The steam room is not a modern invention; well, actually the room itself is but the idea behind it has been used for a very long time. Native Americans used and still use sweat lodges as a means of purification, prayer and healing. Because of poor choices and lack of education, there have been some deaths due to sweat lodges – steam rooms pose similar threats so always let common sense prevail when using one.
The Benefits of Steam Rooms
There are various benefits associated with steam rooms. The first on many people’s list is the idea of sweating out toxins in your body. However, this has yet to be backed up by science. Your sweat is made up of water and trace amounts of minerals, not toxins. The toxins in your body are efficiently dealt with by the organs designed for that type of work such as your kidneys, liver and GI tract. Sweating is the body’s primary means of temperature regulation, so try not to get too caught up in the hype.
Surrounding yourself with hot steam, however, is great for your skin – it opens your pores and gives your skin a more plump appearance.
Steam rooms can also improve blood flow and circulation as well as relax stiff joints and muscles, possibly leading to improved recovery after that killer squat session. Your stress levels may also plummet after spending some time in that steamy wonderland. Steam rooms are proving to be beneficial to the old ticker as well – one study found that frequent visits were associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
We’ve all seen or heard of wrestlers, boxers or other fighters who spend ridiculous amounts of time in a steam room, often wrapped in plastic garbage bags and sometimes even riding a stationary bike, in hopes of cutting those last few pounds to make weight.
So, yes, steam rooms can help you to lose weight. What you don’t see is that after the athlete has made weight he or she starts chugging fluid like no tomorrow, using an IV in extreme cases, in order to restore hydration levels.
You see, if you spend enough time in a steam room, you will sweat enough to lose weight. However, every ounce of that weight is water. As soon as you drink anything, you’ll gain that weight right back. So, while you have the potential to lose weight with a steam room, it is a dangerous, inefficient and temporary fix. Let’s not overlook the fact that researchers have found that exposure to colder temperatures increases amounts of brown fat, which causes a corresponding increase in metabolism.
Take the more intelligent road, choosing a healthy diet and active lifestyle and leaving the steam room as a means for relaxation.
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
If building muscle is on your to-do list, don’t plan on spending a lot of time in the steam room. Muscle is built with stress and overload, not with relaxing in a super-hot and moist room. Hit the steam room after you put in the work at the weight room.
Classes: What to expect; should I take them?
As far as I know, there are no classes for using a steam room. However, if you’re using the steam room at your gym or local spa, there is no shame in asking for instruction prior to use. An attendant can direct you and give you basic instructions for using the steam room along with the list of rules you need to adhere by for your own safety and sanitation purposes.
Instructional Steam Room Videos and Training Tips
Although you should always get instruction from a facility attendant prior to using a steam room, here are a few more useful resources before your trip to sweat city.
–Preheat the steam room so you can get straight to business.
–Shower prior to entering the steam room to remove any dirt or oil that may be on your skin.
-For best results, use the steam room in your birthday suit, covered with a towel or simply wear a bathing suit.
–Avoid using a steam room for longer than 15 minutes. This will keep you from overheating or losing too much water through sweat.
-Whether you wrap yourself in a towel or not, please make sure to sit on one. The porous wooden surfaces in a steam room are a breeding ground for germs. Also make sure to wear your flip-flops to prevent unwanted fungal infections.
–Hydration is super important. Drink before your session, take a water bottle in with you to continue to drink, and, finally, fully rehydrate after you’re done. You sweat a lot in a steam room; the last thing you want to do is to suffer from dehydration.
-Upon completion of your steam room session, shower again to remove sweat and the yucky stuff your sweat brought with it.
Clothes and Proper Attire
As mentioned above, steam rooms are reserved for minimal clothing. If you’re comfortable in your own skin, you can relax in the nude. A towel and/or bathing suit are also acceptable options. Just remember the sweat will be plentiful so the more clothes you have on, the more sopping wet clothes you’ll have to deal with later.
And don’t forget to protect your feet with shower shoes or flip-flops.