After a hard workout you go into the locker room of your gym, start wiping yourself, and there it is – the steam room that just stares you. They dare to become even more sweaty.
But is a workout after work really worth the extra time in the gym? And what should the sweaty, steaming ritual do in the first place?
We talked to top physiologists and heat stress researchers to answer all your questions.
What is a steam bath?
A room with steam in it ̵
So, wait. How is a steam bath different from a sauna?
Steam baths and saunas differ in two ways: heat and humidity, Dr. Jari Laukkanen, Doctor of the University of Eastern Finland, opposite the SELF. As warm steam baths sound, the saunas are hotter – often up to 160 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. They are, however, much less moist. Steam baths give off a dry heat with a humidity of 5 to 20 percent. Wood saunas are the most traditional version, but there are also electric and gas versions. Saunas with infrared technology are another big trend.
Saunas are so much hotter than steam baths due to the low humidity. If you have heated water up to 200 degrees and thrown it all over your body, it will cause quite severe burns. Mike T. Nelson Ph.D., CSCS, an exercise in Minnesota physiologist, says SELF.
He also explains that the extra moisture and humidity of the steam room affect the body's ability to cool effectively. Although there is no data comparing the steam sauna compared to the sauna sweat rate, we know that sweat in humid environments can not evaporate as easily as in drier environments. This evaporation allows the body to regulate body temperature. For this reason, starting the steam room temperatures at the sauna levels could cause not only burns but also heat illnesses, says Machowsky.
Does the steam room really have any advantages?
Steam bath lovers claim that it gets hot and moist after a workout helps start after a recovery cleanses the body of toxins, improves immunity and basically checks a laundry list of awesomeness.
The thing is, steam rooms had not really been studied enough to say whether one of the odds is true or false. "There is not even a place in terms of direct steam bath data," says Nelson.
For example, in a study by Medical Science Monitor from the year it is often stated that the vapor space affects recovery after exercise. The study examined the combination of steam cabins and whole-body vibration therapy to: to increase blood flow to the skin. "If the study was to investigate muscle blood flow and without vibration therapy," says Nelson. "But skin blood flow with vibration therapy? That's a stretch. In addition, the study was small (10 people) and considered only a specific population (older adults).
However, there are a considerable number of studies on saunas, many of them by Finnish researchers, focusing on cardiovascular effects. (In Finland, sauna bathing is a frequent activity.) For example, Laukkanen and his recent findings, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that a 30-minute sauna session lowered blood pressure significantly in 102 people with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. In addition, their rate of carotid femoral pulse wave increased, an indicator of how well blood vessels expand and contract as needed,
Laukkanen suggests that improved arterial flexibility and stretching reduces the force exerted by the moving blood the blood vessel exerts walls. He points out, however, that the reduction in blood pressure may also be linked to the axiality of heat (science – speak of anxiety reduction). That is, relaxing in a heated environment can affect your blood pressure
"Hot environments are known to increase the parasympathetic tone of the body," says Nelson. People are relatively more relaxed in hot environments than in cold areas. Over cultures and centuries, beaches, saunas, steam baths and hot springs have been used as sites for exploration. "That's no coincidence," he says.
Some studies have investigated whether post-workout heat therapy can affect recovery after exercise, but these studies also have limitations such as a small sample size and specific population. For example, in a 2015 Springerplus study, researchers found that both traditional saunas and infrared saunas improved physical recovery in 10 physically active men who regularly used saunas.
How Laukkanen Finds All Possible After-Exercises The benefits were only investigated in saunas, not in steam baths. And so far there is no definitive word about whether steam rooms trigger similar effects. Hypothetically they could – but probably only if they increase the internal body temperature in the same way as saunas. "The temperature could be too low," he says.
Are there any risks to sitting in a steam room?
Even if the alleged benefits of the steam bath have not been proven, there is no inconvenience. For most people who are generally healthy, the biggest risks are dehydration and dizziness. But the solution is pretty simple: hydrate and when the heat starts to go upside down, just go out, says Nelson.
However, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor before using a steam room any health conditions such as asthma (the steam could make breathing a bit more complicated) or heart disease . If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is best to discontinue full body heat therapy, including steam baths.
It's also worth noting that bacteria, mold and other ickies thrive in hot, humid environments. "Poor sanitation can cause problems with the transmission of mold or germs," says Machowsky. But as long as your gym is on the steam bath cleaning routine, you should be fine. (If you are worried, you can always ask the management or the cleaning staff how and how often the steam room is cleaned well.)
How and when should you steam?
It's best to let off steam (rather than before) when you can benefit the most from some relaxation, says Nelson.
Before getting in, you must use the proper steam bath etiquette (it helps to reduce the germ problem) and then wear your birthday suit but cover it with a towel. Make sure you sit on the towel when you are there (think about it!), And think about how you feel comfortable and everyone else is there before you open the front of your towel so everyone Steam baths are visible.  Start small during your first sessions. You may not be able to set the thermostat in your gym, but you can set how much time you want to spend there, says Nelson. It recommends people start with 5 or 10 minutes and increase to 30 because it feels good
When you're there, make the most of your time by meditating practicing mindfulness, or breathing work Do it, he says. Or, if you're there with friends, talk about it. Social time has many mental and physical benefits, and it is perfectly acceptable to compete in a steam room. Just be careful to feel the atmosphere first and be polite – if everyone else is sitting there with their eyes closed, they are likely to be bothered by loud chatter.
In the end, you make it easy and stay out of your phone (the power plug is good, and the moisture can hurt your phone anyway). The goal is to leave the steam room better than when entering.