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Research Suggests That Saunas Help You Live Longer 208

jones_supa writes A study of Finnish men suggests that frequent sauna baths may help you live longer. Previous research has suggested that saunas might improve blood vessel function and exercise capacity, or even lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The new study links long, hot sauna baths with more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes. The study tracked 2315 Finnish men for nearly 20 years on average. Most participants used saunas at least once weekly. Those who used them four to seven times weekly received the greatest benefits. The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine wraps up by saying that further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and the aforementioned cardiovascular benefits.
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Research Suggests That Saunas Help You Live Longer

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  • Easy life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 01, 2015 @12:34PM (#49158697)

    I bet if I had the time to visit the fucking spa 7 days a week I'd live a heck of a lot longer too.

    • Re:Easy life (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @12:46PM (#49158725)
      Yes, studies show that the amount of time added to one's lifespan by exercising, is spent... exercising.
      • Re:Easy life (Score:4, Insightful)

        by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @12:57PM (#49158767)

        Not a problem if you enjoy exercising. Or saunas.

        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @07:34PM (#49160499)

          A sauna is like exercising, in that it's hot, uncomfortable, and you sweat too much. But the advantage is that you get to sit down and do nothing.

          • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

            A sauna is like exercising, in that it's hot, uncomfortable, and you sweat too much. But the advantage is that you get to sit down and do nothing.

            The sweat may be the key to this. Salt isn't bad for you, as long as you are pissing or sweating it out. Something that the "western world" folks do a lot less of during the course of their lives. Higher sustained salt loads in the blood and tissues may cause some harm.

      • Re:Easy life (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:00PM (#49158779)

        And when you are not exercising, you sleep better, you look better, you feel better, you are happier, and sometimes you experience high utility from your more powerful body.

        But if you don't like exercising none of this matters. Those benefits will not be enough to motivate you to hit the gym. But that's ok. There is no law that says you must seek these benefits. Anyone who would impose these values on you is not worth your time.

      • Re:Easy life (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rycamor ( 194164 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:17PM (#49158847)

        Not at all the case, actually. I did the math on this once, based on the most conservative estimate of years added to live for moderate-to-intense exercise.

        For one thing, it turns out that the best exercise is of fairly short duration. You can get all the strength training you need in 1 or 2 hours a week. Add another hour a week for some moderate aerobics and, make a few other "life hacks" such as a stand-up desk, and you have every likelihood of adding at least 5 years to your life. And we're not talking about those painful last 5 years where you can't do anything, but 5 years of vitality to your productive mid-life. And a good deal more mobility and independence during your last 10 years.

        And let's just say you exercised at 3 hrs/week for 50 years, starting at age 30. By the time you are 80, you have burned up a grand total of 1 year exercising. Those other 4 years are gravy.

        How about that? the 80/20 principle at work.

        • Re:Easy life (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:02PM (#49159015)

          And we're not talking about those painful last 5 years where you can't do anything, but 5 years of vitality to your productive mid-life.

          Cite? I'm genuinely curious. The trick is finding research that is based on intervention, not just observation. For example: studies of runners. People who are still running at age 55+ have been intensively selected by their joints over the years, many people will have experienced knee/hip/ankle/back problems well before that age and quit. How do you establish the control group: people who could keep running but choose not to? Otherwise you are conflating the benefits of not being at risk for arthritis, tendinosis, vertabrae/disk issuses, torn meniscus, etc. with the benefits of exercise.

          • Re:Easy life (Score:5, Informative)

            by rycamor ( 194164 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @03:08PM (#49159323)

            There have been many, many studies on this matter over the past couple decades. A couple of my favorite meta-aggregators of these studies are Rogue Health and Fitness [roguehealt...itness.com] and Mark's Dailly Apple [marksdailyapple.com] (yeah, he's a paleo advocate, but he's also a former top competitive runner, Ironman winner, and currently a sculpted buff dude in his 60s [marksdailyapple.com] -- and his wife only a few years younger looks like a fitness model). Even more interesting, look into guys like Art Devany. He and his wife are in their mid-70s, yet fitter than most people in their 40s.

            Basically, the health promises of the 70s-80s were found to be false along several axes. The most notorious being recommendations for the low-fat, high-carb diet, but also the whole jogging/aerobics craze that started in the late 70s has been found to be empirically a failure. This is what led to the renewed interest in weight-lifting and other strength training. Long-duration, plodding exercise really isn't ideal to longevity. Running 10 miles a day used to be thought the peak of fitness, but really it results in muscle atrophy, heart strain, joint problems, etc...

