W hen it comes to speeding up the recovery process after a challenging workout, a good and very common way of doing so is by reaping the benefits of hyperthermic conditioning, which can be done by spending a couple of minutes in a hot environment, such as a sauna or a steam room. While many believe that the steam is the only difference, we’ll go into detail with everything you need to know when choosing the right room for you.
And if going to either isn’t an option for you, a portable sauna for at-home use can be an alternative that brings many of the same benefits, while also allowing you to enjoy a guaranteed alone time if crowded spaces are not your thing. But, for the moment, let’s focus on the topic you came here for and learn what there is to know about saunas and steam rooms.
To cut things a bit shorter, you shouldn’t expect too many differences between the two, but know that the few existing ones can make or break your initial thoughts.
You’ll find saunas are typically made wooden panels and there are good reasons for that. The type of wood used is heat resistant to withstand the higher degree range, it acts as a good insulator to keep the heat inside and prevent losses while still being safe to the touch, and it doesn’t suffer from splinting, changes in shape, or cracks.
On the other hand, steam rooms are made from non-porous materials, such as acrylic or certain tiles. The reason for this is to prevent the walls from absorbing the steam and have the mechanism do extra work to maintain the level of humidity. And, like wood, these materials act as insulators.
The actual process that enables heat dispersion differs as well. That, coupled with the level of humidity, are the second and last difference we’ll address.
When it comes to saunas, you will experience what’s called “dry heat”, because the temperature comes from either heated rocks or a certain type of stove. The humidity around you will be in the 10 to 12% range and that is slightly influenced when in rooms heated by rocks because you can splash water over them to create a small amount of steam. Ultimately, the lack of humidity is what allows the heat to get to high levels, between 158 and 212° Fahrenheit (70 and 100° Celsius), which can cause your skin to heat up to a high of 104 degrees (40 Celsius).
With steam rooms, a generator is what provides the room with plenty of steam, as it is filled with boiling water. This “wet heat” brings the humidity to 100%, which makes the room feel way hotter, even though the degree range is lower, from 110 to 120° Fahrenheit (42 to 50° Celsius).
The benefits of using one or the other are largely the same, with very few exceptions, therefore we can display the majority of them in bulk. Without further ado, here are the pros of taking hot breaks:
With the risks, we have the same situation of sharing the majority. The cons that can turn your relaxation moment into an unpleasant experience are:
To avoid an otherwise abrupt ending to our article, we will leave you with a short, general description of how to use these rooms and the cases in which you should avoid them altogether.
Both rooms can be used in short sessions, between 5 to a maximum of 20 minutes and you can practice cool-offs once you’re done. Cooling-off can be done in 3 ways:
It is recommended that you steer clear of hot rooms if you have: blood pressure that’s lower than normal; problems with your coronary artery; a history of strokes, TIAs, or irregular BPM; kidney issues, as dehydration is an immediate danger; and if you are pregnant, as use can cause abnormalities (especially during the first weeks) regardless of your baby’s developmental stage.