Anyone who has been to sauna can testify for its relaxing effect, but the health benefits of sauna bathing have also been studied scientifically since the 18th century. The latest studies have shown that the most notable changes while having a sauna occur in the blood circulation. In room temperature, approximately 10% of the blood pumped by the heart goes to the skin. When skin warms up, the capillaries expand and the veins in the skin grow in capacity. While in the sauna, up to 70% of the blood pumped by the heart can go to the skin, practically making the blood circulate through the skin.
During sauna bathing, heart rate rises to the level corresponding to medium hard exercise and tests1 taken right after sauna show, that the elasticity of veins improves, carrying effect on both blood pressure as well as the functioning of the heart. A study1 shows that as a result of enjoying a sauna, the average systolic blood pressure lowers from the level of 137 to 130 and the diastolic pressure from the level of 82 to 75. The systolic pressure stayed lower even half an hour after the sauna. The expanding surface blood vessels are seen as redness on the skin.
An international study2 proves that abundant sauna bathing is connected to a decreased risk of stroke. The study shows that people who bathe in sauna 4-7 times a week have a 61% smaller chance of suffering a stroke than those who only go to sauna once a week. Sauna bathing 2-3 times a week lowers the risk by 14%. According to the scientists, the connection might be attributed to the lowering of the blood pressure, the activating of the immune system and the autonomous nervous system as well as the improved functioning of the cardiovascular system brought on by sauna bathing.
Sauna also alleviates breathing of asthmatics by expanding the bronchi.
1 Study executed by professor Jari Laukkanen et al. at the University of Eastern Finland.