The 40 Benefits of Steam Bathing
Steam has been used throughout history for a broad range of tasks. Whether it’s to power machines, cook food or clean surfaces, we have discovered powerful benefits of using steam in our everyday life.
For many cultures, steaming has been embraced as a social ritual to relax and connect with others. But people quickly realized that the dozens of potential benefits of steam bathing that extend beyond rest and relaxation. In fact, it may provide wellness benefits in many ways, including promoting improved circulation, decreased stress and clearer skin, and many others.
And thanks to modern technology, you can now experience the benefits of using steam rooms without visiting a spa or gym. Residential steam showers, like the state-of-the-art steam shower systems manufactured by MrSteam, give you a spa-like experience in the comfort of your home.
We’ve listed 40 benefits associated with steam showers below to help you identify specific ways it can help improve your health.
- Inhaling steam promotes optimal breathing and opens up nasal passages.
- Hot mist may help promote sinus drainage.
- Steam may provide temporary relief of respiratory symptoms.
- Hot mist may help loosen bronchial secretions.
- Hot mist soothes the throat.
- Heat from a steam room may act as a natural expectorant of mucus.
- Cleanses dead skin.
- Helps enhance skin appearance.
- Steam opens up your pores.
- The heat of a steam room lubricates the skin.
- Hydrates dry skin.
- Leaves skin with a healthy glow.
- Makes shaving easier.
- Prepares the hair follicles for easier waxing.
- Promotes an increase in blood circulation via blood vessels.
- May boost metabolism.
- May help to reinvigorate tired muscles.
- Supports lactic acid breakdown in muscles and joints during workout recovery.
- Loosens stiff muscles and promotes muscular flexibility to prevent feeling sore after a workout.
- On average, relaxing in a steam room has been shown to burn 150 calories in a 15-minute session at 114°F.
- Warm steam helps relieve stress.
- Encourages relaxation.
- May help promote deep, restful sleep.
- Fosters a sense of well-being.
- Increase potential for natural sleep patterns.
- Combining steam and AromaTherapy® (Lavender) may promote soothing relief from stress and tension.
- Combining steam and MusicTherapy® may help reduce stress.
- Combining Steam and ChromaTherapy® may help enhance your mood elevation.
- Supports the removal of toxins from the body.
- Has been shown to help the body rid itself of excess sodium.
- Prepares the body for relief from temporary joint pain and discomfort.
- Has been shown to promote the reduction of metabolic waste products in the body.
- Uses less than 2 gallons of water for a 20 minute steam bath.
- Costs cents to operate.
- May increase equity of the home.
- Saves energy by following steam shower with a cold shower.
- Can simply be added to an existing shower. Does not require a dedicated area or room.
- Great way to de-wrinkle clothes.
- Provides humidity for your orchids.
The list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives you a good idea of how steam can positively affect your health and wellness. If you’re an at-home steamer, we’d love to hear from you. What would you add to this list??
FAQs About the Health Benefits of Steam Rooms
Understanding the science behind steam rooms can help users better adapt the practice to their daily routines and get optimal benefits from their steam showers. Find the answers (and scientific literature behind them) to the frequently asked questions below:
What is a steam bath?
A steam bath, also referred to as a steam room or steam shower, is an enclosed space heated with steam.
What is the science behind the health benefits of steam rooms?
Steam showers may assist with recovery after exercise or injury, improve general health conditions, and even decrease stress. The humidity from wet heat (as opposed to dry heat from saunas) also poses unique health benefits for users. Steam rooms may affect:
- Heart rate: Scientists in a study by H J Gerner have found beneficial effects from heat and steam on both blood pressure and heart rate. Tetraplegic and paraplegic test subjects saw a significant increase in heart rate during the treatment. The exposure to heat also resulted in a decrease in diastolic pressure or arterial pressure between heartbeats.
- Skin blood flow and blood circulation: In a study conducted by Everett B. Lohman, III of Loma Linda University, scientists measured the effect of moist heat and passive, whole-body vibration on skin circulation and, through that, tissue healing. The interventions increased skin blood flow (SBF), especially in the lower extremities. These effects were profound, at 450% increases after 10 minutes of exposure and a lingering 379% increase ten minutes afterward.
- Delayed-onset muscle soreness: Exercise can cause delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), especially exercises like squats that target major muscle groups. According to the results of a study run by Jerrold S. Petrofsky of Loma Linda University, the application of heat as an immediate post-workout practice results in significant soreness reduction and increases tissue blood flow and tissue flexibility. Even applying heat within 24 hours has a small but still measurable effect. This leads to faster overall muscle recovery.
- Mental health: The stress hormone cortisol can cause adverse health effects at high levels. In a study by Dr. Robert Podstawski of the University of Warmia and Mazury, scientists found that heat therapy sessions reduced cortisol levels among young adult men with high baseline levels of the stress hormone. Research subjects also saw beneficial mental health effects from sitting in a steam room, as increased body temperature is associated with increased serotonin production.
- Toxins Removal: Steam showers increase sweat production, which can open your pores, reduce water weight, and detoxify your system. Sweating can remove significant amounts of toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury from the body, according to a study conducted by Margaret E. Sears of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Sweating through repeated heat treatments was even shown to normalize levels of mercury in a patient.
- Immune system: Steam treatments are connected to more white blood cells, lymphocytes, neutrophils, and basophils. According to a study by Wanda Pilch of the Institute of Biomedical Science, University School of Physical Education, athletes and non-athletes had increased white blood cells, lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil counts, leading researchers to conclude that heat treatments may stimulate the immune system with beneficial results.
What's the difference between steam bathing and sauna bathing?
Steam rooms and saunas are similar in that they use higher temperatures during the bath, providing therapeutic benefits. However, steam rooms and saunas are two very different environments.
Bathing in a steam room involves "wet heat,” sometimes called "moist heat." The temperature of a steam shower stays between 115° F and 120° F. The core of this technology is the steam generator.
Sauna bathing involves a dry heat environment with very low humidity levels. Temperatures can reach between 158° F and 212° F. Instead of a generator, saunas use materials like hot rocks.
What are the benefits of a steam shower vs. a sauna or a hot shower?
While both a steam room session and a sauna experience may provide therapeutic benefits from heat exposure, the steam shower provides additional benefits because of the moist air.
Hot, humid air may treat congestion by reducing inflammation in the mucous membranes. Steam room use may also alleviate respiratory conditions and facilitate easier breathing. Steam showers are also gentler on people with dry skin, which may be more sensitive to the drying effects of the hot air in a sauna.
Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated to reflect new research and findings.