The last few weeks of the semester are always filled with students running high on emotions, caffeine, and feel-good endorphins released from a productive workout session. Quite often, students choose to spare a few hours of their time—no matter how busy they are—in order to fit in some exercise into their busy schedules. During exam season in particular, on-campus gyms and wellness facilities tend to be packed. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.” This is because engaging in physical activity increases the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins. These chemicals elevate your mood and generally make you feel better about yourself while reducing stress and anxiety levels. Furthermore, some people prefer to take their routine up a notch by going to a sauna or steam room post-workout, but the question that arises is: is there any value, either positive or negative, gained by going to the steam room or sauna after a workout, or is it a mere personal choice?
According to Healthline.com, spending time in the sauna can improve heart health. Exposing the body to high temperatures expands the blood vessels, allowing blood pressure to be lowered thus improving blood circulation. Furthermore, the steam helps in removing any muscle pain and tiredness which usually result from a hardcore workout session. This is because when you over-work your muscles, they form microscopic tears which result in muscle soreness. The improved blood circulation caused by the steam allows oxygen-rich blood to reach the muscle cells and repair and relieve them. When a person works out, he or she releases toxins such as nicotine, alcohol, and metals in the form of sweat. Sweat also cools down the body’s temperature as it evaporates from the skin, preventing the body from over-heating. The benefits caused by sweating can be prolonged by going to a sauna immediately after exercise, so if you feel that you didn’t sweat enough, you can pop into the steam room or sauna later. Spending time in steam can also aid in weight loss as high temperatures improve the body’s metabolic rate and certain saunas such as the infrared sauna, which uses infrared light to heat up the body directly, have the ability to slightly increase the production of the human growth hormone (HGH) and lower the level of cortisol—both aspects that help in weight loss.
In terms of adverse health effects, spending too much time in the steam room can result in dehydration brought on by excessive sweating. According to Harvard Health Publications, people tend to lose around a pint of sweat on average from a normal session. Therefore, experts advise that in order to prevent the loss of too much fluids from the body, it is beneficial to drink large amounts of water before, during, and after a sauna session. Furthermore, drinks rich in electrolytes are also recommended.