4 Steam Room Benefits to Get You Ready to Sweat (Even More)

After a workout and cool down, a lot of athletes grab their water bottle and heat back up in the steam room or sauna. Steam rooms have high humidity and will have you sweating quicker than the dry heat of a sauna. Why bother getting sweaty once again? Here, I’ll explain how a steam room session works, the research on its potential health benefits, and when to avoid it.

What Is a Steam Room?

The steam room, also known as a Turkish bath or steam bath, dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. It’s a wet room with high humidity levels, with benches typically made from tile or smooth material that can withstand the moist heat.

Steam rooms are heated by a generator that creates steam from boiling water. The temperature typically ranges from 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit with 100 percent humidity. 

Steam Room Vs. Sauna

While the steam room uses moist heat, the sauna is known for its dry heat, hotter temperatures, and lower humidity levels. 

The sauna (a Finnish word) and sauna bathing originated in Finland, where people sat in small tents that used wood fires to heat the air and undergo heat exposure. (1)

There are a few types of saunas:

A traditional sauna, or dry sauna, uses an electric heater to heat the air to 158 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit with 10 to 20 percent humidity. (1)

A wet sauna uses water on hot rocks to create steam but still has the same dry heat as a traditional sauna.

An infrared sauna uses infrared light to heat your skin directly and feels less hot at about 104 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (2)

Both the sauna and the steam room are types of heat therapy. When you’re exposed to dry or moist heat, your body temperature rises, sweat glands activate, and heart rate and circulation increase. Your blood vessels get dilated, which increases blood flow (vasodilation). Overall, it mimics the acute effects of moderate-intensity exercise. (2)

Benefits of a Steam Room

There is more research on the potential health benefits of sauna use than steam rooms. In addition to sauna use being relaxing and good for well-being, small studies suggest it may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and pulmonary diseases, help treat symptoms of arthritis, and boost circulation and the immune system. (3)

[Read More: How Long Should You Stay in a Sauna?]

Since a steam room is also a form of heat therapy, it may yield similar benefits. Small studies also discuss the health benefits of moist heat (in a steam room) on muscle soreness, stiff joints, cardiovascular health, and circulation. Here’s what to know.

It May Alleviate Muscle Soreness and Ease Stiff Joints

Research suggests that moist heat can reach deep tissues faster than dry heat. For this reason, physical therapists often use moist heat packs instead of dry heat packs. The same is true for air—air with high humidity levels penetrates the skin quicker than dry heat, which is why you may sweat faster in a steam room than in a sauna. (4)

One study compared the effect of moist and dry heat on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in 100 young adults after a 15-minute squat workout. Some received moist heat, and some received dry heat either immediately after training or 24 hours later. 

The pain was reduced the fastest with moist heat applied immediately after training. Both types of heat were effective at reducing DOMS, but moist heat accomplished it in 25 percent of the time. (4)

[Read More: Cold Plunge Vs. Sauna — Which is Better for Post-Workout Recovery?]

It’s important to note that this study was on heat packs, but may carry over to the steam room after a workout to help with workout recovery or the day after to soothe sore muscles.

Other studies suggest the same may be true for easing stiff joints and reducing joint pain, but the heat packs may be moist or dry. (5)

It May Boost Cardiovascular Health

Like the sauna, the steam room may also relax your blood vessels, improving blood flow. Over time, exposure to this may boost cardiovascular health. 

A study was done on 80 healthy participants. One group took a steam bath after a shower, one only took a shower, and the other was a control group. They all had their blood pressure and heart rate checked before, 10 minutes after, and 30 minutes after the shower or steam bath. 

Credit: Mr. Tempter / Shutterstock

[Read More: Ways to Mimic a Sauna or Steam Room Effects for Optimal Recovery]

Blood pressure immediately increased after the steam bath but significantly decreased during recovery. The study concludes that steam baths may help lower blood pressure, but more research is needed. (6)

It May Help Circulation

More blood flow may also improve circulation. A small study on older adults found that applying moist heating pads to their lower legs improved skin blood flow and circulation. (7)

Better blood flow in the skin could also explain the claim that the steam room can improve skin health and help shed dead skin, but there needs to be more research. 

It Can Improve Your General Well-Being

The steam room can be a good place to relax after your workout. Taking time to breathe and be present before continuing your day may boost mental health and wellness. 

When to Not Use a Steam Room

Though it can feel good, it’s not for everyone all the time. Consult your healthcare provider before using a steam room.

Although inhaling steam can be good for sinus health when you have a cold or allergies, avoid the steam room if you’re sick. Bacteria can spread more quickly in the water droplets in the air. (8)

Pregnant people should avoid it. (8)

Don’t use the steam room if you take antibiotics, stimulants, or tranquilizers. (8)

Don’t use it if you have other medical conditions that make you sensitive to heat or have a weak immune system. (8)

Other research suggests not using the steam room if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, take medications that put you at risk of hyperthermia, or have been drinking alcohol. All of these instances put you at a higher risk of dehydration. (9)

Avoid if you are already dehydrated. If you’re not, drink plenty of water before and after to keep your hydration levels stable.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ll answer your steaming hot questions here. 

What does the steam room do to your body?

The moist heat in the steam room penetrates your skin, causing you to sweat. This raises your heart rate, dilates your blood vessels, and increases blood flow. It may also help soothe sore muscles and stiff joints and improve circulation.

What is better, a sauna or steam room?

There is more research on the health benefits of saunas, so saunas may be better if that is important to you. Steam rooms may also have a higher transmission of bacteria and germs. If you are generally healthy, it may come down to personal preference.

Does a steam room detox your body?

Be wary of claims of detoxification and cleanses. Steam rooms increase sweating, so you will “detox” whatever comes out in your sweat (water and electrolytes). 

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.


Patrick, R. P., & Johnson, T. L. (2021). Sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan. Experimental Gerontology, 154, 111509.

Mero A, Tornberg J, Mäntykoski M, Puurtinen R. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus. 2015 Jul 7;4:321. 

Laukkanen JA, Laukkanen T, Kunutsor SK. Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2018 Aug;93(8):1111-1121.

Petrofsky J, Berk L, Bains G, Khowailed IA, Hui T, Granado M, Laymon M, Lee H. Moist heat or dry heat for delayed onset muscle soreness. J Clin Med Res. 2013 Dec;5(6):416-25. 

Petrofsky JS, Laymon M, Lee H. Effect of heat and cold on tendon flexibility and force to flex the human knee. Med Sci Monit. 2013 Aug 12;19:661-7. 

Pandiaraja, M., Vanitha, A., Maheshkumar, K., Venugopal, V., Poonguzhali, S., Radhika, L., & Manavalan, N. (2021). Effect of the steam bath on resting cardiovascular parameters in healthy volunteers. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 8(3), 199-202. 

Lohman EB 3rd, Sackiriyas KS, Bains GS, Calandra G, Lobo C, Nakhro D, Malthankar G, Paul S. A comparison of whole body vibration and moist heat on lower extremity skin temperature and skin blood flow in healthy older individuals. Med Sci Monit. 2012 Jul;18(7):CR415-24. 

American College of Sports Medicine . Excerpt from ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines-4th Edition. Human Kinetics. 

Byard, Roger W. MBBS, MD; Riches, Karen J. BSc, MBBS. Dehydration and Heat-Related Death: Sweat Lodge Syndrome. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 26(3):p 236-239, September 2005.

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