People seem to look healthier when they come out of the sauna or steam room, don't they?

Saunas and steam rooms are much more than just a place to gossip or make business deals, as movies would have you believe. Most YMCA of Middle Tennessee locations have a sauna or steam room (often both) for members to use as part of or after their workouts. There’s a good reason why they’re so popular with our guests—both are great for your health.

What's the difference?

If you’re unfamiliar, the difference between a sauna and a steam room is in moisture level. In a sauna, you’re getting dry heat. In a steam room, as the name implies, you’re getting steamy, wet heat. Both have similar health benefits, though, so pick based on your preference.

But why are these extra degrees worth it? Jay Bailey, Wellness Director at the Clarksville YMCA, has a little insight into why members should opt for the sauna or steam room.

It supports your body from the outside-in

There are a lot of healthy reasons you should step in—and your body will thank you. The sauna and steam room “improve circulation, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, clear congestion, promote skin health, aid in workout recovery, loosen stiff joints, burn calories, boost your immune system and remove toxins,” Jay says. Whew! Sounds like a win-win all around.

It helps clear your mind

If you’re not yet convinced, Jay urges members to try it out. “It’s like putting a heat pack on your entire body. It helps sooth sore muscles, and can also help with recovery from strength and endurance training. Post-workout relaxation is another plus, as [the sauna/steam room] is like meditation; it helps with your physical and mental health.”

But you have to be strategic with your use, he emphasizes. The sauna/steam room should be used “2-3 times a week for no more than 10-20 minutes at a time,” Jay says. Some individuals like to opt for intervals. “You can do 15 to 20 minutes inside the room, take a 5 minute break outside the room, and then go back inside, repeating this for 3-4 cycles.”

It can assist with your weight-loss goals

Believe it or not—intervals can actually help out with your weight loss goals. “You can lose a small amount of weight visiting a sauna or steam room after a workout—mostly water weight—but it can also assist in body mass loss, as well, if done in two to three 10-minute intervals,” Jay explains.

Just be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re planning on using the sauna or steam room at your YMCA; it’s important to stay hydrated to make up for any water that your body is losing.

Healthy living doesn't stop with the sauna! We've got recipes, exercises and mindful tips to push you towards your goals at