            And the problem with focusing on athletes is generally that they overdo it. Athletes are people singularly focused on *winning* not on health and longevity. Athletes will gladly trade a decade of life for a short-term competitive edge. This is what Mark Sisson (Mark's Daily Apple above) found. His competitive running had him constantly sick and/or injured. He scaled his workout way back, stopped the long-distance running, and focused more on short-duration high-intensity exercise to stimulate the hormesis/recovery cycle, and specifically worked on gaining muscle mass.

            There is sort of a golden mean to exercise, recovery, muscle mass, strength, etc... And generally it looks about like the "fitness model" ideal for women and the wrestler physique for men. Muscular but not freakish. Slim but not skinny, low body fat, but not veins showing everywhere... you get the idea.

            Side note: I was flying back from SCALE 13x last week, and ended up sitting next to a cardiologist who has been doing research in these areas. His synopsis: we should all be lifting weights, and lifting *heavy*.

            • by rycamor ( 194164 )

              BTW back on topic, my point about hormesis/recovery also applies to saunas. Extreme heat puts a certain amount of stress on the body--especially the skin, which if done on moderation produces recovery benefits.

              • by pepty ( 1976012 )
                Article is firewalled and the abstract doesn't speculate on mechanism, but discussion centers on the higher heart rate. So it might well be related to the benefits seen from exercise.
            • by pepty ( 1976012 )

              Completely missed the point of my post:

              How do you establish the control group: people who could keep running but choose not to? Otherwise you are conflating the benefits of not being at risk for arthritis, tendinosis, vertabrae/disk issuses, torn meniscus, etc. with the benefits of exercise.

              It's just as true for weight training.

              Plus: anecdotes?

              Really?

              • Re:Easy life (Score:5, Informative)

                by rycamor ( 194164 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @04:00PM (#49159523)

                Yes really. Anecdotal evidence is still evidence. Consult a dictionary. You asked for citations, which I did not have at hand, but directed you to a couple sites that have lots of them. Knock yourself out.

                There is no such thing as conclusive proof in any of these areas. I tend to prefer empiricism and general pattern-recognition to theory-directed research because in the area of health it is so fraught with false positives, statistical failures, presuppositions and downright fraud due to industry influence. But if you browse through PubMed or PLOS for research in these areas, you will be hard-pressed to find negative implications for weightlifting or strength training. Positive implications abound.

                • You'd have to browse Pubmed with blinders on to miss all the studies of how weight training leads to injuries. Just picking one author who writes about them, here's 1 [nih.gov] 2 [nih.gov] 3 [nih.gov] 4 [nih.gov] studies on it. I only do body weight exercises now, and I count myself lucky that I only have one mild uncorrectable shoulder injury from my lifting days.

                  • by rycamor ( 194164 )

                    Exactly what anonymous said. Anything can be overdone, and this tends to happen when people go on crazes. The jogging craze was last generation's example. Jogging can be an excellent part of an exercise regimen, but when you do it to the exclusion of all else, for 2 hours a day... you're courting disaster. Ditto for the current "crossfit" craze, where people with zero experience are jumping around in the gym, lifting (or even throwing!) heavy weights with zero ramp-up and zero instruction on good form, and

                  • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

                    You'd have to browse Pubmed with blinders on to miss all the studies of how weight training leads to injuries. Just picking one author who writes about them, here's 1 [nih.gov] 2 [nih.gov] 3 [nih.gov] 4 [nih.gov] studies on it. I only do body weight exercises now, and I count myself lucky that I only have one mild uncorrectable shoulder injury from my lifting days.

                    Makes me wonder if the studies controlled for crossfit idiocy or not.

                • by pepty ( 1976012 )

                  Yes really. Anecdotal evidence is still evidence.

                  tend to prefer empiricism and general pattern-recognition to theory-directed research because in the area of health it is so fraught with false positives, statistical failures, presuppositions and downright fraud due to industry influence.

                  So your answer to the problems of false positives and statistical failures are studies where n = 1.

                  Ok.

                  • by rycamor ( 194164 )

                    No. Hell no. You don't understand empiricism at all.

                    • by pepty ( 1976012 )
                      Pick your definition for empiricism. In modern science (my experience is protein structure prediction) it involves calculating average parameters from large datasets (empirical: CHARMM, AMBER) as opposed to generating them ab initio (theoretical: Hartree-Fock). It certainly doesn't involve cherry picking anecdotes from websites that hawk anti-aging supplements.
                    • by rycamor ( 194164 )

                      Really, I have to remind myself often that most people (even slashdot nerds) are simplistic binary thinkers. They latch onto a certain way of looking at something (ooh, I'm all sciency!) and try to hit everything with the same hammer.

