weight loss
photo by whoaitsaimz on Flickr
You can’t search for articles on “steam room” on the internet very long without coming across infomercial style weight loss claims: “Lose weight fast! With our new Super Steam Bath, you’ll be burning up to 600 calories every half hour, all without moving a muscle! Act now! Operators are standing by!”
Meanwhile, the fitness gurus, like Chris Klebba all say “the effects of a steam room on weight loss are due to a loss of water from sweating, not actual fat loss. Bottom line, forget it for fat loss.”
So who’s right? Well in a strange twist, both of them are wrong!
Steam rooms don’t burn many calories. But they do help regulate hormones that drive us to overeat. Interestingly, a steam room also helps those who don’t eat enough to eat more.
Better still, regular steam room users have improved circulation, which can help prevent atherosclerosis, and reverse the effects of coronary heart disease.
These are conclusions from a 2003 study by Kagoshima University in Japan, where a team of researchers studied the effects of steam bath therapy on lifestyle diseases. The study began as a test to see if steam bathing could be used to improve the health of patients with congestive heart failure. The team noted improvement in both the symptoms and cardiac function of their subjects after a single steam bath, and continued improvement with more, regular steam baths.
When they examined the underlying mechanism of these improvements, they hypothesized that a similar improvement in the health of patients with lifestyle-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity could also be improved with regular steam bathing.
They tested a group of “at risk” people, who each had one or more of these conditions, and were not receiving treatment for any of these. What they found surprised them. After 2 weeks of daily steam room use, where they raised their body temperature by 2°F (1°C) for 30 minutes, they found that every member of the group had a lower blood pressure. Fasting plasma glucose and body weight also went down for the group.
To study this further, they repeated the study with a group of 5 men and 5 women. For 2 weeks, they all ate a controlled diet of 1800 calories / day, and each took a single steam bath each day. At the end, all 10 had lost weight. Their collective body fat fell from an average of 42% to 37%.
They did not attribute these results to calorie burn in the steam room, but instead to better regulation of the hormones that controlled their appetite. During the study, the subjects did not get hungry as quickly, and did not tend to overeat or snack between meals.
Coronary heart disease patients who were under eating as a result of their disease did the exact opposite: Regular steam baths improved their appetite, and they ate more to get them back to a healthy weight.
So, if you want to drop a few pounds, spend time every day in the steam room or sauna at your gym. You aren’t burning calories, but you should lose weight. Isn’t that what counts?
[Clinical Implications of Thermal Therapy in Lifestyle-Related Diseases] via Stephen Colmant
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Posted on November 17th, 2011 by Chris in Guides, How to, news, tags: body prints, etiquette, guide, How to, locker room, sauna, saunas, steam bath, Steam room, sweat, top ten list
Photo of the Kotiharju Public Sauna in Helsinki. Image by Sami Oinonen via Flickr
A reader wrote us this question:
I’m going to a resort with some friends this weekend. In the spa area, they have a sauna. I’ve never used one before. There is one in my gym locker room and I don’t use it because it intimidates me. I don’t want to make a sauna faux-pas.
What is the etiquette for using a public sauna or a steam room like this?
You shouldn’t get anxious about the sauna. It is a place to relax and do what is comfortable. Yes, it is a new experience for a lot of people, but as long as you remember the golden rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – you’ll be just fine.
If you are looking for some more specific rules, here is our top ten list of the most important etiquette rules consider when using a public sauna or steam bath:
10. Close the door.
Nothing upsets me more than when I am getting a good sweat on and someone else gets up to leave and does not close the door behind them. Nearly as bad is when someone is on their way in, and stops to chat with someone else while holding the door open.
When the sauna door is open, it does not take long for the heat to spill out of the sauna. It’s even worse in a steam room. If your gym or resort was stingy while sizing their sauna heater, it may take ten minutes or more for the sauna to recover from the door being open for just a minute.
If you are going in or out, please do it quickly, and make sure the door closes firmly behind you.
9. Sit on a towel.
Nothing is worse than walking into a sauna and having to find a spot to sit among the sweaty body prints others have left on the sauna bench. Saunas are not hot enough to kill germs, and in a high-use area like a public sauna, there may be a sealant or a protective barrier of gunk that neutralizes the disinfecting properties of wood.
Bring a towel in the sauna or steam room that is large enough to make a barrier between your body and the benches. If you’re sitting upright, a hand towel is big enough. If you’re going to lay down, you probably need a beach towel. It will protect you from what others have left behind, and keep you from leaving things behind.
Make sure you have a second towel that you leave outside the sauna to dry off with afterwards. You won’t want to use a sauna towel, and you can’t use a steam room towel to dry off after you’re done.
8. The sauna is not a clothes dryer.
There is a person at my gym who believes that the sauna is his personal clothes dryer. He does cardio, then goes for a swim. He brings in his sweaty clothes, wet bathing suit and towel and hangs them on the railing around the sauna stove to dry while he showers. Please, whatever you do, don’t do this.
