The Science Behind Saunas and Our Favourites in the City

— BY News | Reading Time: 2 min

Sauna accessories in wooden bucket resting in one of the saunas in Calgary

Though saunas in Calgary might seem like just another method to unwind and relax after a rough week, science is telling us otherwise. All evidence is pointing to a link between regular sauna baths and a better health-related quality of life. New research discovered that routine sauna bathing can not only reduce your risk of vascular diseases, like high blood pressure, but also alleviate common conditions such as headaches and arthritis. 

Today, we’re diving into everything you need to know about the science behind saunas as well as revealing our favourite saunas in Calgary and the surrounding area. Together, we can soothe the body and mind while also reaping dozens of health benefits. 

The Science Behind Saunas: What Are They and What Do They Do?

Let’s begin with the basics: what is a sauna, anyway? A sauna is a small room that is heated to temperatures between 65°C to 90°C — significantly warmer than the weather here in Calgary! Sauna rooms are often luxe but plain, featuring unpainted, wood interior and large benches to sit. In some saunas, water is poured onto large stones that absorb and radiate heat to fill the room with steam. Other saunas are heated with special infrared lamps that emit light waves. 

The science behind saunas is their high heat. A sauna can cause your skin temperature to rise to nearly 40° Celsius, meaning heavy sweating will occur. And by heavy sweating, we do mean heavy… it’s not uncommon to lose almost a pint of sweat while spending time at a sauna! Along with sweat, your body rids itself of toxins and impurities through your pores. 

Saunas create an invigorating sensation. They have a relaxing effect on your blood vessels, the main components of your circulatory system that carry blood throughout your body. Blood vessels transport oxygen, nutrients, and blood cells to your tissues as well as remove waste and carbon dioxide. Saunas cause blood vessels to relax and dilate, or get bigger, causing an increase in blood flow that can help alleviate tension in the joints and relieve sore muscles.

Why Are Saunas Effective?

Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Eastern Finland, and the University of Bristol analyzed the effects of Finnish sauna baths on overall health. Findings from the study suggest that routine sauna bathing produces a physiological response similar to that of moderate- or high-intensity physical activity, such as walking. Throughout a sauna session, your heart rate may increase from its baseline up to 120 to 150 beats per minute, all while sitting perfectly still. 

Two young girlfriends sitting and talking together while relaxing in the sauna
Sit and chat—the sauna does the hard work for you!

Since you’re not moving as you would during physical activity, the limited function of your muscles means that a part of your blood volume is directed to peripheral body parts to help reduce tension and detoxify the area. The result? Several health benefits linked to your circulatory, respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune systems, including: 

  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Alleviate oxidative stress
  • Reduce chronic inflammation
  • Stabilize the autonomic nervous system
  • Reduce the circulation of bad cholesterol
  • Decrease arterial stiffness and vascular resistance

Even more, routine sauna bathing can contribute to beneficial levels of certain hormones and various cardiovascular markers. Much like when you exercise, a sauna session increases the production of endorphins, the hormone that promotes feelings of relaxation and a pleasant mood. In other words, a 10-minute bath in the sauna can cause the same feelings of happiness as a great workout, but without the after-exercise soreness. 

Who Should Visit a Sauna in Calgary? 

As saunas are effective at improving inflammation and reducing tension, they’re excellent remedies for those with arthritis or chronic pain. Likewise, saunas are a fantastic option for those with more sedentary lifestyles, as the high heat provides cardiovascular benefits similar to those derived from exercise. But those who can especially benefit from the detoxifying properties of a sauna are individuals with Lyme disease.

Lyme disease often kicks the kidneys and liver into overdrive, forcing the body to filter and eliminate toxins from the blood. A sauna can give the kidneys and liver a break by eliminating Lyme neurotoxins and environmental toxins through the skin instead. With sauna bathing, individuals with Lyme can reduce the number of toxins the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tracts have to filter while alleviating Lyme disease complications

Saunas penetrate deep into the tissue to eliminate hard-to-reach toxins. Plus, saunas can increase blood circulation and lymphatic flow, which can help those with Lyme uptake nutrients. Not to mention, they can also reduce the inflammation that can lead to chronic pain in so many Lyme patients. While saunas are safe for the majority of adults, especially those with Lyme, individuals who are pregnant should consult with their doctor before sauna bathing.

Our Favourite Membership-Free Saunas in Calgary

Has all this talk about saunas made you curious to try one of the saunas in Calgary? Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine has you covered with our favourite member-ship free locations in the city and surrounding area. 

1. Cedar & Steam

The remedy bar at Cedar and Steam sauna in Calgary
Guests love the Remedy Bar at Cedar & Steam! Source

A personal favourite among the Neurvana staff, Cedar & Steam is an award-winning boutique spa focus in massage, steam, and saunas in Calgary. Recipients of the 2020 Travel & Hospitality Award for Alberta’s Best Boutique Spa, attendees can expect nothing but the best from Cedar & Steam. The atmosphere is unrivaled and also offers a choice of aromatherapy and flights of cold kombucha served on tap at their Remedy bar. 

Cedar & Steam features a unisex cedar sauna, infrared sauna, Himalayan salt sauna, and steam room. You can opt for a month-to-month membership or try a single drop-in pass for $28. Find them at #102, 12445 Lake Fraser Drive SE, Calgary!

2. Silver Birch Sauna

The inside of Silver Birch Sauna
You’ll fall in love with the soothing atmosphere of Silver Birch. Source

Silver Birch Sauna is another fantastic option for anyone looking to relax and detoxify. Their welcoming atmosphere offers a Russian-spin on saunas, featuring a Russian steam room, Venik steam room, infrared sauna, and massage chairs. They also offer ice-cold showers for those brave enough to repeat the Russian tradition of diving into the frost after a steam. 

Though Silver Birch doesn’t offer memberships, it does feature a $30 per person price per adult. They’re open seven days a week and accept groups of two to 14. Find them at 103, 950 Queensland Dr. SE, Calgary!

3. The Cave Sauna Day Spa

The Cave Sauna in Calgary
Hide away for a day at the Cave Sauna Day Spa in Cochrane. Source

Though not directly one of the saunas in Calgary, The Cave Sauna Day Spa is located slightly outside of the city in Cochrane, a short drive for those who may be tired of the constant hustle and bustle of the city. The team at The Cave boasts a spiritual and holistic proactive healthcare approach, and they certainly deliver. Their facility features a Finnish Sauna, infrared Sauna, eucalyptus steam room, salt inhalation room, herbal inhalation room, tepidarium, and more. 

Each sauna features a unique climate that varies in both temperature and humidity, so visitors can have their pick of what they prefer. Prices for individual visitors are more expensive, but if you’d like to treat yourself to a relaxing few hours and an unforgettable spa experience, The Cave is the place to go. Find them at 316, 3rd Street W, Cochrane! 

Looking for more natural remedies in Calgary?

Discover the naturopathic and holistic services offered at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine in Calgary and book your consult today.