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Which is Better Sauna or Steam Room?

If you’re wondering which is better sauna or steam room, you can rest easy knowing that they both create a similar physical effect.  The heat they produce will raise your body temperature, increase your heart rate and cause you to sweat.  But the type of heat they generate and the different environments they create has led to many a debate over which is better.  In this article we’ll compare the similarities and differences between saunas and steam rooms and let you decide whether one is superior.

Sauna Versus Steam Room – Heat Generation

The biggest difference between saunas and steam rooms is the type of heat that is generated.  Saunas are known for creating what’s known as a dry heat.  This means the humidity level is relatively low – usually between five and 20%.  When humidity is low, any sweat that’s produced evaporates quickly which helps cool the body off.  For this reason, most people can withstand higher dry heat temperatures than they can high humid temperatures.  Consequently, the temperatures in a sauna are often higher than that found in a steam room – reaching as high as 90 degrees Celsius or more.  The high temperatures in a sauna are generated by heating sauna rocks via an open flame or an electric or gas-powered heater.  Wet saunas allow users to pour water over the heated rocks to increase steam production, but they still don’t reach the humidity levels found in a steam room.  Infrared saunas use infrared light to directly heat the body rather than the air.  This results in sweating at lower temperature compared to a traditional sauna.

Steam rooms, on the other hand, generate their heat by boiling water and pumping the resulting steam into a sealed room.  This results in humidity levels that can easily reach 100%.  Consequently, any sweat produced by the body has a much more difficult time evaporating making the steam room appear hotter than the sauna – even if the temperatures are exactly the same.  The top temperature in a steam room does not usually go over 50 degrees Celsius. 

Sauna Versus Steam Room – Physical Reactions

As mentioned in the introduction, both saunas and steam rooms increase internal body temperature, elevate the heart rate and cause you to sweat.  Other side effects of a rising body temperature include the dilation of blood vessels and reduction in blood pressure.

Because of the combination of high heat and low humidity, many people find it more difficult to breathe in a sauna.  Steam rooms, however, create conditions that are beneficial to the mucous membranes that make it easier to breathe.  For this reason, steam rooms are often preferred by those with colds, allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Humidity levels can also affect the skin.  Those who suffer from dry skin will likely prefer the steam room’s high humidity for its hydrating capacity while those with oily skin may benefit from the dry heat of the sauna.

Sauna Versus Steam Room – Installation

Saunas are generally much easier to install than a steam room.  Most are available in kit form with all the parts sold together and assembled on site.  These types of installations will need the assistance of an electrician and possibly a plumber if a gas heater is being used.  There are also plug and play portable saunas which removes the needs for any construction.

Steam rooms, on the other hand, require a sealed room connected to a drainage system and the installation of a boiler.  Not only will this require some construction expertise, it will require both an electrician and a plumber.  As opposed to saunas, wood isn’t an appropriate construction material.  A steam room needs to be built with a non-porous material such as tile, plastic or glass. 

Generally speaking, the less complicated set up and the wide availability of portable units and construction kits make the installation of a sauna cheaper than that of a steam room. 

Make sure to download this month’s promotions to save on home sauna or steam room equipment.

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