In addition to being relaxing, a 30-minute sauna session produces similar effects to your heart and blood vessels as a moderate workout, a new study indicates.

Researchers in Finland conducted a study involving 102 adults with a mean age of 52 who had at least one cardiovascular risk factor. The participants sat in a sauna for a 30-minute session with the temperature set to about 73°C (163°F) and humidity level between 10 and 20 percent. The researchers collected cardiovascular and blood-based parameters before, immediately after the session and again 30 minutes later.

“We aimed to investigate whether sauna bathing induces changes in arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), and several blood-based biomarkers,” explained the study authors in the Journal of Human Hypertension.

Right after the sauna session, the participants’ showed a systolic blood pressure drop from 137 mmHg to 130 mmHG. Diastolic blood pressure reduced from 82 mmHG to 75 mmHg, on average. Systolic blood pressure remained lower 30 minutes afterwards as well.

Additionally, the participants’ heart rate and body temperature both increased while in the sauna. Body temperature rose by 2°C, during the 30-minute session and increases in heart rate were comparable to those seen when exercising.

“This study demonstrates that sauna bathing for 30 min has beneficial effects on arterial stiffness, BP, and some blood-based biomarkers. These findings may provide new insights underlying the emerging associations between sauna bathing and reduced risk of cardiovascular outcomes.”                                                                                    

Previous research from the same group has shown that regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of coronary diseases, hypertension, Alzheimer's and other diseases.