Sauna or Steam Room? Here are the Pros and Cons of Each

Saunas and steam rooms are both highly regarded for their supposed benefits, but for all their similarities, their distinctions can be just as important. What’s the difference between them, and how can each affect our health? Of course, personal preference plays a role. But since they do affect our health, it can be useful to choose based on what is needed at the time.

Saunas and steam rooms both may help relieve stress and pain, improve heart health and reduce allergy symptoms. People with low heat tolerance or rheumatic conditions might fare better in a dry sauna, while asthma and eczema sufferers are likely to respond better to the moist heat of a steam room. Get the details on their benefits in the article below.


The Finnish “dry” sauna has been around for thousands of years, used traditionally for relaxation. Saunas utilize dry heat, with humidity levels that range between 10% and 20% and temperatures that can rise above 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure is meant to be limited, with most people staying in 5 to no more than 20 minutes.

Sauna bathing is believed to offer numerous health benefits. The high heat raises core body temperature, increases heart rate and causes metabolic changes that can affect inflammation levels, insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular wellness. It might also improve the effects of a good workout.

Some evidence suggests that regular sauna use can ease depression, reduce chronic pain and ease symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis. It may also improve blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol levels. Saunas are generally safe for most people, although individuals with heart conditions or other serious health issues should check with a doctor before beginning any type of heat therapy.

Steam Rooms

The Turkish steam bath has been mentioned in writing as old as 1000 years B.C.E. and is a spiritual tradition as much as it is a social and therapeutic device. Traditionally, steam baths have been used to treat back pain and sciatica, stomach issues, obesity and certain skin conditions.

Health benefits appear similar to those reported for saunas, especially those related to pain relief, relaxation, heart health and lung health. Steam room use may also help relieve some allergy symptoms and improve skin health. Like dry saunas, the negative health effects aren’t noteworthy, but people who suffer from serious health conditions should discuss use with a doctor before starting.

Which is Better?

The choice between the sauna and steam room comes down to individual needs. Sauna Samurai recommends taking your heat tolerance into account, with steam baths feeling much hotter due to the higher humidity levels. The dry heat might also be preferable if you have an arthritic condition that could worsen in high humidity.

People with lung conditions may do better with moist heat. Sauna Talk suggests steam baths over dry saunas to clear sinuses and relieve asthma. Moist heat may also be beneficial for sufferers of eczema and other skin conditions, which low-humidity heat might exacerbate. Be aware that steam rooms can be harder to maintain and can quickly harbor mold if they aren’t cleaned often enough so if looking for a home model, take that into account.

Saunas and steam rooms are both great for relaxing and calming the body, and both have some amazing potential health benefits. Sit back, relax and enjoy the healing heat — but listen to body sensations to avoid overheating and don’t forget to stay hydrated.

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10/31/2019 7:00:00 AM
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