7. Silence is golden.
I use the sauna as my place for relaxation and introspection. If you are going to talk, please do it quietly. Of course, if it is your own sauna, or you have the sauna to yourself, you can yak it up if you want. Just respect that in a public place, other people may want quiet.
6. If it’s in a locker room, it’s OK to got naked.
It seems like Tobias Fünke wrote most sauna etiquette guides. Most begin with a rant against seeing other people’s naked bodies in locker rooms. I’m going to rant the other way: It’s a locker room. You’re supposed to change clothes in there, which means you need to get naked in there. Until the early 1970′s, many high school and YMCA swimming pools throughout the US and Canada expected men to swim naked. Now, proper decorum says we aren’t supposed to show our bodies to anyone. This ad is indecent (but not this one).
They call it a sauna bath for a reason. You wouldn’t complain about people being naked in the shower, would you? So if the sauna is in an area where you can be naked, then go naked in the sauna! It’s more hygienic and better for you too.
By the way, a sweat suit or a sauna suit is never appropriate attire for the sauna. If you don’t want to get naked, see our post on what to wear in the sauna.
5. Keep your hands and eyes to yourself.
I may sauna naked, or with very little clothing. That does not mean that I amshowing off for anyone else. The Finns have a saying, “behave in a sauna like you would in church.” I’ve been in a number of saunas and seen some things that definitely aren’t church-like.
My attitude is, that if someone is coming on to someone else in the sauna, it isn’t hot enough. I go looking for the thermostat to turn up the heat. In a proper sauna, you can’t think about anything except “can I stay in here another minute?”
4. Leave your electronics outside.
The sauna isn’t good for your electronics, but electronics also aren’t good for the sauna. The heat and humidity (yes, even if it’s a dry sauna) in the sauna will damage your phone, iPod or other gizmo. The etiquette problem is nearly every device has a camera these days. I don’t know if you are just browsing through your music collection or if you’re taking photos of me. I’d rather not have to ask. The other problem is your music. Yes, you’re listening to it on earphones, but if it is quiet in the sauna, I’m probably going to hear most of it. And really, if that phone call is so important, why are you taking it in the sauna?
Use your gizmo while you’re working out, but leave it in your locker when you take a sauna.
3. No spitting on the rocks.
I’ve seen this happen before. I shouldn’t have to write it. Just don’t do it.
2. Shower before you sauna.
Reading through other sauna etiquette posts on the internet, it is amazing how many people see nudity as dirty, but don’t see dirt as dirty. I’ve seen it at my gym too: people remove their sweaty workout clothes to reveal a sweaty swimsuit underneath and head straight for the sauna. Or someone comes right out of the pool and heads straight into the sauna.
If you’ve been swimming, there is chlorine on your body that will volatilize in the sauna and can irritate everyone’s eyes and lungs who shares the sauna with you. If you have been out in public, your perfume or some other smell you picked up throughout your day will become stronger and more pungent in the sauna.
Be considerate to the others who use the sauna with you: Take a shower first. If you’re wearing a swimsuit or some other clothing in the sauna, take it off while you shower.
Don’t forget to take at least a quick rinse off after you sauna before you get into the pool.
1. Remember to ask first before you do anything that affects me.
This is a public sauna, and I’m going to share it with you. I may like what you want to do, like splashing water on the rocks, or using that secret trick that sends the heater into overdrive. I may not care about others, like if you prepare some secret skin rub that you’re going to use or if you’re going to exercise in the sauna. Or, I may not want to stay, and may ask you to wait until I leave before you start.
This is a public place. I have as much right to enjoy the sauna the way I want to as you do. If they conflict, let’s talk about it and find a way we both can live with. Everyone will be better off that way.
Keep in mind, these are the general rules for a public sauna. If you are lucky enough to have your own, you can make your own rules. If you are a guest in someone else’s sauna, then you should ask them what their rules are before making assumptions.
What is your opinion of sauna etiquette in your gym’s locker room? Take our poll and let us know!
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Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Chris in Guides, How to, Sauna Benefits, Your Body, tags: acne, acne problem, blackheads, infrared sauna, pimples, sauna, skin blemishes, Steam room, steam sauna
Image by RachelHermosillo via Flickr
I was in a hotel a few weeks ago, and they had one of those magnifying mirrors in the bathroom. As I was brushing my teeth, I got a glimpse of a close-up view of my nose. Gross! I’m not typically a vain person, but I changed my morning plans and headed out to the nearest drugstore to buy a box of nose strips so I wouldn’t offend the client I was about to visit.
Once your eyes open to what your nose looks like at 10x magnification, you can’t ignore it anymore. I noticed that the strips would clean the blackheads out of my nose for a couple of days, but pretty soon, it would be back to its same yucky appearance. Sure the nose strips worked, but they are expensive, and leave a glue-like residue on your nose. There has to be a better way I thought.
