Who knew that taking a shvitz could be so good for your health? People have been doing so for thousands of years. The practice has been most widely associated with cultures located in the colder parts of the world, like Scandinavia.
The study’s authors state that they found compelling data from observational, interventional, and mechanistic studies that support the assertions that sauna use extends healthspan. They also say that multiple recent reviews have described the cardiovascular, neurological, and metabolic benefits associated with sauna use.
The study of more than 2300 middle-aged men from eastern Finland has identified associations between sauna use and reduced risk for age-related impairments, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, metabolic dysfunction, and immunological decline.
The study’s findings revealed that among men who reported using the sauna 2–3 times per week, the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality was 27% lower than among men who reported using the sauna only once weekly. Furthermore, these effects were dose-dependent: Among men who reported using the sauna 4–7 times per week, the risk of CVD mortality was 50% lower than among men who reported using the sauna only once weekly. In addition, the risk of all-cause mortality was 40% lower among frequent sauna users compared to infrequent users, independent of conventional risk factors.
Frequent sauna use, say the researchers, was associated with reduced risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in a dose-dependent manner. Men who reported using the sauna 4–7 times per week had a 66% lower risk of developing dementia and a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared to men who reported using the sauna only once weekly. The health benefits associated with sauna use extended to other aspects of mental health, as well. Men participating in the study who reported using the sauna 4–7 times per week had a 77% reduced risk of developing psychotic disorders, even after adjusting for the men’s energy intake, socioeconomic status, physical activity, and inflammatory status, as measured by C-reactive protein.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick PhD, one of the review’s authors, is an American biochemist who has done extensive research on aging, cancer, and nutrition. She told the New York Post, “I noticed a really profound effect on my mood and my ability to handle anxiety and stress.”