When I semi-retired seven months ago, I resolved to get in better shape and go to the gym at least five days a week. Part of the gym routine– actually the best part–was the sauna.
Well, here I am seven months later, not in noticeably better shape (maybe the over-consumption of food and drink has something to do with that) but I’m still maintaining my gym-and-sauna routine. What I’ve noticed over the last few months, though, is that I’m spending progressively less time on the treadmills, climbers and stationary bikes, and more time in the sauna.
Ten minutes turned into fifteen, which then turned into twenty and now, who knows? Sitting and sweating don’t take a helluva lot of effort. Before too long, I may be bringing a cup of coffee and the New York Times in there to while away the afternoon.
Which got me to wondering: Am I truly deriving any benefit from the sauna other than it’s easy and it makes me feel pretty good?
Maybe, after all, it’s just a Finnish fairy tale, an excuse to take your clothes off and watch droplets of perspiration pour off your flesh while you sit there in silence or mumble something to your neighbor about the weather or the Packers.
So I decided to read up on some of the so-called benefits and here’s what I found.
Weight loss? As mentioned, it doesn’t seem to apply to me even though I’ve been regularly increasing my sauna “workouts.”
Ridding yourself of toxins? Okay, whatever that means. Fine, yeah, I sweat a lot in a sauna.
Reducing stress? I don’t know. Maybe. When I leave the sauna, I’m worn out so I guess I don’t feel stressed out. But then again, I could lie on a couch with a vat of popcorn on my belly, while watching American Idol, and feel my stress levels go down.
Increasing my energy level? Uh, no. See above.
Relaxing my muscles? Well, sure, I’m relaxed after a session in a sauna. I feel like a wet noodle. I’ll grant you that benefit. Big deal.
Bolstering the immune system? Again, this sounds to me like some pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. Has a fully qualified doctor ever checked a Finn’s immune system before and after a sauna and found a quantitative difference? I doubt it.
But in the fine print under the claim of “Bolstering the Immune System”, this website explained that saunas would reduce infections and lead to fewer illnesses. Oh sure! Whatever. It’s easy to make those ridiculous claims, just about impossible to prove.
And then I thought about myself. Hmmm. No colds this winter, no flu, no illnesses, no nothing. No back pain, no headaches. Hmmm.
Strictly anecdotal stuff, of course, but it makes you wonder if there is something to this Finnish fairy tale, after all.
Makes me wonder if maybe I should subtract another five minutes from my time on the treadmill and, instead, devote it to my sauna “workout.”