Benefits of Sauna and Hot Steam
1. Better Mood (And Could Combat Depression)
Perhaps, among the most apparent benefits of sauna and hot steams is the positive impact on our mood.
According to research, even brief exposure to heat can cause a significant release of beta-endorphins in the brain (1, 2). These opioid hormones primarily serve to suppress pain but can also boost our mood and even bring about a sense of euphoria.
In the long run, controlled heat exposure could promote autophagy (the body’s way of replacing old and worn-out parts of cells) and make brain cells more resistant to stress (3).
Further, data suggests that saunas can have positive effects on people with depressive symptoms (4).
2. Could Promote Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is by far the leading cause of death worldwide (5). Fortunately, there are ways to protect ourselves, including by using saunas and hot steams.
According to a Finnish study that observed over 2,300 men over two decades, those going for a sauna session two to three times weekly were 23 percent less likely to experience a fatal CHD event (6).
3. Support Cognition And Brain Health
Benefits of Sauna include increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)––a key molecule involved in neuroplasticity related to learning and memory (7).
BDNF plays a crucial role in neural development, growth and survival, neurogenesis, and even synapse formation (the connection between brain cells) (8).
Additionally, low BDNF is linked to a higher risk of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (9).
4. May Promote Longevity
Longevity depends on multiple factors, including genetics, BMI, diet, and lifestyle habits. That said, the Finnish study we mentioned above looked at the impact of sauna on all-cause mortality risk (6).
According to the data gathered over two decades, those using a sauna were far less likely to die from all causes, with the protective effects being more pronounced in those going for a sauna session four or more times a week.
One potential mechanism could be the ability of heat exposure to activate the protein-coding gene FOXO3, which has been shown to promote autophagy in various bodily cells (10).
FOXO3 is also known to improve the expression of genes related to DNA repair, autophagy, tumor suppression, resilience to stress, and more––basically, all good things (11, 12, 13).
5. Feet Low Foot Placement
Extensive research finds controlled heat exposure to be safe, beneficial and well-tolerated in people of all ages.
With that said, we recommend consulting your doctor before using saunas or hot steams, as there are not only benefits of Sauna and Hot Steam but they may have some risks in certain people.
For instance, folks with previous cardiovascular issues might opt-in for shorter sessions at a lower temperature or stay away from saunas and hot steam altogether.
References – Benefits of Sauna and Hot Steam
1. Kukkonen-Harjula K, Kauppinen K. How the sauna affects the endocrine system. Annals of Clinical Research [Internet]. 1988;20(4):262–6. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3218898/
2. Ježová D, Vigaš M, Tatár P, Jurčovičová J, Palát M. Rise in Plasma β-Endorphin and ACTH in Response to Hyperthermia in Sauna. Hormone and Metabolic Research. 1985 Dec;17(12):693–4.
3. Kumsta C, Chang JT, Schmalz J, Hansen M. Hormetic heat stress and HSF-1 induce autophagy to improve survival and proteostasis in C. elegans. Nature Communications. 2017 Feb 15;8(1).
4. Koltyn KF, Robins HI, Schmitt CL, Cohen JD, Morgan WP. Changes in mood state following whole-body hyperthermia. International Journal of Hyperthermia. 1992 Jan;8(3):305–7.
5. Ritchie H, Roser M, Spooner F. Causes of Death [Internet]. Our World in Data. 2018. Available from:
6. Laukkanen T, Kunutsor S, Kauhanen J, Laukkanen JA. Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men. Age and ageing [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2019 Nov 3];46(2):245–9.
7. Gao L, Zhang Y, Sterling K, Song W. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor in Alzheimer’s disease and its pharmaceutical potential. Translational Neurodegeneration [Internet]. 2022 Jan 28;11(1):4.
8. Miranda M, Morici J, Zanoni M, Bekinschtein P. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain [Internet]. Frontiers. 2019
9. Sorenson M. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor is Decreased in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis. Journal of Neurology & Neurophysiology. 2013;s12(01).
10. Audesse AJ, Dhakal S, Hassell LA, Gardell Z, Nemtsova Y, Webb AE. FOXO3 directly regulates an autophagy network to regulate proteostasis in adult neural stem cells functionally. Paik JH, editor. PLOS Genetics [Internet]. 2019 Apr 11 [cited 2023 Apr 28];15(4):e1008097.
11. Tsai WB, Chung YM, Takahashi Y, Xu Z, Hu MCT . Functional interaction between FOXO3a and ATM regulates DNA damage response. Nature Cell Biology. 2008 Mar 16;10(4):460–7.
12. Myatt SS, Lam EWF. The emerging roles of forkhead box (Fox) proteins in cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer. 2007 Nov;7(11):847–59.
13. Paik JH, Kollipara R, Chu G, Ji H, Xiao Y, Ding Z, et al. FoxOs Are Lineage-Restricted Redundant Tumor Suppressors and Regulate Endothelial Cell Homeostasis. Cell [Internet]. 2007 Jan;128(2):309–23.