Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland carried out a study, (Sauna bathing is inversely associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men; Tanjaniina Laukkanen, et al) the first of its kind, on the links between dementia and sauna therapy. They found that the frequent exposure to heat from a sauna may just reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The researchers spent time assessing the sauna habits of participants and then divided them into three groups. Group A spent 15 minutes in the sauna between four and seven types a week, while Group B only visited between two and three times, and Group C only went once a week.
Group A participants were less likely to develop dementia. For example, those in Group A were 66% less likely to develop any type of dementia, and 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, when compared to Group C.
This research included over 2,000 healthy male participants, aged between 42 and 60, and took place over two decades. The study was completed in conjunction with Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease and the analysis was adjusted for alcohol consumption, smoking status, as well as systolic blood pressure, age, and BMI. Other factors that were taken into consideration included LDL cholesterol, previous heart issues, diabetes, and resting heart rate.
KIHD research discovered that Group A were far less likely to suffer from stroke or cardiovascular disease. This was based on the participants spending at least 15 minutes in a Finnish style sauna. There should be no surprise that the study hails from Finland, since the word sauna is Finnish.
Saunas have long been an essential part of the national identity and culture of Finland. Finland has a population of over 5 million people, yet the country brags over 3 million saunas. It’s typical of their culture to use the sauna year-round, and it’s a common activity for Finnish residents of all ages.
The Neuroprotective Benefits of Sauna Use.
The research was led by Professor Jari Laukkanen, and the professor discovered that the frequent exposure to the heat of a sauna could protect the memory just as effectively as it does the heart. We know that cardiovascular health has an impact on the health of the brain.
There have been countless studies on how moderate physical activity can provide neuroprotective benefits. Those studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve mood, as well as reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and optimize cognitive abilities.
Aerobic exercise causes you to break a sweat, thus triggering neurogenesis. This optimizes the function of the brain region from youth through to old age.
The Finnish study, though, is a game changer. It can provide people with motivation to exercise and follow up with time in the sauna, or commit to spending regular time in the sauna for some of the same benefits.
This is especially helpful for those who may have limited mobility. If you have difficulty motivating yourself to exercise, then the sauna could be the perfect alternative.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization indicates that just a third of Finnish women, and half of Finnish men achieve the minimum exercise requirement, rather they spend their time in the sauna.
Researchers found that saunas offer the same level of cardiovascular conditions as moderate exercise because the high temperatures increase the heart rate to the same levels.
The Perfect Complement To Your Workout.
While you should by no means use the sauna as a replacement for exercise, it does have wide reaching benefits. It can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, benefiting blood vessels, and reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease. If you have a gym membership, then it’s time you started taking advantage of that sauna.