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Steam Room vs Sauna for Athletes: Which One is Better?

Are you an athlete looking to improve your performance and speed up recovery? Two popular options for achieving these goals are steam rooms and saunas. But which one is better? Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of each so that you can make an informed decision.

A steam room is a heated room with high humidity where water is turned into steam, creating a moist environment. Saunas, on the other hand, are dry rooms with low humidity where rocks are heated to produce dry heat.

Benefits of Steam Rooms

Steam rooms can help loosen stiff muscles and alleviate tension, making it easier to stretch and perform exercises. They can also have a calming effect on the body, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation. Additionally, the moist air in steam rooms can help open up airways, making it easier to breathe and potentially reducing symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma. Lastly, the steam can help hydrate and cleanse the skin, improving its overall appearance and texture.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, using a steam room after exercise may aid in the recovery process by reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.

Drawbacks of Steam Rooms

However, it’s important to note that steam rooms also come with some drawbacks. The high humidity can lead to excessive sweating, potentially causing dehydration if not properly hydrated. Steam rooms can also become too hot, increasing the risk of burns, especially if you have sensitive skin. Additionally, the heat in steam rooms can make it difficult to breathe, making it less than ideal for cardio exercises. While steam rooms can provide some health benefits, they may not be as effective as saunas in promoting recovery and overall health.

Drawbacks of Saunas

Saunas, on the other hand, can enhance blood flow to the muscles, providing them with oxygen and nutrients that aid in recovery. They can also help flush out toxins from the body, promoting overall health. The dry heat in saunas can help reduce pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints, aiding in recovery. Lastly, the high temperatures in saunas can help boost the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells.

According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, using a sauna after exercise can increase endurance and speed up recovery time.

Drawbacks of Saunas

But saunas also come with some drawbacks. The dry heat can cause overheating and lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke if not properly monitored. As with steam rooms, saunas can cause excessive sweating and dehydration if not properly hydrated. The dry heat in saunas can also irritate the airways, making it less than ideal for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Lastly, while saunas can help flush out toxins, they may not provide the same skin benefits as steam rooms.

Safety considerations

It’s important to use both steam rooms and saunas safely to avoid any potential health risks. Hydration is crucial when using these facilities, so make sure to drink plenty of water before and after use. It’s also important to monitor the temperature and duration of use to prevent overheating and dehydration. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or low blood pressure, should consult with a healthcare professional before using these facilities.


In conclusion, both steam rooms and saunas can provide numerous benefits for athletes, but they also come with their own set of drawbacks.

If you’re looking to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation, a steam room may be the way to go.

However, if you’re looking to enhance blood flow and promote detoxification, a sauna may be the better option.

Based on the information presented, it’s important to make an informed decision based on your individual needs and preferences.

Author: Morten Pradsgaard

I've been taking steam baths for over a decade and I created this page to share the benefits, science, and history behind it. My background in science and fitness ensures accurate and trustworthy information.

About the author.