A steamy hot sauna really is good for your heart, a study has revealed.
Just half an hour is enough to reduce blood pressure while increasing the heart rate similarly to medium-intensity exercise.
Previously scientists from the University of Eastern Finland found saunas reduced the risk of coronary diseases and sudden cardiac death, hypertension and Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Regular saunas also reduced the risk of respiratory diseases and inflammation of the body.
Professor of cardiology Jari Laukkanen said: "Emerging evidence suggests beneficial effects of sauna bathing on the cardiovascular system.
"However, the effects of sauna bathing on parameters of cardiovascular function and blood-based biomarkers are uncertain.
"We aimed to investigate whether sauna bathing induces changes in arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), and several blood-based biomarkers."
Heart heatThe study involved 100 volunteers with a mean age of 51.9 years who had at least one cardiovascular risk factor.
They had a single sauna session lasting 30 minutes at a temperature of 73℃ and humidity of 10 to 20 per cent.
Vascular compliance was measured from the carotid and femoral artery before sauna, immediately after sauna, and after 30 minutes of recovery.
These included measuring pulse wave velocity, augmentation index, heart rate, blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, pulse pressure, augmented pressure and left ventricular ejection time.
The study found a sauna session led to reductions in pulse wave velocity, blood pressure, mean arterial pressure and left ventricular ejection time
Immediately after the session, the volunteers mean systolic blood pressure reduced from 137 mmHg to 130 mmHg which remained lower even after 30 minutes.
Their diastolic blood pressure from 82 mmHg to 75 mmHg, mean arterial pressure from 99.4 to 93.6 mm Hg and left ventricular ejection time from 307 to 278 m/s.
Their mean carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, which is an indicator of vascular compliance, was 9.8 m/s before sauna, decreasing to 8.6 m/s immediately after and was 9.0 m/s after 30-minutes.
Pulse pressure was 42.7 mm Hg before the sauna, 44.9 mm Hg immediately after the sauna, and reduced to 39.3 mm Hg after 30 minutes
During the sauna the volunteers' heart rate increased similarly to medium-intensity exercise from 65 to 81 beats/min post-sauna, and their body temperature rose by approximately 2°C.
There were no significant changes for augmented pressure and pulse pressure amplification.
Prof Laukkanen said: "This study demonstrates that sauna bathing for 30 min has beneficial effects on arterial stiffness, BP, and some blood-based biomarkers.
"These findings may provide new insights underlying the emerging associations between sauna bathing and reduced risk of cardiovascular outcomes."
The findings on the effects of sauna bathing on the human body was published in the Journal of Human Hypertension while the findings relating to the carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity measurements was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.