Following Finland

By Eric Schwartz

When we discuss Wellness as a concept in performance homes we mostly concentrate on the obvious; clean air, pure water, intelligent lighting, climate control and acoustics. If you scratch right below the surface, there is luxury audio, indoor/outdoor living, UV light blockage, and other strategies that deliver a healthier environment. I’d like to add yet another option that makes a great add-on to any home, with multiple varieties available at reasonable costs – a home sauna.

The luxury end of this market is led by Finland’s long tradition of sauna bathing, which has scientific data supporting the health benefits. Here are partial findings from a study by the Mayo Clinic:

Sauna bathing, an activity that has been a tradition in Finland for thousands of years and mainly used for the purposes of pleasure and relaxation, is becoming increasingly popular in many other populations. Emerging evidence suggests that beyond its use for pleasure, sauna bathing may be linked to several health benefits, which include reduction in the risk of vascular diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and neurocognitive diseases; nonvascular conditions such as pulmonary diseases; mortality; as well as amelioration of conditions such as arthritis, headache and flu. The beneficial effects of sauna bathing on these outcomes have been linked to its effect on circulatory, cardiovascular and immune functions. It has been postulated that regular sauna bathing may improve cardiovascular function via improved endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, modulation of the autonomic nervous system, beneficial changes in circulating lipid profiles, and lowering of systemic blood pressure.

Sauna bathing is a form of passive heat therapy that is characterized by exposure to high environmental temperature for a brief period. The typical Finnish sauna is characterized by dry air and relatively high temperature. Temperature and humidity can be temporarily increased by throwing water on the hot rocks of the sauna heater, which is the heating source with temperature settings from 80°C to 100°C in sauna. The sauna is usually made of log or wood with wooden benches well above the floor for bathers to sit on. The recommended temperature for a sauna bath is from 80°C to 100°C at the level of the bather’s head, but it is lower at the floor level, which ensures efficient ventilation and makes sure the conditions are comfortable for sauna bathers.

 The relative humidity of sauna usually varies from 10% to 20%. Typical sauna sessions consist of short stays in the sauna room, which is interspersed with cooling-off periods (swim, shower or a cooling-off period at room temperature). The duration of stay in the sauna room depends on the comfort and temperature of the sauna bather, but it usually ranges from 5 to 20 minutes, although longer sauna bathing sessions may be used depending on the individual.

Following Finland’s lead on the benefits of sauna bathing is yet another vehicle for creating healthier, more enjoyable environments in the place we call home.