A 10-minute, post-workout blast is not doing it properly. The Finnish Sauna Society recommends spending at least an hour and a half at the sauna, though sweating should be interspersed with two or three cool showers, a swim or – for the brave – a roll in the snow. The sauna should be heated to 80-100C. There should always be some moisture in the air; a dry sauna can damage the respiratory system.
Start off with a shower, and afterwards, let the body cool down before getting dressed. Slapping each other with damp birch leaves aids circulation – Finnish women claim they never get cellulite.
Saunas have a number of health benefits: the heat makes your organs work as if you were doing mild exercise, so you might burn a few extra calories, and it lowers blood pressure. Sweating detoxifies the skin: around 99 per cent of what the sweat brings to the surface is water, but the other 1 per cent is toxins, such as heavy metals absorbed from pollution.
Finally, should you be naked? If you’re doing it properly, yes. In the Dolomites in Italy, nudity is obligatory, and even towels are not allowed. They say this is for hygiene reasons, because damp clothes breed germs, but in Finland people believe it unhygienic to go without a small cloth to sit on. In the UK you will probably be considered odd if you enter a mixed sauna in the nude – opt for swimwear or a towel.
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