PUBLISHED: 18:00, 1 August 2018 | UPDATED: 20:09, 1 August 2018
It’s considered by many to be the best way of relaxing, after a long stressful week at work.
But a new scientific report has today suggested bathing in a sauna may be much more than just a way of unwinding.
Scientists now believe just five minutes in the high temperatures is as good for the body as physical exercise, such as a brisk walk.
A review of literature shows regularly spending time in a sauna can reduce the risk of heart disease, lung disease and an early death.
While basking in the hot temperatures may also combat mental health issues, skin diseases, arthritis, headaches and the flu.
Scientists now believe just five minutes in the high temperatures is as good for the body as physical exercise, such as a brisk walk
Researchers reviewed 70 studies on the health outcomes of Finnish sauna baths to establish the long-list of health benefits.
Finnish sauna bathing is characterised by brief exposure to 80째C (176째F) to 100째C (212째F), normally for up to 20 minutes.
Scientists at the universities of Bristol, Jyv채skyl채 and Eastern Finland conducted the review, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
They found the benefits of sauna bathing, widely documented in recent years, stem from its effects on the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system controls several bodily functions, including breathing, heartbeat and digestive processes.
Studies have also suggested saunas can reduce blood pressure, bad cholesterol and arterial stiffness – three causes of heart disease.
The high temperatures of saunas can also cut inflammation and oxidative stress, two well-known factors of chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Feelings of relaxation may promote good mental health by increasing the production of feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
Regular sauna baths are also associated with a better health-related quality of life, according to study author Dr Jari Laukkanen.
He said: ‘Sauna bathing, an activity used for the purposes of pleasure, wellness, and relaxation, is linked to a remarkable array of health benefits.
‘It is a safe activity and can even be used in people with stable CVD, provided it is used sensibly for an appropriate period of time.
‘Sauna bathing may be a remedy to the call for additional lifestyle interventions needed to enhance health and wellness.’
Dr Laukkanen added that the physiological response produced by saunas is similar to that of ‘moderate or high-intensity’ activities.