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Health is about more than exercise. Here’s why steam rooms are an essential part of the fitness lifestyle. Does your gym have one?

They call them health clubs for a reason. You go there to achieve a healthier lifestyle through regular physical activity. Decades of research supports the effectiveness of exercise in helping to prevent chronic disease while supporting cognitive health, stress reduction, cardiovascular health, and overall longevity.

But exercise is only part of a successful overall wellness lifestyle. In fact, over the years we’ve learned a lot more about the importance of nutrition, sleep, and other lifestyle habits. You can add recovery to that list. Exercise scientists in recent years have identified how important adaptation from exercise and stress is for the body. Recovery not only affects the progress you make in a fitness program—whether your goal is performance, weight loss, or muscle gain—it’s also important for your overall health.

This is at the heart of why steam rooms are an ideal complement to any exercise program. It’s the reason why the best health clubs provide comprehensive wellness services by making steam rooms available to their members.

This may surprise some people who associate steam rooms with luxury resorts that pamper their guests. Yes, steam baths, like therapeutic massages, feel great. Sitting for 10-15 minutes in the soothing heat refreshes and invigorates after a long day, whether you’ve exercised or not.

But steam therapy has emerged as an integral part of a complete fitness lifestyle. MrSteam is a great resource for learning about the role steam plays in overall wellness, and ongoing research continues to support the effects of intermittent hyperthermia in a number of health markers.

But even before scholars and scientists explored the mechanism behind steam’s uncanny effectiveness, cultures as far-flung as Russia and Japan have enjoyed the benefits of steam therapy for centuries. Even Roman and Greek societies from antiquity used steam as a health balm.

Today, we know a lot more about steam than the ancient Romans, who lent their legendary architecture skills to creating massive aqueducts with overflowing steam baths. If steam therapy is good enough for a gladiator, then it should do wonders for your golf game or weekend tennis match.

Let’s look deeper into why steam showers are such an integral part of a successful health club experience.

Sore? Tired? Stressed? Steam May Help

Chuze Fitness, a health club chain located in Colorado and several Southwest states, features steam rooms as part of their services. The club cites several benefits associated with steam. These include helping to support weight management, skin detox, respiratory health, and alleviating muscle soreness.

How does steam help reduce soreness after exercise? During exercise, working muscles release lactic acid. Lactic acid is what makes your muscles give out and “burn” when they’re exhausted. This also leads to DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness, which is the pain you feel a day or two after you exercise intensely. Proper recovery helps clear lactic acid from your bloodstream and repair your muscles, so they’re stronger the next time you use them.

Intermittent heat has been shown to help enhance this process. One study concluded that heat—not dry heat but heat with moisture—can reduce DOMS and may therefore help muscles recover. The scientists who performed the study concluded: “Most clinicians feel that moist heat penetrates deep tissues better than dry heat….”

When it comes to healing damaged muscle cells, the application of heat post-workout may significantly speed up muscle recovery. Research has found that intermittent hyperthermia was shown in some people to help limit cell damage after exercise and augment protein synthesis, an important part of muscle integrity and growth. Treatments with moist heat can also help dilate small blood vessels and aid circulation, which speeds up the healing process after training.

Breathing well is also an important part of a quality workout. Steam can help play a large role in supporting respiratory health. A study found that steam showers helped relieve asthma symptoms and reduce lung dysfunction. Breathing carries oxygen to the blood, and a great workout demands a well-functioning respiratory system. Steam can help you breathe easier, augmenting your exercise performance and recovery.

A Cleaner, Safer Workout

Chuze Fitness also spotlights the benefits that steam may bring to your body’s largest organ: your skin. Steam showers have been shown to help dig deep into the seven layers of your skin, dislodging impurities and contaminants, flushing out toxins that mar your skin or may lead to bacterial infections. This makes steam a great complement to any workout, especially if you can go right from the training floor directly to a steam shower.

Think about it: Gyms of all types, even spas at five-star resorts, are public places, many of them high traffic. That means you’re circulating in an environment full of people unwittingly spreading their germs everywhere. And it’s not just the weight room and cardio floor. Even if you prefer an aquatic workout, swimming in a public pool may leave you with a film of elements lodged in your skin that you don’t want to carry home.

A steam room is the ideal final stop on every health club visit, no matter what activity you engage in. Steam may not only flush impurities out through skin pores, it helps rejuvenate the epidermal cells themselves. One study found that intermittent heat may help improve skin pH and create a “stable epidermal environment.”

Not only can steam help your skin achieve a healthy glow, it may help with weight management as well. Intermittent heat has been shown to help people burn 150 calories in 15 minutes of exposure to temperatures comparable to steam rooms. Looking good is a big part of feeling good, and reducing weight is a key aspect of longevity and overall well-being.

This is why steam rooms are so valuable in any health club setting. Not only can steam’s relaxing heat help reduce DOMS and cell damage, it can initiate a cleansing process via the skin. In fact, when you think about it, why would you use a health club without a steam room?

The Wellness Advantage

Established in 1981, In-Shape health clubs are a California chain that seeks a wellness vibe in a community setting. Of their 65 clubs, In-Shape offers steam services in 43 of them.

The club touts steam’s ability to nourish the skin and help boost immunity. Indeed, research shows that heat treatments may help reduce oxidative stress. Exerting an antioxidant effect may reduce free radicals in the body that cause cell damage and other havoc. Reducing oxidative stress, as suggested by this study, means that using intermittent hyperthermia may boost your immune system, further supporting overall wellness.

This is a key aspect of steam therapy. The association of steam therapy to augment other aspects of the wellness lifestyle—e.g., exercise, good nutrition, stress reduction—contributes to a holistic approach to health. Steam may even enhance mindfulness and mood regulation. Research shows that heat may help raise serotonin and other neurochemicals, including endorphins. With stress a major global health issue, steam therapy may play a role in alleviating the damage caused by stress.

It’s no wonder that respected family health clubs like In-Shape consider steam therapy a critical part of their services. Steam rooms provide a complete health club experience, and you should make access to steam a priority when you choose a facility for you and your loved ones.

Broadening the Wellness Advantage of Steam

Spas and health clubs play essential roles in helping people maintain their health. High obesity rates and chronic disease afflict millions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, most of the world's population lives in countries where obesity kills more people than lack of nutrition.

Any health club that provides an environment that motivates you to exercise is a good thing. But you can take your program to the next level by choosing a club that offers the benefits of steam. You may not be a Roman gladiator, but you deserve every advantage in creating the best program for your health and fitness.


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Topics: Health & Wellness, Commercial Steam