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I recently discovered the steam room at my gym. Don't get me wrong - I always knew it was there but who has time to spend an extra 10 minutes in there when you could be working out or hitting the showers and getting back to work?
A few months ago I found myself with some spare time after a particularly hard workout and thought the heat would relax my sore muscles. Well - I'm a convert! Which got me to thinking - Sauna or Spa? Is one better than the other? When it comes down to it both rooms are hot, both make you sweat but one is a dry heat and one is a wet heat. Does this make a difference to their effects? I decided to look into it in more detail.
Firstly, I'm personally not a fan of the sauna - I find the heat a little too aggressive and it can be difficult to breathe. Perhaps I've lived in Hong Kong for too long but I much prefer the humidity of the steam room! Steam rooms can be particularly good for people suffering from any respiratory conditions such as congestion or sinusitus - think about the old trick when you had a cold and poured boiling water into a bowl, popped a few drops of eucalyptus oil and breathed in the steam. Well, the steam room acts in the same way.
Steam rooms are very hydrating given the 100% humidity so they can also be good for people with dry skin.
A downside of steam rooms is that the humidity and heat makes it a perfect environment for nasty microbes to grow so make sure to use a towel and wear thongs/flip flops.
Some people believe you sweat more in a sauna as the temperature is quite a lot hotter than a steam room. They are also preferable for people who may have asthma as the humidity of a steam room can aggravate this condition.
For those who like to multi-task the sauna's dry heat means you can read a book or listen to your Ipod - something you defiitely can't do in the steam room!
Both rooms will cause increased blood flow through better circulation. This in turn results in the lowering of blood pressure and the elimination of toxins via sweat. Both promote muscle relaxation like any heat therapy.
So which one is better? Neither really - it's all up to personal preference. If you prefer dry heat stick to the sauna, if you're like me and prefer the humidity, try the steam room. Just remember to drink lots of water after a session in either room to avoid dehydration.