In a recent study, researchers discovered a potential link between sauna use and memory. Published in the journal Age and Ageing, the study by Finnish scientists revealed that men who used a sauna between four and seven days a week were 66% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
The researchers from the University of Finland, led by Jari Laukkanen, studied 2,300 men between the ages of 42 and 60. The subjects were divided into three groups: men who used a sauna once a week, two or three times a week, and four to seven times a week.
They also found that frequent sauna bathing significantly reduced the risk of death due to cardiac arrest, coronary artery disease, and other heart-related events. According to Laukkanen, use of the sauna may protect both the heart and the memory.
“It is known that cardiovascular health affects the brain as well. The sense of well-being and relaxation experienced during sauna bathing may also play a role,” said Laukkanen.
Over the past decade, numerous studies on the neuroprotective benefits of physical activity have revealed that regular aerobic exercise has the ability to improve mood the optimize cognitive function.
Though the average person has between two and 4 million sweat glands acting as the body’s coolant system to prevent overheating, recent research has shown that breaking a sweat during exercise stimulates the production of BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor. BDNF triggers neurogenesis, bulking up the volume of gray matter in the brain, while aerobic exercise increases blood flow to areas of the brain responsible for memory and higher cognitive processing.
While sauna bathing may not be an effective substitute for aerobic exercise, the latest research suggests that regular sauna use could complement physical activity to improve cardiovascular health and brain function.