The hot and sticky weather is usually attributed to the use of an electrical generator in conjunction with special plumbing. Water will be dripping down the walls, coating the seats (which are usually benches), and dripping onto the floor (be careful not to slip!). The good news is that because steam rooms are so humid, they are constructed of water-resistant materials and designed so that water can run down a drain rather than pooling everywhere. After a strenuous workout, you walk into your gym's locker room and begin to towel off when you notice something: the steam room is staring at you. I'm daring you to work up even more sweat. Is a post-workout steam room for sale
, on the other hand, really worth the extra time spent at the gym? And what exactly is the purpose of this sweaty, steamy ritual? We consulted with leading exercise physiologists and heat stress researchers to find out everything you wanted to know about the benefits of using a steam room.
What's the difference between a steam room and a sauna?
The main differences between steam rooms and saunas are the degree of heat and humidity, and the amount of time spent in each. Jari Laukkanen, M. D., Ph. D., a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, tells SELF. Saunas are far more intensely hot than steam rooms, reaching temperatures of up to 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. They are, on the other hand, much less humid. Saunas emit a dry heat, with humidity levels ranging from 5 to 20%. Saunas that use wood to heat the room are the most traditional, but electric and gas models are also available. Saunas that use infrared technology are becoming increasingly popular. Because of the low humidity levels, steam shower room
can get significantly hotter than steam rooms.
He also explains that the additional moisture and humidity created by the steam room interferes with the body's ability to effectively cool itself. While there is no data available to compare sweat rates in a steam room versus a sauna, we do know that sweat does not evaporate as easily in humid environments as it does in dry environments. It is through evaporation that the body is able to regulate its internal temperature. As a result, raising the temperature of a steam room to sauna levels could result in not only burns but also heat illness, according to Machowsky.
Is there any evidence that the steam room has any real benefits?
Steam room devotees claim that getting hot and humid after a workout helps to jumpstart exercise recovery, cleanse the body of toxins, improve immunity, and generally check off a laundry list of awesomeness. But are there any advantages to using a steam room that you should be aware of? The problem is that steam rooms haven't been thoroughly studied enough to determine whether any of the claimed benefits are true or false. As Nelson points out, there isn't a shred of information available on the subject of steam rooms.
When it comes to post-workout recovery, for example, while a 2012 Medical Science Monitor study is frequently cited, the study actually looked at combining steam rooms with whole-body vibration therapy in order to increase blood flow to the skin. Nelson believes that if the study looked at muscle blood flow without the use of vibration therapy, the results would be positive.“However, does vibration therapy improve skin blood flow? That's a bit much.”Furthermore, the study was small (10 participants) and focused on a specific population (elderly adults).
Having said that, a significant number of studies on saunas have been conducted, many of them by Finnish researchers and focusing on the cardiovascular effects of saunas.(Sauna bathing is a popular pastime in Finland.)For example, according to Laukkanen and his team's recent findings, which were published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, a 30-minute sauna session significantly reduced blood pressure in 102 people who had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. They also experienced an increase in carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, which is a measure of how well blood vessels expand and contract when necessary.