Well apparently, not only does a little heat not hurt anybody, it can actually help you live longer. According to a new study, men who visit saunas more than once a week tend to live longer than men who visit only once a week, or in my boyfriend’s case, once a year, maybe. If these numbers are at all accurate, I should tell him he needs to up his sauna game considerably.
This study came out of decades’ worth of research on Finnish men sitting mostly naked in hot wooden rooms — perhaps I should detour my career path toward science? The research revealed that men who use saunas four to seven (seven??) times a week tend to outlive the men who only make one weekly visit. So apparently sweating out the toxins is a real thing, and not just a new-age fad like juicing.
But staving off death is not the only thing frequent sauna visits can achieve. According to similar findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it can also lower your risk of sudden cardiac death by 63 percent, risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 percent and a 40 percent lower death rate. Holy Toledo, those are some seriously high percentage rates, Batman!
Unfortunately the study does not take women into consideration. I assume this is due to the fact that women are less common visitors to saunas in Finland, because they’re doing silly little things like taking care of everything else while their men spend all this time sweating together (I mean, seven times a week? Seriously??). However, since women tend to outlive men anyway, I suppose we can’t blame them for trying to even the score. Plus it’s nice having them around for reaching things on tall shelves, and occasionally being fathers to our children, right?
It’s also wise to note that sauna visits are not the only thing keeping these men on the planet longer. Most are quite fitness-oriented, and often take to the hot room after strenuous workouts. “You’re going to find people who come here who are aware, who want to do things for themselves like I’m a cyclist; I do yoga. The sauna just makes sense,” said Jay Herrero of Bayside who frequents the Sauna Valley at the Spa Castle in Queens.
Sweating overall does seem to be a key aspect to a healthier, and thus likely longer life. Here are five other major health benefits to breaking a serious sweat.
1. Sweating leads to pain relief
Ever notice when you spend a good portion of your week sitting, you tend to get kinks and random pains in your body more easily? Well that’s because when you aren’t moving, you aren’t breaking a sweat, and lubricating your body, so like the Tin Man, you get sticky. “Exercise stimulates neurochemical pathways in the brain, resulting in the production of endorphins that act as natural painkillers,” says James Ting, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California. I like to think of sweat as the visual proof that things are flowing smoothly in my body again.
2. It helps you get clearer skin
Image: Foto Nerd via Flickr
Sweating pushes oily build-up and everyday dirt out of your pores, and helps them breathe again, according to Whitney Bowe, M.D., a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, New York. However, you can’t just get all drippy and head back to work. That will actually cause more breakouts (which makes sense because you’re essentially letting a mess of water, oil and dirt marinate all over your face).
3. Keeps you from getting sick
I always notice that when I’m working out regularly in the winter (aka prime cold and flu season) I rarely get sick. Apparently there’s a scientific reason for that! A study from Eberhard Karls University Tubingen in Germany suggests that “human perspiration contains a naturally occurring antimicrobial peptide called dermcidin, which has been proven to fight tuberculosis germs and other dangerous pathogens”, says Dr. Bowe. Sweat is basically natural hand sanitizer for your entire body, which is amazing to say the least.
4. Sweating makes you happy
See the quote above from our favorite blond legal student, Elle Woods. You sweat when you work out, so sweating and happiness are intrinsically linked too! And according to a 2009 study published in Biology Letters, working out and sweating with friends creates more endorphins than doing it alone. So bring some sweating buddies next time you go to the gym!
5. Lowers your chance of getting kidney stones
Anything that lowers my chances of getting something which has a pain level on par with giving birth is good. When you sweat, you rid your body of salt and calcium, the main culprits of kidney stones. You also drink a ton of water when you sweat, which is another way to keep these two nasty build-up agents to a minimum in your body. So keep moving, and remember the immortal words of Debbie Allen from Flashdance, “Here’s where you start paying… in sweat.” Except, you’ll be gaining a lot more when you pay in sweat, just make sure you get a receipt, for tax purposes.