Luxury or Necessity? Where Steam Falls on the Spectrum
Once considered a luxury, steam rooms are now a part of a comprehensive wellness plan for people of all ages and incomes. Are you ready to join the steam revolution?
Blame the movies. For years we’ve seen scenes of rich businessmen wrapped in white towels sitting in steam rooms in wealthy resorts. As heavy mist hangs in the air, these characters, often cigar-chomping villains, use the isolation of the steam room to hatch schemes to further the plot.
Perceptions about steam rooms, their use and availability, have been distorted by such cultural depictions over the years. This despite the fact that plenty of affordable multipurpose health clubs and neighborhood spas offer steam rooms for everyday members at no extra cost.
The word “health” in health clubs should tip you off to the real nature of steam rooms. They aren’t a place for fat cats to hold private meetings. They’re a powerful tool intended to help improve body and mind. And you don’t have to belong to a wealthy country club to enjoy the benefits of steam therapy.
This perception of steam rooms as a luxury extends to home installations. Only for the rich, right? Hardly. Steam rooms are more affordable than most people think, and are typically installed as part of an existing shower enclosure so added space isn’t a requirement. A person doesn’t have to live in a mansion to install a steam system. They just need to have electricity and indoor plumbing.
As recently as the 1960s, indoor plumbing itself was considered a luxury in advanced countries like Britain. John Lennon was the only Beatle to grow up in a home with indoor plumbing. That’s a fact that shocks many people today, but it proves how quickly luxuries can become commonplace.
But what’s really changing the impression of steam rooms is recent scientific research that places steam therapy squarely in the realm of a successful wellness lifestyle. And you can’t put a price tag on that.
STEAM ROOMS: RELIEF FROM TODAY’S HECTIC LIFESTYLES
Steam therapy and stress: It’s estimated that workplace stress costs U.S. businesses $300 billion per year. The pressures of modern life that are causing this increase in stress are as obvious as they are difficult to control. Financial obligations, 24/7 tech devices, the pressures of social media—it all adds up.
You can’t quit your life or walk away from your responsibilities, but you can spend time in a steam shower as part of a comprehensive wellness plan. Stress bombards your body with cortisol, which wreaks havoc on your metabolic system and neurochemical levels. Studies have shown that steam therapy may help decrease cortisol, increase endorphins, and may help raise levels of serotonin - the so-called “happiness hormone.” Research also reveals that steam may increase the release of aldosterone, a hormone that has been shown to help lower blood pressure and enhance relaxation.
These cumulative effects help your body manage the stress you’ve built up during the day. And this is in addition to the relaxing effects you get from the solitude of a steam bath, as the hot, humid air envelopes you in a calming embrace. Steam therapy may help relieve stress from the surface of your skin to the neurochemicals in your bloodstream. It’s the perfect way for a busy person to end their day.
Steam therapy may help respiratory conditions.
One of the most studied effects of steam is on breathing and respiratory health. More than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma like symptoms, and some estimates are as high as 40 million if you count those not diagnosed. With air quality and pollutants a constant environmental threat, the number could easily rise in the next few years.
Steam has long been used to help with the symptoms of some breathing disorders. Steam heat is a natural expectorant, opening up nasal passages and airways. This effect loosens mucus, reduces congestion, and initiates discharge of other fluid buildup in the respiratory system in many people. One study from India showed a dramatic improvement in subjects suffering from “severe acute lower respiratory tract infection” after the use of steam. Since steam may help relieve symptoms of respiratory conditions, it may also help relieve more common types of asthma-like symptoms, such as those experienced as exercise-induced respiratory dificulties.
Steam therapy, exercise recovery and pain reduction.
Regular sessions in a steam shower are great for those who work out regularly. Hyperthermia has been shown to reduce damage to muscle cells after exercise, which aids the recovery process so you don’t overtrain. It may also help oxygenate the blood to further speed the recovery process along. In addition, increased blood flow from steam heat has been shown to help relax muscles and reduce stress-induced pain to joints and other connective tissue.
Steam therapy and detox. If you follow studies on the effect of everyday exposure to chemicals, you know that everything from plastic bottles to pesticides in our produce can have deleterious effects on your health. Steam therapy may help remove these toxins from your body via the enhanced sweat mechanism that results from the deep penetration of the healing, humid air. In fact, one study found that steam heat helped reduce mercury in the bloodstream of subjects. Mercury is notoriously difficult to remove once it finds its place in your body. So if you’re looking to do regular detox treatments, steam showers should definitely be on your list.
Steam therapy and improving skin quality. Skin quality is another casualty of airborne pollutants and American diets. But even if you eat healthy, you need help maintaining clean, clear skin. Steam therapy has proven to help cleanse skin by going deep into the layers of the epidermis, opening up pores, and flushing out toxins your skin accumulates during the day. Steam has been shown to work on multiple levels to potentially improve skin quality, and it works long after you leave the steam room by hydrating your skin’s protective cells. When even makeup can have damaging effects on skin, spending time in a steam shower is a no-brainer for those who consider skin integrity important to them.
A “LUXURY” BECOMES A WELLNESS ESSENTIAL
The above is just a partial list of the potential wellness benefits of steam. And while these health effects may not be surprising to you, what many people don’t realize is that installing a steam unit in their home is easier than they think.
Thanks to online tools, like MrSteam’s “Virtual Spa Sizing,” you can see how a steam shower system can fit in your home right from your computer or mobile device. Steam showers easily fit in to nearly every home.
Steam rooms may not be as imperative as fresh fruit in terms of wellness, but they’re far from luxury items reserved only for mansions and high-priced gyms or clubs. Bringing the wellness potential of steam into your home is easier than ever.