Do you sweat more in a sauna or steam room? Have no doubt, you sweat more in a sauna than in a steam room. The intense dry heat of a sauna causes the body to sweat much more than it does in a steam room. Steam rooms operate at lower temperatures and their high levels of humidity suppress the sweating process.
SWEATING IN A DRY SAUNA
Saunas trigger a much more intense sweat than a steam room. The higher sweat levels are a result of two things – higher temperature and dry heat. Saunas run at much higher temperatures than steam rooms. A typical sauna has a temperature of 180 °F while a wet steam room operates at just 110 °F.
However, it’s not just the higher temperature of a sauna that triggers more sweat – it’s the low humidity level. Dry saunas are dry. They have very low levels of humidity. This means that when sweat droplets form on your skin they easily evaporate into the air. It is this process of evaporation that cools the body.
Sauna and steam rooms have a similar effect on the body. And, the relaxation and health benefits experienced in one will also be experienced in the other. Most people have a personal preference for one over the other. However, if you want to maximize your sweat session – head for the sauna.
SWEATING IN A STEAM ROOM
Sweating in a steam room is different. The high humidity found inside a steam room – usually 100% humidity – makes it very difficult for the sweat droplets to evaporate from your skin. The high level of moisture in the air blocks the evaporation process.
The air is at saturation point and just cannot absorb any more water. This means the sweat droplets that form on your skin either stay in place or drip and run off your body. All this adds up to having a dampening effect on your body’s ability to trigger a profuse sweat like it does in a dry sauna.
HOW MUCH DO YOU SWEAT IN A SAUNA?
How much water do you lose in a sauna? An average person loses one pint of water in sweat during a short sauna session. That’s equivalent to 568ml of fluid during a single sauna sweat session. And, if your sauna routine involves multiple stints inside the cabin you will be losing a lot more.
Your body experiences a range of profound effects when you spend time in the intense heat of a sauna. Cardiovascular activity is stimulated, you’ll experience a 30% jump in heart rate, and skin temperature shoots up to over 185° F. And, as your body temperature begins to rise, an intense sweat kicks in to try and keep you cool.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SWEAT
Why do we sweat and how does it cool you down? When your body temperature begins to rise your sweat glands kick into action to try and cool you down. Millions of glands all over your body begin to perspire and push water droplets onto the surface of your skin. As these droplets evaporate they have a cooling effect on the skin.
It is the process of evaporation that has a cooling effect. As the water molecules in sweat droplets change from liquid to gas they absorb heat. This draws heat away from the surface of your skin and has a cooling effect on your body. Sweat evaporation is key!
THE ROLE OF HUMIDITY
Humidity plays a big role in sweating and the levels of heat we feel. Simply put, high levels of humidity make us feel much warmer. This is because sweat droplets struggle to evaporate in conditions of high humidity – such as a steam room.
Although sweat beads form on your skin, they will struggle to evaporate due to the high level of moisture in the air. And, if the sweat droplets don’t evaporate – they have no cooling effect.
This is exactly what happens in a steam room. The high humidity levels of a steam room dampen your body’s ability to cool itself. The body begins to perspire as its temperature rises but the sweat formed has very little cooling effect.
SWEATING AND WEIGHT LOSS
When you sweat in a sauna you lose fluids. As mentioned above – the average person loses one pint of water in sweat during a short sauna session of 10-15 minutes. This loss of fluids results in weight loss. Saunas cause intense sweat and this results in weight loss.
TEMPORARY WEIGHT LOSS
However, sauna weight loss is temporary. It is entirely due to a loss of body fluids and not as a result of exercise and burning of calories. The water lost through sweat must be replaced as soon as possible or you will become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when the fluids lost are not replenished and can lead to serious illness.
BOXERS USE SAUNA TO CUT WEIGHT
Saunas are regularly used by boxers to cut weight in the lead up to weigh-in for a fight. When they need to sweat and reduce water weight rapidly – they turn to a dry sauna, not a steam room. Fighters can shed pounds to make weight the day before the fight. But it is an extreme process that places duress on the body and can be dangerous. All this water must be replaced and that process starts immediately after the weigh-in.
Staying properly hydrated is critically important. When you use a sauna you must take care to stay safely hydrated. This is the most important safety consideration when using a sauna. All water lost through sweat must be replaced as soon as possible to avoid the effects of dehydration.
In fact, you should begin hydrating before you enter the sauna, sip water while inside, and continue to replace fluids when you exit the sauna.
WHAT IS DEHYDRATION?
Dehydration is a condition that kicks in when your body loses more water than it takes in. When this happens it disturbs the natural balance of minerals in the body. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, tiredness, and feeling lightheaded.
Babies, young children, the elderly, and people with long-term health conditions are more at risk from dehydration. For more information on staying hydrated see How Much Water Should You Drink in a Sauna?
SHOULD YOU SAUNA BEFORE OR AFTER A WORKOUT?
Do you enjoy spending time in a sauna as part of your workout routine? Many gyms and spas offer saunas alongside their regular exercise equipment. And, many people enjoy working up a sweat either before or after they complete their workout.
But, which is better? Should you use a sauna before or after your workout routine? For best results, you should jump in the sauna after your workout. The intense heat of a sauna should be used post-exercise.
A post-workout sauna works wonders for easing tired tense muscles, boosting recovery, and relaxing your body. For more, check out Should You Sauna Before or After a Workout?