                      What we are having here is not a scientific study. Nor is it a debate. What we are having here is a discussion. This being a discussion forum. When I bring up something anecdotal, it doesn't mean I am basing a decision or opinion purely on that anecdote. It just means I find it

                    • Agreed with the initial 2.5 paragraphs of your post. But

                      if you want to strengthen a muscle, you have to exercise it, and in general the more intense the exercise, the greater the gains ............ in general exercise leads to better health. By logical inference, better health would obviously lead to the likelihood of living longer

                      Exercising a muscle strengthens it can be accepted. But I don't see any increasing function between muscle strength and health. And it is another leap, though a shorter one, between better health and living longer.

                      Very weak people are unlikely to be healthy - but after a certain threshold increasingly more muscle strength definitely doesn't lead to better and better health. This threshold isn't even hunk level strength. Note also that health is typical

    • In Finland, everybody has a sauna at home. You don't go to a spa for that. I live next door, in Estonia, and i also have a sauna at home.

    • These aren't spas. In Finland, people have them in their homes, sometimes at work, I even had one in a hotel room. Even for a commercial sauna the cost is very low.

    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      Since it isn't uncommon to have saunas in the house/apartment in Finland, I fail to see what going to "the fucking spa" has to do with it.

  • Here we go again - confusing correlation with a causal relationship. Maybe soaking in a hot tub five times a week helps people relax and that's why they live longer. I'm sure the oily fish they eat helps a lot too.
    • A sauna isn't a hot tub. At least not in Finland. It's sweating in a hot room.

      But controlling for socioeconomic level and prior indications of health and healthy lifestyle should be considered. Maybe the reason why some Finns get to the sauna more often is because they're healthy enough to get out, or have time enough to get out.

      Or maybe sweating in a hot room improves circulation, promotes healing and shoves the balance of microorganisms that colonize your skin in a healthier direction.

      Maybe it just kil

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe the reason why some Finns get to the sauna more often is because they're healthy enough to get out, or have time enough to get out.

        I don't think there's any correlation between a healthy lifestyle and frequent sauna sessions. At least not in Finland where it's clear that not even the most obese men are ashamed of their bodies when they go to the sauna - with a beer (or two) in hand.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:49PM (#49158967) Homepage Journal

        A sauna isn't a hot tub. At least not in Finland. It's sweating in a hot room.

        Where a real sauna is typically kept around 90C/194F (and some hotter), an American "sauna" is rarely above 60C/140F, and usually less. And they wear swim trunks and bikinis in it.
        In a real sauna, you can't wear clothes, and particularly not synthetics, because it's too hot.

        The funny thing is that a good hot sauna feels less hot. Your body goes into sauna mode, something it can never do at an American "sauna". You only feel the warmth in your lungs, or if you touch some new piece of furniture. I have often sat with teeth clattering and goose bumps in a sauna, because my ambient temperature sensors had turned off.

        Half an hour in a real sauna is something I truly miss.

        • 90C? Don't you start to cook at that temperature? What the hell.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:42PM (#49159197) Homepage Journal

            No, you don't start to cook. All your sweat and sebum glands go into high production, and your circulatory system works in cooling mode. But yes, one of the fun experiments is to bring a piece of raw meat in with you in the sauna, and set it aside. After a while, the meat is done, but you're not.

            • After a while, the meat is done, but you're not.

              I've seen some of the people going into the sauna. I'm pretty sure you'd get done.

          • by GNious ( 953874 )

            You're American, right?

            Am asking, since before going to the US, I've never seen a sauna at less than 90C, yet in the US, I never saw one above 60C.

          • Even at over 100C you don't cook. I have been in a low humidity 105C sauna when I was younger. Sessions of over an hour.
            You have to build up to it or your sweat glands won't be able to keep up.

        • And yet you can die in temps and lower humidity levels from heatstroke. Figure that shit out. The moment your "ambient temperer sensors" turn off is the time you should leave IMHO. That's a real bad thing to have happen.

      • Out of curiosity, are those saunas dry or steam? I would think a steam sauna at those temperatures would make it rather difficult for your body to cool itself adequately.

    • Or, it could be that people who do things perceived as healthy, do other things perceived as healthy...
      • Of course. I would bet that you'd get the same results from people who spend an hour doing tai chi or meditating or just relaxing on the back porch with a good book.

