Sauna vs steam room: Who wins??


After a workout or after a long day, stepping into a sauna or steam room is treatment for your body. These facilities are found in gyms, spas, hotels, and some people even have them at home. The main difference is being in a dry versus moist environment. Both have pros and cons and which type is best may be a matter of personal preference.


There are five main types of saunas that distribute dry heat. Different sauna styles have different heat levels, some reaching up to 195 degrees F. The stove or hot rocks produce increased levels of heat and often times the patron can control the heat by adding water. Upon entering a sauna, your skin temperature rises in addition to your heart rate increasing and your blood vessels become more dilated. Then the sweating starts. That sweat is what draws most people to this treatment.


  1. Electric sauna – Uses an electric heater with a remote control. You can actually see the temperature and adjust to your desire.
  2. Wood burning sauna – Uses rocks or wood to generate heat and the temperature is controlled by adjusting the rate of burning.
  3. Smoke sauna – Uses a wood burning stove in a room with no ventilation or chimney. Once hot, the room is ventilated before the person enters.
  4. Infrared sauna – This is a room that has elements that reflect heat in the form of light onto the person.


Saunas have been found beneficial for the treatment of dementia, headache, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. As the blood starts to circulate, one of the main benefits of the sauna is a feeling of relaxation. This blood flow can also help alleviate pain. Fluid loss from sweating can result in dehydration as well as temporary weight loss. However, being in high heat can cause dizziness and faintness. Pregnant women are not advised to be in this type of heat.


This room is full of moisture and is sometimes called a Turkish-style bath. The temperature is usually about 110-120 degrees F. Humidity is very high ranging from 95 to 100. A steam generator creates the moisture in the room that is made of walls and flooring that traps this moisture. The air is damp and thick. Of course heat rises, so the higher you sit in the room the more you will feel this heat moisture.


Moisture is good for our skin. This environment is also good to help alleviate sore muscles, reduce the symptoms of a cold, and helps with congestion. Some also feel a reduction in stress. Other people might feel dizzy, faint, or dehydrated from this heat. Pregnant women are not advised to use these facilities.

Heat is well known for its pain relieving and relaxing effects and that is the main benefit of both these treatments. There are many myths which include the detoxing benefits, being able to lose weight, and sweating out damage that has been done to the body. Facilities vary as to heat intensity and people vary in their tolerance to heat. Taking time to treat your body is always good. There’s no magic trick to help to help with weight loss, but little efforts along the way make you feel well are always pleasurable and a “treatment” to you.

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.