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How Saunas Changed the (Workout) Game

Colorado State University’s recreation center offers a variety of workout opportunity for students and faculty. Photo credit: Missy Miller

Colorado State University students are likely to be familiar with the on-campus recreation center, which hosts a rock wall, a gym and a pool. But what many students do not know is within the pool area there is a hot tub, a steam room and a sauna.

The CSU Rec Center sauna is a wood-burning dry-heat sauna, offered in the main pool area. The history of saunas is rumored to have begun with Finish saunas, which date back to at least the 12th Century, and now many modern-day versions include dry high-temperature wood burning rooms.

Visiting the sauna is used for more than just a social trip – it holds potential health benefits that anyone can capitalize on.

Sweating is an involuntary human impulse that dates far back in human history. Even the ancient Mayans used sweat houses for religious ceremonies and good health, most cultures have similar roots in using heat for relaxation, therapy and rituals.

Clears the Skin

Heat from the sauna will, of course, make you sweat. But that sweat is clearing up your skin and pores. The dry heat triggers you to sweat almost immediately. This sweating can flush toxins that may have been absorbed by the body and shoves those toxins out.

Weight Loss

With little effort, saunas are known to help with weight loss. However, you are mainly losing water weight in a sauna and this should not replace a true workout regime. Use the sauna to relax after a workout, not in place of one.

Ease Pain

Increased blood circulation can help reduce muscle soreness and improve joint movement. Heading to the sauna following a workout in the Rec is a CSU fan favorite.

Reducing Stress levels

The heat from the sauna increases blood circulation. Sessions are known to gradually increase a person’s heart rates during a session, and according to a study from the University of Eastern Finland, this moves to an average of 120 beats per minute. Regardless of where a person’s heart rate may fall, the increased circulation can promote relaxation in people and work as a destresser.

This study showed that time in a hot, dry sauna reduced people’s systolic and diastolic blood pressure. One professor of medicine involved in this case even said that while a sauna shouldn’t replace a true workout, “circulatory responses may be similar.”

Dangers of using the sauna

Full use of a sauna or a steam room has its benefits, but it also has its fair share of risks associated.

Never stay in a sauna longer than twenty minutes. Take time after exposure to the heat before jumping in the cold water in a swimming pool (it can raise blood pressure) and always drink water.

Dehydration is a very real risk and can result from fluid loss while sweating. Dehydration is increased if you have consumed alcohol.

CSU students can enjoy the relaxation and benefits from a sauna, as long as they are smart about it. The sauna in the rec center can normally be seen full of students, some sporting their cell phones in the dry heated room. The temperature can be regulated by pouring water on the pile of heated rocks in the corner.

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