The impact of COVID19 has led many people to reassess their homes. In particular, there’s been a massive demand for home offices, home gyms, and home sauna. Sometimes these are backups to shared/public facilities. Sometimes they are alternatives to them. Either way, they are valuable additions to your home.
Setting up a home wellness center
A home wellness center combines the key elements of a gym and a spa. What this means in practice is down to you. As a rule of thumb, for a gym, you want to be able to train cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance.
You can do all of these without equipment. It is, however, often preferable to have some equipment to give you more options. Basic pieces like jump ropes, resistance bands, and balance boards are compact, affordable, and versatile.
For a spa, you want one or more of massage, heat, and steam. Ideally, you’d have all three and this can be surprisingly achievable. For example, you could have a hydrotherapy shower with a steam generator plus an infrared indoor sauna. Alternatively, you could have a hydrotherapy shower with an outdoor wet sauna i.e. a sauna that uses both heat and steam.
If you only have room and/or budget for one piece of spa equipment it should generally be a sauna. This is because saunas deliver the benefits people generally need the most.
Benefits of saunas
Saunas have multiple benefits. For most people, however, the four main benefits are:
- Relief from stress
- Relief from muscle and joint pain
- Improved skin and hair condition
- Weight management
Relief from stress
Heat encourages both the body and the mind to slow down and relax. Being in a sauna cabin forces you to disconnect because electronic gadgets just don’t work in them. If, however, you don’t have space for a sauna cabin and are using a tent or mat, just make it a rule to switch off your gadgets before you start your treatment.
You don’t have to take your sauna alone. Public saunas are often very sociable places. Private saunas can be wonderful as places for parents to get some time to themselves. You can also opt to share them with children (or other family members or friends) if you wish.
Relief from muscle and joint pain
Heat stimulates blood flow. That gets oxygen and nutrients where they are needed and speeds up the removal of toxins. It also encourages sweat. This helps remove even more toxins. Saunas can do a lot more than just relieve minor aches and pains. They can help speed up recovery from injury and relieve the pain of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Improved skin and hair condition
Stimulating blood flow and sweat also benefits your skin and hair. If you have a wet sauna, with steam, the benefits are even greater. This is because steam can literally get into your body to cleanse it from the inside. This will probably be most noticeable in your lungs. That’s why steam is great for respiratory conditions. It will, however, apply everywhere.
If you’re concerned about heat drying out your skin, then you can rest easy. First of all, any water lost can be replaced. In fact, it’s recommended to drink water after a sauna. Secondly, saunas open up the pores on your skin and encourage your hair to relax. This means that both your skin and hair become very receptive to products, including moisturizing ones.
The reason why saunas increase blood flow is that they make your heart beat faster. In other words, they have the same effect as gentle exercise. Just like exercise, saunas increase your metabolic rate. This is essentially the rate at which your body burns calories. Just as with exercise, your metabolic rate comes down slowly. In other words, the benefits of a sauna last beyond the duration of the sauna.
Bonus - lung health
This has never really been one of the headline benefits of saunas. Post-COVID19, however, it seems worth a mention. Increasing your heart rate increases your need for oxygen. This gives your lungs a workout and therefore helps to keep them in good condition. If you add steam as well, they also get a deep-down clean.
If you don’t have space for an outdoor, wet, sauna, or just don’t like steam, you could try using an indoor sauna tent or mat plus a facial steamer. Facial steamers are nowhere near as powerful (and hence effective) as either the steam in saunas or proper steam showers/steam rooms. They can, however, be much easier to fit into small homes and some people may find them easier to tolerate.
How often should you sauna?
You should aim to sauna at least once a week. You can use a sauna every day if you like. In fact, it can be a great way to transition from “work” to “off-duty”. If, however, that’s too much, then three or four times a week is often a good aim.
With saunas, as with exercise, you want to build up a consistent routine so the benefits accumulate. In fact, just like with exercise, you’ll soon start to get used to going to the sauna and really feel the difference if you don’t.
What to do before and after a sauna?
Before a sauna, you should make sure that your body is clear of chemicals, like caffeine and especially alcohol. Remember, the sauna will stimulate your body. This means that the effects of chemicals can make themselves felt much more quickly and powerfully and usually. Basically, think of having a sauna after drinking as being like drinking when you’re hungry.
Have a large glass of water and a light snack if you wish. Don’t eat a heavy meal. Remove any jewelry and have a quick shower. This will get any surface dust off your body.
When you’re finished, have another shower to remove any remaining sweat. If you want to use skin care products, it’s best to have a warm shower to encourage your pores to stay open. If not, you could choose to have a cold shower to stimulate the body.
Then have another glass of water and, again, a light snack if you wish. A banana and some yogurt, or vegan yogurt, is an excellent option.