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Sauna Culture


When using the sauna in Finland, it is most common to have three rounds of approximately 15 minutes, cooling off between rounds with a cold shower or dip in a lake or sea. Sauna temperatures usually run at 80 °C, on which most studies on the health benefits of sauna are based. Unfortunately, in New Zealand, we don't have much of a sauna culture, with saunas being hidden somewhere at the back of a public swimming pool or changing room. Usually temperatures barely reach 70 °C and a large sign says 'No Water on the Rocks'. Finns are shocked by the no water myth and wonder what we think the rocks are there for.

In the past decade, the health benefits from sauna use have started to be revealed, creating a shift in how the rest of the world thinks about sauna use. No more rushed single rounds of sauna after a workout, rather using the sauna as an activity in itself, becoming a place of well-being and social connection, an alternative to our heavily alcohol-based social life. The world is starting to follow the Finns in their sauna obsession, where 90% of the country uses the sauna each week and the number of saunas outnumbering the number of cars!

Health Benefits

One recent study found that sauna use can the decrease risk of Alzheimer's and dementia by up to 65% (1, 2). Who knew, if you were struggling to keep mentally active and worrying about your mental well-being, that sitting in a hot room could do the trick! In a study of 2,300 men over 20 years, researchers found that those who used the sauna 4-7 times per week compared to once per week were 50 % less likely to die from cardiovascular-related causes and 40 % less likely to die from all causes of premature death (2). That's crazy! One study even found that sauna use does the same for your heart as moderate exercise (3). What is interesting in these studies is that they found the health benefits increase proportionally with the number of times per week that you sauna, with no limit to the incremental benefits.

The health benefits don't stop there;  if you want to learn more, read studies published by Dr Jari Laukkanen, who is a leader in the effects of sauna on human health. Otherwise, for some easy listening, check out Joe Rogan's podcast with Dr Rhonda Patrick #1474. 


1. Knekt P, Järvinen R, Rissanen H, Heliövaara M, Aromaa A. Does sauna bathing protect against dementia? Prev Med Rep. 2020 Oct 2;20:101221. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101221. PMID: 33088678; PMCID: PMC7560162.

2. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542–548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187

3. Ketelhut S, Ketelhut RG. The blood pressure and heart rate during sauna bath correspond to cardiac responses during submaximal dynamic exercise. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Jun;44:218-222. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.002. Epub 2019 May 2. PMID: 31126559.

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