True Sauna, True Finnish Sauna, is quite wonderful. It is enjoyable and comes with a bunch of proven health benefits. There are a number of good reasons why sauna and similar experiences are so popular throughout the world today and have been for centuries.
Unfortunately the U.S. and North American sauna industry is rife with false and misleading information.
Some of this is simple ignorance – we don’t know what we don’t know. We read that ceilings should never be more than 7’ high and we go with it. Fresh air supply under the heater? Sure, why not.
Some of it is intentional – snake oil – U.S. consumers are gullible and easy to mislead so I’ll tell them all kinds of stuff that they want to hear so they’ll buy a sauna or sauna-like contraption from me. While I would like to believe that someone saying that you can loose 1000 calories by sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes is ignorance, I can’t get there. That’s twice as many calories as a rider in the Tour de France, one of the highest calorie burning professional sporting events in the world, burns.
The reality is zero – you loose some water weight but you will and should replace that. You cannot eat a Big Mac and then spend 30 minutes in a sauna to sweat all the calories out.
Do you really want to buy from a place that is that misleading? Or that ignorant? Whichever it is?
More, sauna doesn’t need this misleading information. Sauna is wonderful as it is without lying about it.
There are three legs to this:
- Sauna Structure
- Sauna Routine
- Sauna Health Benefits
Leg 1 – Sauna Structure
There are a lot of details that are important to get right and easy to get wrong. I think that the two most misleading bits of information in the U.S. are that the ceiling of a sauna should never be higher than 7’ and ventilation of electrically heated saunas should enter below the heater and rely on natural convection. And these, along with numerous other bits of misleading information on building saunas, are extremely prevalent in English.
Sources of accurate information include:
Lassi Liikkanen’s book “Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”.
Leg 2 – Sauna Routine
Sauna is not a jump in the sauna once and then go take a hot shower. For both enjoyment and health benefits it’s rounds of hot/cold/hot/cold/hot/cold. Sources of accurate information include:
Lassi Liikkanene’s “Secrets of Finnish Sauna Design”
Leg 3 – Sauna Health
There are many known and proven health benefits to sauna as well as many benefits that, though not proven, are generally believed by medical folk and others. There are also a lot of myths like the misleading weight loss claim above.
Mikkel Aaland had what appeared to be a relative accurate list on his website but I’ve been unable to find it.
There is some limited info in Trumpkin’s Intro To Sauna.
More to come…
Dumb and Dumber
Though this isn’t totally uniquely a U.S. problem it is primarily and to a limited bit to the rest of the English speaking world.
Americans, and by this I mean U.S. Americans, have a reputation worldwide for being dumb. Now, before I go on, Finns have pointed out to me that there are dumb Finns (and dumb Finns who buy bad saunas). And Dutch have told me the same about Dutch. And I’ve heard similar from Italians and British and many others (except the French, there are apparently no dumb French). And FWIW, Dumb and Dumber is one of my favorite movies so I’m being honest with the title :-).
But U.S. Americans are special. More ignorant and gullible than most. Guys in or near the tourism industry love U.S. girls. They’re overwhelmingly easier to get in bed than gals from any other country (and much easier to get nude selfies from). Retailers the world over know that they can sell almost anything to U.S. Americans – in local stores or online. Invent a diet, write a book about its supposed benefits, and you’ve a money machine.
And there’s even a bunch of stats to back this up. Among all developed countries; We are the least healthy, most obese and have the lowest or second lowest life expectancy (and yet have the best healthcare system, spend the most on healthcare and spend the most on gym memberships). We have the most dangerous road system with the highest fatality rates (and spend more on transportation). We have the least stable families with the highest rates of failed families and single parent families (and of course the follow-on of highest rates of juvenile delinquencies). And the highest incarceration rates overall. We spend the most on education yet have low scores and attainment. And on and on…
And sauna vendors take advantage of this.
Before you buy or build a sauna, do some homework. Be careful of what you read (and I’ll include my stuff in that). Ask questions. If loosing weight is the primary reason you’re buying one then DON’T. Sauna can aid in improved health and weight loss but alone will do zero for weight loss.
Other Good Info:
And Good Books:
Anyone and everyone who is building or buying a sauna should read Lassi Liikkanen’s ‘Secrets Of Finnish Sauna Design’. I’ve read over 20 books on sauna. This is the most accurate and most informative book available.