As someone who at one time couldn't handle a steam room, I now find myself sitting in one at least three times a week. It took a few attempts to get used to breathing in the steam - I guess I was a little more sensitive than others - and I'm really happy that I persisted. Since joining a health club eight months ago that has all of the popular spa amenities, I now see the steam room as a part of my healthy lifestyle and consider myself a committed convert. If I feel my head or chest becoming congested I head straight over, and so far, this has kept the nasties from getting worse. Often times eucalyptus is added to the steam generators and this instantly opens the nasal passages, as well as acting as a disinfectant and helping to kill bacteria and germs that may be in the air. I always leave breathing easier no matter how I was feeling went I went in.
The benefits of steam go far beyond their decongestant powers, however, so whether you use a communal steam room at the gym or are lucky enough to have a steam shower at home, you can expect to enjoy all kinds of health perks, including:
- Stress reduction and tension release - is it even possible to be anxious and clenched in a steam room? As any steam enthusiast knows, the humidity and heat have an immediate effect on our muscles as they promote the release of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals, which in turn calms our nerves and helps us let go of all that heavy stuff we've been hanging onto physically and mentally.
- Detoxing and skin clearing - the excessive sweating that happens during steaming will rid the body of waste products. The longer you can spend in the steam, the more thorough your detox will be, so you may want to alter your sessions according to your needs that day. The steam itself helps clear the skin of impurities, so it's like giving yourself a deep cleansing facial and may be especially beneficial to those with congested, acne-prone skin.
- Relief of joint pain and headaches - heat is healing and you should notice a reduction in aches and pains after a steam session. The heat and the relaxation that comes with it also helps the body retain flexibility as well as aiding in muscle recovery, making a steam the perfect finish to a workout.
- Improved circulation - heat causes the dilation of capillaries which allows the blood to flow freely and deliver oxygen throughout the body. This is also what gives your face that nice, rosy glow!
And you can get all of this in a brief session - it takes no more than a few minutes of steaming to reap the benefits. (The maximum time you should spend in a steam room is generally recommended to be 15 - 20 minutes, although you know best when you need to get out.)
If you're not keen on health clubs or don't have access to a spa in your area, you may want to look into installing a steam shower in your home. This past summer I had the opportunity to try one at a relative's house and it was heavenly. It was equipped with dual rain shower heads and massage jets on both ends of the unit, and I came out feeling like a new person. It's a luxurious feature to have in your home - you can also get them with aromatherapy systems and chromotherapy lighting for enhanced calming effects - but the investment is low in proportion to the ongoing health benefits it provides as well as the convenience, with even the most basic models boosting your wellbeing. And another advantage the home version offers over having to go elsewhere is that you can have a session right before bed - imagine how well you will sleep!
Keep in mind that every time you have a steam you need to drink plenty of water, during or after, to replace all of the fluids you lost through sweating. Then go off and enjoy how relaxed and renewed you feel!