A steam bath conjures up images of dimly lit mosaic tiles and cold water hoses. And if you’ve been to the right place, maybe even a large fistful of mud-like substance plastered over your sweating body by a sturdy man or woman with arms strong enough to flip you over and around like a rag doll. Well, that won’t be your everyday experience in a London gym steam bath. But even so, you can still take advantage of a unique set of health benefits.
Dry heat v wet heat
In contrast to saunas which provide dry heat, the warmth in a steam room is wet. No surprise there. Both will open up your pores, loosen up your muscles and help you to escape the world for a little while. But it’s the humidity of the steam room that sets it apart.
Steam baths are good for your skin
Life exposes us to all sorts of nasty little toxins that get trapped beneath the skin. Steam rooms come to the rescue by opening up the pores, increasing blood and lymphatic circulation, and rinsing away dirt and dead cells. The result is clearer, softer and more even-toned skin enhanced by a healthy pink glow that makes people stop and say how good you look for your age. Well, that’s the theory anyway. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Steam baths improve circulation
Regular visits to a steam room can also have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health. One study of older users showed the moist heat improve circulation, especially in the body’s extremities. And the benefits of better circulation include a healthier heart, the faster healing of broken skin tissue, and even lower blood pressure – the latter because steam can promote the release of a hormone called aldosterone. Aldosterone not only regulates your blood pressure, but is also one of the reasons a steam bath feels so relaxing.
Steam baths reduce stress
Anyone who’s enjoyed the heated vapours of a high quality steam room will wax lyrical about the wonderful warm feeling of relaxation that spreads through the entire body. Your mind switches to standby. Your cares just melt away. But there’s more to it than just the heat. So here’s biology lesson number 2. A steam room can decrease the amount of cortisol your body produces – and that, of course, is the hormone that regulates the level of stress you feel. When your cortisol levels drop, you feel more in control and more relaxed. And that’s good for your mind, good for your body and good for your focus too.
Steam baths help you recover faster from your workout
Professional athletes have always known that heat therapy can play a big part in post-training recovery. Heat penetrates deep into the muscle tissue, helping to relieve delayed onset muscle soreness. And guess what? A recent study showed that the moist heat of a steam bath works just as effectively – and also more quickly – than dry heat.
Steam baths boost the immune system
Exposing your body to warm water stimulates the production of leukocytes, the cells that fight off infections. OK, so there’s no actual proof that a steam bath can kill an oncoming cold or flu. But regular use will give your bloodstream an immunity boost that could reduce the number of times you fall ill.
A few tips for beginners
As with a sauna, you’ll want to wear flip-flops, sit on a towel, and rinse off with a lukewarm shower before and after. Bear in mind that sweat is just water, so sitting in a steam room for too long can dehydrate your skin. 15 minutes at the most is enough. Once your out make sure you drink plenty of water to replace the fluids you’ll have lost. And if you start to feel dizzy or unwell, leave and sit down in the cool for a few minutes.
Take the sweat out of finding a quality steam bath with E²
Did you know that E² lets you search gyms by the kind of facilities you’re looking for? So if you fancy a steam bath on demand, just click Gyms, tap the Filters icon top left, select Steam bath and then hit Apply.
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