There is. The sauna is the best exercise for your skin. If you use it correctly, you can sauna away your blackheads, pimples and other skin blemishes.
Using a sauna to clear your acne
To get started, you need a sauna. If you don’t have one at your gym or spa, you can find a public one in our database, or search for a hotel sauna if you’ll be traveling. Any type of sauna will work for this: A conventional Finnish-style sauna, an infrared sauna, or even a steam room or steam sauna all work well. It just needs to get your body hot enough to sweat.
To do this, you need:
- A bathing suit (or less if you’re comfortable), because you’re going to get wet;
- Two towels: one to sit on in the sauna, and one to dry off with;
- A brush, loofah, or rough cloth to exfoliate your skin; and
- Your preferred soap or facial cleanser.
To begin, take a hot shower and wash your acne problem area with your soap or cleanser. Make sure to rinse all the soap off well when you finish. Many cleansers can leave a residue that can promote acne. After your shower, dry yourself off.
Now head into the sauna. Lay your towel on the bench and relax. If you want, splash some water on the rocks to increase the sensation of heat. Wait until your body starts sweating.
If you’ve never used the sauna before, you may feel a some of moisture on your forehead just after you enter. This is most likely condensation and not sweat. Depending on the heat of the sauna, it may take 5-10 minutes before your body starts really sweating. You will know when, because sweat will be pouring out of every square inch of your skin.
Now that your sweat is flowing, take your exfoliating device of choice, and gently rub at the surface skin of all your problem areas. All that sweat will mobilize your sebum and mobilize all the dirt, dead skin and other contaminants that might be in your skin. When you are done exfoliating, stay in the sauna for another minute or two and let your sweat continue to do its magic.
Once you finish in the sauna, or if the heat gets to be too much for you, head back to the showers. Start with a warm shower and rinse your skin clean. When you have done that, turn the shower to as cold as is comfortable, and stand under it until you feel like the deluge of sweating has stopped. Don’t use soap or other cleansers.
When you are done, towel dry again and take a break until you have stopped sweating. Take a drink, go for a walk, just sit and relax or even go for a swim if there is a pool available. Your body needs to recover from your first sauna round.
Once you feel like you are back to normal, head back into the sauna again. You should start sweating more quickly this time. Again, once your whole body sweat starts, exfoliate that problem area another time, sweat it out and shower off to cool down. When you are showering, resist the temptation to use soap. If you typically put on lotion after a shower, resist that temptation too. You will find that after a sauna, all of your skin’s natural oils have done the job for you.
When you look at your problem area in the mirror, you will find that your skin is more clear than ever before. A sauna session like this at least twice a week will keep your skin clear for a lot less money than some of those fancy cleansers will.
Your skin: close up
To understand how a sauna removes acne, it helps to take a closer look at your skin. There are two major types of glands in your skin that secrete substances to help it: Sweat glands and sebaceous glands.
Sebaceous glands surround your hair follicles and secrete a waxy substance, called sebum, onto the surface of your skin. Sebum is unlike any other substance your body secretes, and all of its purposes are still not well understood by the medical community. Sebum helps protect your skin by moisturizing it and providing nutrients directly to the surface skin cells. It also helps repel water from your skin when you are cold, but also keeps your sweat from rolling off when you are hot. Some even believe it has antibacterial properties that protect your skin from disease.
The problems come when your sebaceous glands get blocked. There are many things that can block them: dead skin, cosmetics, bacteria, even a poor diet. If the blockage is at the surface of your skin, you get a blackhead. If the blockage is underneath, you get a whitehead, pimple or a boil.
The Sauna and Sebum
When you heat up your skin with a sauna, it does several things for you that can help get rid of your acne. Raising the temperature makes sebum more fluid causing it to flow. Also, when you start sweating, the sweat released softens your skin and mixes with the sebum to make it more fluid.
When you exfoliate your skin in the sauna, the sebum helps lubricate whatever device you are using, making it easier to get rid off all that stuff your skin doesn’t want on it, while your sweat mobilizes it and carries it away.
A few words of warning before you try this treatment:
If you are on a prescription medication, talk to your doctor before you go in the sauna. The heat of the sauna can cause your medicine to be absorbed more quickly than normal, potentially giving you a short-term overdose. Some medications affect your body’s response to heat, putting you at risk of overheating while in the sauna.
While you are in the sauna, listen to your body. If you feel lightheaded or nauseous, leave at once and get yourself into a cool shower to lower your body temperature. When you do go to leave the sauna, stand up slowly to reduce the risk of fainting.
Some types of acne do not respond well to a sauna treatment. For instance, if your acne is cystic, this regimen can complicate things. Keep an open mind, and if things don’t work the way you expect them to, speak to a medical professional.
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