It’s that time of year in Australia when the temperature starts to soar; we’ve unfortunately had a hot, dry spring and we are definitely in for a long, hot summer. During these warm months of the year, many of us spend a significant amount of our days indoors with the air conditioner on and avoid being out in the heat as much as we can. And, of course while this is often necessary in the heat of an Australian summer, don’t forget the importance of a healthy (well-hydrated) sweat session!
Perspiring is important and beneficial for good health, and whilst in summer we want to make sure we’re keeping ourselves well hydrated and out of the strongest heat of the day, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t embrace the warm mornings or evenings and exercise outdoors to work up a good sweat. Or perhaps treating yourself to a regular sauna session is more appealing and has the added benefit of relaxing the body and mind.
Some of the researched health benefits of sweating are:
- Working up a good sweat (whether that be via intensive exercise or sauna use) is great for your skin; dermatologists say it contains natural moisturising factor, which helps keep the skin hydrated and healthy. All that blood pumping and perspiration flushing your face is also boosting the skins microbiome – sweat is the source of an antimicrobial peptide called dermcidin, which acts like a natural antibiotic on the skins surface and protects against infection from harmful germs. PLUS it’s anti-aging – when your temperature rises your blood vessels dilate and this increases blood flow to your skin, which long-term has a positive impact on keeping our skin plump and youthful ?
- Preliminary evidence has demonstrated a positive effect of regular sauna use on modulating blood pressure, with decreases in systemic blood pressure both immediately after a 30 minute sauna session and, in one long-term study conducted on 1621 men (aged 42-60 years) they found a 47% reduced risk of developing hypertension when followed for 24 years! (These men had 4-7 sauna sessions per week, and while this probably isn’t achievable for most, sweating via exercise instead is also beneficial)
- Sweat out the toxins – whilst the evidence is mixed on this one, some studies suggest that sweating is a useful way to rid the body of harmful chemicals and toxins such as BPA and phthalates, as the concentration of metabolites from such toxins were found in higher amounts in individuals sweat when compared to their blood and urine
- Emerging recent evidence suggests that sauna exposure may have protective effects on neurocognitive disease – a population-based study carried out in Finnish men found that those who had 4-7 sauna sessions per week compared to none or just 1 had a 66% and 65% reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease.
- Stress relief – Sweating helps to release feel-good endorphins that decrease our stress response and leave us feeling more energised, relaxed and positive. Sauna sessions are highly relaxing and give us a great opportunity to practice some self-care.
Tips to be mindful of:
- Hydration is key – before, during and after your sweat session. Make sure you’re hitting at least 1.5-2.5 litres of water daily dependent on your body weight
- Electrolyte and mineral repletion – Magnesium and potassium are both important to be replenishing after heavy sweating, as are other electrolytes such as sodium, calcium and bicarbonate. Coconut water is a good source of electrolytes and a better option than Gatorade, and bananas are a well-known source too. A good magnesium supplement will also help replenish stores, especially as this miracle mineral is so deplete from Australian soils so not found in large amounts even in typical magnesium-rich foods.
- Discuss sauna use with your health care provider if you suffer from unstable cardiovascular issues, or if you are actively trying to conceive (male + female). Don’t use a sauna when drinking alcohol – rapid dehydration is a risk. Avoid when pregnant.
Recommended places in Sydney for a sauna experience:
- Nimbus + Co in Bondi
- Nature’s Energy in Balmain or Newtown
- Gillian Adams in Turramurra
Merry Christmas and blessings, Claire Luckman
Blood, urine and sweat (BUS) study: monitoring and elimination of bioaccumlated toxic elements https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21057782
Human excretion of bisphenol A: blood, urine and sweat (BUS) study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253637
Human elimination of phthalate compounds: blood, urine and sweat (BUS) study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23213291
Cardiovascular and other health benefits of Sauna bathing: A review of the evidence https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30077204
Clinical effects of regular dry sauna bathing: a systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29849692