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What Does a Steam Room Do?

A steam room involves pumping steam created by boiling water into a sealed room.  Temperatures typically hover above 40 degrees Celsius while the relative humidity reaches 100%.  Although similar to saunas, the steam room heat source is different.  A traditional sauna’s heat is generated by super-heated rocks.  This results in a much drier heat that is often accompanied by higher temperatures than those found in a steam room.  But what does a steam room do?  What are the health benefits of spending time in a hot and humid box?  In this article we’ll find out.

Improved Circulation

The moist heat provided by a steam room has been found to have cardiovascular benefits and improve circulation.  The high room temperature increases the internal body temperature which causes the heart to pump more blood.  This causes the blood vessels and capillaries to dilate which results in a reduced blood pressure.  This reduces the load on the heart while also improving the flow of oxygen and nutrients around the body.

Improved Skin Condition

Steam rooms increase the amount of sweat produced by the body as it tries to cool itself off.  Because of the high humidity in the steam room, the sweat isn’t quickly wicked away which results in more sweating than what might be experienced in a sauna.  As the body sweats, the skin pores open up which allows dirt and other toxins to be released.  Steam, condensation and sweat wash away these impurities and dead skin cells.  Blood is also forced to the skin’s surface in an effort to cool the body.  This brings more nutrients and oxygen to the skin.  Spending time in a steam room can also benefit those who suffer from acne by pacifying overactive sebaceous glands.  The steam can also help those with dry skin conditions.

Mucous Membrane Hydration

If you’re suffering from a cold, asthma, allergies or sinus problem, spending time in a steam room can hydrate the mucous membranes in the nose, throat and lungs and allow for easier breathing.  The hydrating capabilities of the steam can reduce inflammation, break up congestion and relieve dryness. 

Anxiety and Stress Relief

Spending time in a steam room is a good way to relieve anxiety and stress.  This occurs through both physiological and psychological pathways.  The heat naturally reduces muscle tension which makes it easier to loosen up and relax.  It also increases the heart rate which ultimately leads to lowered blood pressure and less stress on the body.  From a psychological perspective, spending time in a steam room takes one away from their immediate stressors and provides a respite that’s conducive to relaxation.  Steam rooms can also be enjoyed in a social setting which can be effective in clearing one’s mind of anxiety and stress.

Improved Flexibility

The heat of the steam room can loosen up tight muscles, stiff joints and cramped tendons.  Those who suffer from mobility issues due to injury, disease or surgery may find that spending time in a steam room increases their flexibility and range of motion.  For example, some arthritis sufferers can find their condition can be temporarily improved by spending time in a steam room.  Even if you don’t have issues with flexibility, it’s possible to find your body more pliable after spending time in the warm, humid air.  For this reason, some people have found that a steam room can help with pre-exercise warm up routines.

Pain Relief

Spending time in a steam room can reduce the pain caused by overexertion, injury or disease.  The warm, humid air promotes the production of pain-relieving hormones.  The increased blood circulation allows these hormones to move throughout the body more efficiently.  Pain causing waste products, such as lactic acid, are also flushed from the tissues due to the increased blood flow. 

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