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Five Ways Steam May Help Boost Fitness and Wellness

The wellness potential of steam extends beyond mere relaxation. From helping to elevate mood to potentially increasing metabolism, steam rooms have an important role to play in your overall wellness program. 

To many Americans it’s still an exotic concept, a luxury reserved for the ultra-rich and severe Scandinavians, but residential steam rooms are gradually becoming a valuable tool for everyday people to help potentially improve overall health and wellness. The power of steam therapy has long been valued by elite athletes, but now weekend warriors are catching on to the possible benefits of sitting in a steam room after a hard training session. And scientific research continues to prove that the effects of steam are potentially more potent than even its most enthusiastic practitioners believed.

How? Steam rooms deliver multiple possible benefits, but let’s consider five in particular that apply to anyone who’s concerned about maintaining—and possibly improving—their wellness profile.

Five Potential Fitness and Wellness  Benefits of Steam Rooms

1. Steam To help elevate mood and reduce stress

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Steam may help elevate mood and reduce stress. Serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, is a powerful mood regulator in the central nervous system.

Steam may affect heat-sensitive neurons that help boost serotonin, along with melatonin, an important hormone that helps you relax. Researchers believe this is due to a thermo-sensitive part of the brain called the dorsal raphe nucleus.

Whatever mechanism is responsible, everyday anecdotal evidence supports that a session in the steam room could go a long way to help elevate your mood and reducing stress.

>> Reference: How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs

2. Steam to help increase metabolism

 Steam to help increase metabolism

Steam may help improve metabolic function. Sure, you’ll likely lose excess water weight through sweat in a steam room, but the thermic effect of a steam session may also help increase your metabolism, sometimes by as much as 20%.

Our bodies need to generate heat to keep chemical processes that run our physiological systems functioning, and steam may aid in doing that. Steam also may help boost circulation, which helps flush toxins and harmful substances like cholesterol from your body.

>> Reference: 8 Ways to Speed Up Your Metabolism

3. Steam to help detox your system

Steam to help detox your system

Steam may help detox your system. As we said above, steam therapy may have a potent effect on eliminating dangerous toxins from your body, not only through your pores via sweat, but by increasing circulation in the lymphatic system.

One study found that steam even helped lower mercury levels in the bloodstream, an impressive feat considering the difficulty in eliminating the heavy metal from the body.

A session in a steam room may also reduce sodium content, important for many Americans who suffer from high sodium levels.

>> Reference: Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review

4. Steam to reduce inflammation

Steam may help reduce inflammation. Scientists continue to find that inflammation is behind many serious ailments, but even minor aches and pains are relieved by a reduction in inflammation. Steam therapy has a potentially beneficial effect on muscular and cellular inflammation through a hormonal response.

By reaching deep into the cells, anti-inflammatory response can help reduce stress and boost your immune response. Those with joint disorders report that steam rooms help them relieve discomfort, improving functional ability.

>> Reference: Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body

>> Reference: Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events

5. Steam, energy and endurance

Steam may help increase energy and endurance. Steam is a go-to therapy for many athletes who want to improve performance, and now we know why.

Through a process called thermic conditioning, steam therapy may increase your physical stamina and exercise endurance. In a study in the Journal of Science Medicine & Sport, researchers discovered that two 30-minute sessions in a sauna or steam room per week increased endurance output by 32%! Jacking up endurance threshold by a third is an astonishing improvement.

>> Reference: Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners

None of these potential benefits are a surprise to those who use steam rooms on a regular basis. What many people don’t know is why steam therapy may be superior to other heat-related treatments.

Steam vs. Dry Heat: All Heat is Not Created Equal

Steam vs. Dry Heat: All Heat is Not Created Equal

Compared to the dry heat of saunas, steam may deliver more potent benefits through its ability to rejuvenate skin and flush toxins. The intense and refreshing humidity of steam may also help provide tremendous relief to the respiratory system by shrinking the mucous membranes. This can be a great benefit to those who suffer from congestion, sinusitis, asthma-like symptoms, and other temporary respiratory disorders. 

>> Reference: Steam Room Benefits for Your Health

The moist heat of steam also provides a more thorough cleansing of the skin by providing greater condensation to rinse toxins, dead skin, and bacterial detritus that attaches to the epidermis. This helps improve skin complexion as well. Dry heat may not be as effective in removing these damaging waste products trapped in skin.

>> Reference: Effect of regular sauna on epidermal barrier function and stratum corneum water-holding capacity in vivo in humans: a controlled study.

Steam also may offer unique effects in lowering blood pressure. Aldosterone, a hormone that regulates blood pressure, is released when sitting in a steam room, which aids in relieving hypertension. The moist heat of steam has been shown to help release infection-fighting cells called leukocytes, which can help boost your immune system. With cold season quickly coming upon us, steam rooms may be another weapon in your arsenal.

>> Reference: Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Session on White Blood Cell Profile and Cortisol Levels in Athletes and Non-Athletes

Then there’s the simple pleasurable effect of moist heat. People report feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. Many say they sleep better after spending time in a steam room, and even those with insomnia say steam helps them get a good night’s rest. 

>> Reference: Effects of passive body heating on body temperature and sleep regulation in the elderly: a systematic review.

Hyperthermic therapy of different types provide similar benefits, but steam is unique due to the cleansing humidity that digs deeper to flush out and wash away waste elements and toxins from tissue. 

Intrigued with How Steam Helps Boost Fitness and Wellness?

Better skin, better sleep, a stronger immune system—anybody interested in living their best, healthy life will do themselves a favor by adding steam therapy to their overall wellness plan.

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Topics: Benefits of Steam, Health & Wellness, Sports, Performance, & Fitness