        But I can't remember, is the sauna the one where naked people whip each other with eucalyptus leaves or is that the steam bath? Or is that something from a nightmare?

    • The abstract of the research only goes as far as to say there are "links" and that "further studies" are warranted.

      Even the Grauniad only goes so far as to say that it "suggests" that saunas help you live longer, as does the Slashdot summary.

    • by pepty ( 1976012 )

      I'm sure the oily fish they eat helps a lot too.

      Here we go again - confusing correlation with a causal relationship.

    • I'm not sure we'll ever find causation in a complex system such as human life, beyond the very simple and obvious. Ie. as someone said it is not clear that there is an arrow of causality from A to B. If B (a person's life) depends on a bajillion other factors, what influence could a single A (sauna) have that could be demonstrated and isolated? Unless A is something obvious like ingesting cyanide.

      I think the point of these studies is more like, if something has been done for a long time (eg. sauna in modera

    • People in less colder climes sweat without trying.

  • I don't see why sauna's would be somehow different.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @12:51PM (#49158743)

    Especially when the sauna is filled with naked Scandinavian women.

    • It is even aerobic at that point! Heart rate? Check. Deep breathing? Check.
    • Too bad that sauna is usually single-sex in Finland.

      They're a bit on the prudish side :)

      • by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@hotmaREDHATil.com minus distro> on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:51PM (#49159245) Homepage

        As a Finn I disagree with that notion. Only public saunas are gender-specific. Nearly everywhere else where people who know everyone go to sauna regardless of sex, and this includes adults and children, too.

      • by KingOfBLASH ( 620432 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:59PM (#49159281) Journal

        "Finnish Sauna" is often used as a label for a particular type of Sauna at a good bath house. Hot, dry heat (and very hot at that -- often in excess of 100F), often with a roaring fire in the center. You'll also have other types of saunas (steam saunas, infared saunas, etc.), some of which are also associated with a country (Russian Sauna, Turkish Sauna, etc.). And if you pick the right country, the sauna will both be co ed, and naked. (Remember those shirts from the 90s?)

        I recommend Spa Zuiver [zuiveramsterdam.nl] in Amsterdam. Everyone will be naked, you can go into naked jacuzzis together, and it's a wonderfully relaxing experience.

        Of course, before you book your ticket with thoughts of a hedon's paradise, you should know a few things.

        1. The sauna is not a pick up place. The chances of meeting a hot woman there and turning it into something are quite small.
        2. For every hot woman who you will be happy to see naked, there will be four old women or men
        3. Staring is not something to be done. However, if you happen to be sitting in a place where you see everything, and someone comes in, well that's OK.
        4. You will be naked too. And your beauty will be judging you as well.
        5. There will be a bar. And food service. While you can't drink in the pools, where else can you drink around a bunch of naked people?

        But, if you'd never been, I'd highly recommend it. A day at the sauna makes you feel incredible. Really. And muscle soreness will just disappear. It's quite amazing (try a sauna after your work outs sometime)

        • by Smauler ( 915644 )

          As AC has already mentioned, 100F is not that hot. England's record temperature is 101.3F, for example, recorded in Kent.

        • Never been to sauna, but I want to try. I'm a texan, so we don't really have the environment for that being a warm gulf state. When I traveled to China, I did try the hot springs (Singapore design I think) while I detoxed with rice tea; more or less. But yes, you come out feeling like a million bucks. I only wish I could do it once a month or more often.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:00PM (#49158777)
    waiving around in front of me. It's not the quantity of life but quality that matters.
  • Research Suggests (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdamStarks ( 2634757 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:13PM (#49158819)

    That being happy and relaxed every now and then can prolong your life.

    • Actually I think it may be the opposite. Saunas are not really places for relaxation. Your heart rate is high and when you do it like the Finns you will shock your body quite severely with long warm up periods, sudden humidity spike then a sudden temperature drop outside in a cold shower, or rolling naked in the snow.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:16PM (#49158835)

    they had hot baths thousands of years ago

  • So, we should not be afraid of Global Warming, if in conjunction with High Humidity ?

    I have severe headaches when temperature rises above ~32C (about ~90F). Not sure those finnish sauna would help me at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:23PM (#49158865)

    The wrong conclusion was drawn from this observational study. Saunas are very stressful. People who are weak can not tolerate many saunas and therefore avoid them. Healthy people don't have a problem with them and take more of them. Saunas didn't make them healthy, saunas just weeded out the unhealthy.

