Humans have been enjoying saunas for thousands of years. Turns out, saunas offer more than just respite from the cold: They also provide numerous proven health benefits, as well as relaxation and entertainment. Those benefits include:

  1. Pain relief and joint mobility
  2. Improved breathing
  3. Better heart health and a longer lifespan
  4. Skin wellness
  5. Lower stress levels
  6. A stronger immune system
  7. Social interaction

Let’s dive into each benefit and learn more about what saunas have to offer.

1. Pain Relief and Joint Mobility

A year-long study conducted by Finnish neurological researchers found that sauna users with conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia often report lower levels of pain. This may be because, as the researchers observed, exposure to sauna heat activates the sympathetic nervous system, which serves to suppress pain.

2. Improved Breathing

For people with breathing problems, saunas may offer welcome relief. According to a Dutch study, sauna use led to significant temporary improvements in the breathing of patients with obstructive pulmonary diseases, like emphysema and bronchitis.

And, although some people fear that saunas are dangerous for people with asthma, dry saunas seem to have no effect on asthma attacks, and steam saunas have been found to improve asthma symptoms.

3. Better Heart Health and a Longer Lifespan

It may sound too good to be true, but science says otherwise: Saunas can lead to a longer lifespan and a healthier heart.

A long-term study of 2,315 Finnish men found that frequent sauna bathing is associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease and death in general. In that study, people who used a sauna more than four times per week showed the lowest risk.

Another study of 1,621 Finnish men revealed that frequent sauna bathing is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, particularly in those who used a sauna four to seven times per week.

4. Lower Stress Levels

Saunas are undeniably relaxing: Between the warmth and the quiet, you couldn’t ask for a better place to unwind and decompress.

Various research reports seem to agree. One Finnish study observed that sauna use results in the temporary release of endorphins, which can contribute to the pleasurable feelings most people experience in saunas.

5. Skin Wellness

Saunas do more for your skin than lend a healthy-looking glow: They also contribute to overall skin health.

One German study of more than 200 male psoriasis patients found that 10.7 percent experienced an improvement in their psoriasis symptoms. An even higher percentage reported improvements after the removal of their psoriasis scales.

Another German study revealed that the skin of regular sauna users can better retain moisture and maintain proper pH levels. Plus, those users’ foreheads also produced less sebum, the naturally produced pore-clogging oil that can lead to acne.

6. A Stronger Immune System

The human immune system provides protection against infection and illness. After exposure to bacteria, viruses, parasites or other foreign invaders, the immune system works to eliminate the threat using white blood cells.

One study found that a single sauna session caused the white blood cell counts of participants to increase. Athletic subjects experienced a particularly high boost in white blood cell count, indicating that sauna bathing can be especially beneficial to the immune systems of athletes.

7. Social Interaction

It’s not just saunas themselves that help keep sauna users healthy — it’s also the social interaction that’s often associated with a sauna session. Although going solo can certainly provide a relaxing experience, enjoying a sauna with other people can bring powerful benefits.

Plenty of scientific evidence shows that positive social interaction can help people of all ages stay healthy. From a healthy immune system to improved cardiovascular function to psychological well-being, socializing with supportive people can greatly improve physical and mental health.

Whether you’re looking to find relief from pain, reduce your stress levels, lengthen your lifespan or build stronger bonds with friends, a sauna can help.