Saunas v. Steam Rooms

9 Jun

I belong to L.A. Fitness and each club location has either a sauna or a steam room. Because I go to whichever gym I’m closest to when I have time for a workout, I’ve been able to sample both and found that I love the sauna and hate the steam room. Here’s why:

The sauna is ‘dry’ heat. Granted, it took a few trips into one to get used to breathing such hot air (the trick for me is mouth-breathing – not cute, but it works) but it’s not much different than walking out of a Vegas casino in the middle of August :). I sat in there for about 10 minutes after a long run and I was drenched in sweat when I walked out. The hot air makes it a great place to do some slow stretching after your work out, because your muscles are already loose and the hot air helps you to relax.

A few benefits I’ve read about using saunas include increased performance in endurance sports, increased metabolism (due to increased heart rate from pumping more blood to your skin to help you cool down), and it aids in ridding the body of toxins and heavy metals. There are risks for using a sauna for people with certain health conditions or if you stay in too long, but the overall consensus I’ve noticed is that if you’re in decent health, clean and sober, and use the sauna properly (i.e. for no more than 15 minutes at a time) the benefits outweigh the risks.

Alternately, the steam room is ‘wet’ (?) heat – it’s freakin’ humid! It’s like walking into a bathroom after someone took a really hot shower – REALLY hot shower. All the moisture gathers on the ceiling, so you run the risk of getting dripped on – which was an unexpected surprise. Then, the room periodically refills itself with steam and the rush of steam into the room startled me, LOL. While it’s refilling itself, it’s incredibly hard to breathe and actually forced me to leave.

I was only able to stay in the steam room for maybe 5 minutes before I was too uncomfortable to stay. Because of this, I didn’t sweat nearly as much and most of the moisture on me when I stepped out was steam – much less satisfying than when you step out of a sauna.

I read that the steam room is generally preferred by people with sinus issues (which I do have) because of the humidity, but I’d still take dry heat over humidity any day.

If you have access to either, I recommend trying them to see which you prefer. It’s a great way to end a workout and you’ll feel refreshed afterwards.


One Response to “Saunas v. Steam Rooms”

  1. Ann Odle June 14, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Saunas are pretty much like South Texas or Florida, except there’s the occasional hurricane down there.

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