    It's similar to the incorrect conclusion that 6 cups of coffee a day prevents diabetes. The truth is that caffeine makes people with blood sugar problems shaky so they avoid coffee. While people with no blood sugar problems can drink a lot of it because it makes them feel good. The coffee didn't prevent diabetes in them, it's just that the non-diabetics are are drawn to coffee and the diabetics avoid it, thus the results of an observational study being interpreted wrong (as most are).

    All observational studies are suspect and should not be used as the basis of behavior modification.

    • by rasjani ( 97395 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:41PM (#49159193) Homepage

      People who are weak can not tolerate many saunas and therefore avoid them. Healthy people don't have a problem with them and take more of them. Saunas didn't make them healthy, saunas just weeded out the unhealthy.

      You obviously have not been into public sauna in Finland if you claim that only healthy people go there..

    • by pepty ( 1976012 )

      The wrong conclusion was drawn from this observational study. Saunas are very stressful. People who are weak can not tolerate many saunas and therefore avoid them. Healthy people don't have a problem with them and take more of them.

      Meanwhile, in the actual article:

      After adjustment for CVD risk factors ...

    • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @05:29PM (#49159853)
      The study specifically controlled for risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @01:55PM (#49158985) Journal

    Big surprise: People that take time out of their day for things they enjoy and self-care live longer. Who knew?

    So, someone who has the time and financial resources to spend an hour in a sauna probably has a long list of factors that will contribute to longer life, none of which involve the life-giving effects of sitting in a hot box.

  • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:08PM (#49159047)
    Who is to say that it is not a result from breathing ice cold air or constantly shoveling snow or chopping firewood that cause a heath effect and not the sauna at all?
  • by wwphx ( 225607 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:17PM (#49159085) Homepage
    2,000 men: no women. Guess what -- women are alive and have cardiovascular health also. And a lot of women die because most heart studies don't study women and their symptoms of heart attack are different.
    • by Smauler ( 915644 )

      For fucks sake. Guess what, gender specific studies are sometimes done with women too. Restricting variables helps make studies more useful statistically.

      If you want to get angry about gender imbalance in medicine, try looking at breast cancer research vs prostate cancer research.

      • by wwphx ( 225607 )
        I know some studies are biased in the other direction, but cardio health is an important area with differences between genders. Talking about breast cancer, there is an army or marine base that has a tremendous breast cancer cluster -- among men. And guys in their 20s are contracting it and dying of it. And that's the opposite side of the sauna study -- men get breast cancer and should be studied, women have cardiovascular disease and should be studied. Too many people will see one-sided studies like th
  • Skewed Results (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Sunday March 01, 2015 @02:19PM (#49159089) Journal
    The problem with this type of studies is that is that you can never establish causality. Does X activity really extend ones lifespan on its own or is the type of person that engages in that activity simply into a healthier overall lifestyle. This particular study might even be skewed due to most doctors advising patients with chronic Cardiovascular Disease to avoid saunas. Cardiovascular Disease is the number one killer in the developed world and removing them from a population sample would tip average life expectancy higher.
    • Indeed, candidate selection has as much to do with outcomes as anything else when you select only 2000 people for your study. What is the mix or city dwellers, office workers, those having outdoor activities, daily walks or not, healthy diets & drugs or not? It can get iffy real quick.

      I can believe the researchers tried to get a mixed profile, but it would be good to read the participant selection survey results.

  • Just in: Training your circular system regularly with strong temperature fluctuations help you live longer vis-a-vis just sitting on your fat ass all day long and doing nothing. Film at 11. ... Seriously, this was news in the 70ies when the Sauna boom started but it's common sense today.

    Sidenote: I've picked up the habit of showering cold after each shower half a year ago. Does wonders to my wellbeing and my imune system. My colds and allergy issues are way down and my overall well-being has notably improve

  • Well, at least during the Summer. The temps in Alabama can easily reach 100, and can stay in the 90s for days at a time. Add the high humidity and the air feels like pea soup. You don't even have to move to sweat like a horse. Working outdoors means not a dry thread on you when you're finished.
  • I want to be one of those old Asians who do tai chi in the park at early hours. I see California Raisin old Chinese men buying condoms at drug stores. The closest thing I do as a Caucasian is make obscene gestures at the bus as it zips off before I reach my stop. Time for a lifestyle change.
  • I'm going to live forever!

    • S-OW-na? S-AW-na?

      The first one is closer to the original Finnish pronunciation (Finnish spelling is basically IPA), but we don't mind if you use the second one. There's no confusion with other words, especially if you otherwise speak English.

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