One of the many amenities offered at Elite Sports Clubs are the sauna and/or steam rooms. These warm spaces provide a wonderfully rewarding post-workout experience great for relaxation. If you are using or considering engaging in regular use of these environments, read further into this blog and discover there are many benefits, risks, as well as proper etiquette.
Differences, Risks, and Safety
First, let’s cover the differences between a sauna and steam room. The main differences between a sauna and steam room are temperature and moisture. Steam rooms provide moist heat that comes from a boiler or steam generator. Humid heat feels hotter and is relatively hotter to the body so health departments limit the temperature to only 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Saunas provide dry heat that is typically produced by an electrical heating element that heats up rocks. Dry heat can be endured by the body at higher temperatures so the sauna is regulated between 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower temperature of the steam room may be more tolerable to some people who may not enjoy the hotter dry sauna temperatures.
Don’t stay in the sauna or steam room for an extended period of time. Staying in either one for more than 15 to 20 minutes can cause your body temperature to rise to unsafe levels and can dehydrate you. If you begin to feel nauseated, dizzy or otherwise unwell, exit immediately.
Steam rooms and saunas alone can’t treat serious conditions. And while they can raise your heart rate and make your exercise more effective, steam rooms are not a substitute for exercise. If you are pregnant, immune-compromised, or recovering from surgery, avoid the steam room and sauna until you get the all-clear from your doctor.
- Improves circulation – A study of older individuals showed that moist heat improved circulation, especially in the extremities. Increased blood circulation brought about by the heat brings more nutrients and oxygen to the skin’s surface, which is said to be beneficial for acne sufferers and for other skin conditions.
- Lowers blood pressure – Research shows that in a steam room, some people’s bodies release hormones that change their heart rate. One of these hormones, called aldosterone, regulates your blood pressure. When aldosterone is released from sitting in the steam room, it can help lower high blood pressure. This is part of the reason that the steam room makes you feel relaxed.
- Reduces stress – Being in the steam room can also decrease your body’s production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the level of stress that you feel. When your cortisol levels drop, you feel more in control and relaxed. Spending a few minutes in a relaxed state not only improves your health, but also helps heal your mind and improve your focus.
- Clears congestion – Steam rooms create an environment that warms the mucous membrane and encourages deep breathing. As a result, using one can help break up congestion inside your sinuses and lungs. Do not use a steam room if you have a fever.
- Promotes skin health – Through environmental exposure, all sorts of toxins can become trapped underneath your skin. Steam rooms help solve that problem by using heat to open up your pores. The warm condensation rinses away the dirt and dead skin that can lead to breakouts. As a result, you may have clearer and more even-toned skin.
- Aids in workout recovery – The pain you feel after working out is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Professional athletes have known for decades that heat therapy can help them recover from training workouts. Heat can penetrate deep into muscle tissue and help relieve DOMS. A recent study showed that moist heat works as effectively and also more quickly than dry heat in muscle recovery.
- Loosens stiff joints – Warming up before a workout is critical to avoid injury. Using a sauna or steam room as part of your warm-up could help you reach maximum mobility during activities such as running, Pilates, and yoga. One study investigated the effects. Heat was applied to the knee joint before activity, and as a result, the joint was far more flexible and relaxed. The results showed that heat can help reduce injury before a workout. It was also found that women especially benefited from heat therapy on the knee joint to prevent injury.
- Burns calories – When you’re in the steam room or sauna, your heart rate increases. If you use a steam room after an aerobic workout, your heart rate is already elevated, and the steam room can prolong that elevation. When used correctly, experts note that saunas and steam rooms stimulate your body in ways that typical exercise does not. Sweating it out in the steam room isn’t a tool to lose weight quickly. Any weight you lose in the steam room is water weight, and you’ll need to replace it by drinking water to avoid dehydration. But using steam rooms regularly as a way to burn more calories at the gym could improve the effectiveness of your diet and exercise routine.
- Boosts the immune system – Different forms of hydrotherapy are known to boost immunity, and steam rooms are no exception. Exposing your body to warm water stimulates leukocytes, which are cells that fight infection. Sitting in a steam room when you’re fighting off a cold shouldn’t be your first line of defense, though, as there’s no proof that the steam can kill a brewing infection. But using steam rooms regularly will give your bloodstream an immunity boost that could lead to you getting sick less often.
Sauna and Steam Room Etiquette
There are a few rules of etiquette that will ensure the experience is enjoyed by everyone sharing these spaces.
- Towel for draping and sitting – You can wrap yourself in a towel and use it to sit on. Make sure to sit on your towel. It’s more hygienic than with your bare bottom on the wood or tile.
- Shower before you come in – Shower off after your workout prior to entering the sauna or steam room. You’ll feel more comfortable and your fellow members will appreciate a clean environment.
- Door – Unlike the normal rules of chivalrous behavior, do not hold the door open for the person behind you or keep the door open because you think it’s too hot. It can take another 10 minutes to heat the room up to temperature again.
- Shaving/Grooming – Shaving is not acceptable in the sauna and steam room. The hair has nowhere to go. Please reserve your grooming when you’re at home.
- Conversation – These rooms are meant to be calm, quiet, and relaxing. Any conversation should be kept to a minimum, and not forced upon any unwilling recipient. If their eyes are closed, it’s probably a good sign they want to be left alone.
- Age – Similar to the hot tub, the sauna and steam room have an age requirement of 12 and older. Children do not regulate high temperatures as well as adults and therefore, can become very overheated.
- Clothes – The sauna is not the community clothes dryer for wet or sweaty clothes. Proper attire includes swimming suits or towels.
- Perfumes and Scents – The steam room and sauna are both very small, very warm spaces. Needless to say, not the best place to share your latest perfume, cologne, or aromatherapy with others. What’s pleasant to some can be very irritating to others.
- Water on the Rocks – Our saunas are dry saunas. Refrain from throwing water or any other liquid on the rocks.
Please practice common sense when using the sauna and steam room. These are public spaces, so treat the room and everyone in it with respect and consideration just as you would want others to do for you. Follow this advice and you’ll make it an enjoyable experience for all!