17 Jan What Are the Health Benefits of a Steam Shower?
From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Maya of Mesoamerica, humans have enjoyed steam bathing for thousands of years. In early civilizations it was both a social endeavor and a religious practice, a way to connect with others as well as connect to a higher power. Over time our reasons for steam bathing have evolved, but many of the benefits remain the same. Today, abundant research shows that steam bathing is as good for the body as our ancestors believed it was for the soul. In the following sections we’ll highlight some of the many health benefits of a steam shower.
Quick Tip: Make sure your steam shower is the correct temperature! For an optimal experience, keep the temperature set to 110–116°F.
As the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease kills more than 635,000 people each year. For this reason, protecting your cardiovascular health is of the utmost importance—and is easier done than you might think. As a 2012 study found, a simple steam shower can improve circulation (and therefore heart health) by boosting blood flow throughout the body. Another study showed that in some cases moist heat can also decrease blood pressure—a risk factor for developing heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. So do yourself a favor and treat your ticker to a steam shower!
Toxins are everywhere—in the air you breathe, the food you eat, even the medicine you take. While it’s possible to avoid some of these toxins, others are unavoidable. Luckily, a steam shower offers an enjoyable way to rid our bodies of toxins via perspiration (aka sweat). For example, a 2016 study concluded that induced perspiration—such as that which results from steam bathing—may be a viable way of eliminating certain pesticides from the body.
Another less tangible toxin to be aware of is stress. Whether it results from pressure at work, financial strain, or relationship issues, stress can wreak havoc on the body in the form of headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, sleep problems, and more. The good news? The Mayo Clinic specifically lists hydrotherapy—which includes steam bathing—as a relaxation technique that can help with stress management.
As your body’s largest organ, your skin plays an incredibly important role in your overall health. But it’s a tough world out there, and repeated exposure to things like ultraviolet radiation and environmental air pollutants can result in layers of filth and dead skin cells as well as dry, calloused, or damaged skin. A great step toward improving the health of your skin is to soften and remove some of those layers. According to Dr. Arash Akhavan, owner and founder of The Dermatology & Laser Group, steam both loosens dirt and other contaminants from the skin and causes you to sweat, which helps to flush out pores. “Freshly cleaned pores are better able to absorb skin creams with active ingredients such as retinol based-products or prescription creams from your dermatologist,” Akhavan says.
Quick Tip: In order to prevent dehydration, limit steam showers to a maximum of 20 minutes. Afterward, be sure to cool off gradually and drink plenty of water.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of American adults aren’t getting the quantity or quality of sleep they need each night. Being sleep deprived can result in a number of negative outcomes, from getting sick more often to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, says Dr. Eric J. Olson of the Mayo Clinic. However, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep, and steam bathing is one of them. Dr. Andrew Weil tells us that in addition to easing muscle stiffness, increasing energy, and decreasing stress, a steam bath can improve sleep. It can also assist the snorers among us by promoting decongestion. According to Dr. Michael J. Breus (aka The Sleep Doctor), “A steam bath can help to clear the nasal passages before bed (and help you relax in the process).”
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or an occasional gym goer, the practice of steam bathing can offer tremendous exercise-related benefits. According to certified strength and conditioning specialist Matt Weik, “The steam helps relax stiff joints and muscles after workouts and can help with the recovery process.” And exercise physiologist and author Tom Holland recommends using the steam shower “to decompress and unwind after a workout. Consider it a reward for a job well done.”
Want to learn more about steam showers? Check out more of our steam blogs for lots of interesting tips.