Ah, saunas. Not just for old guys at your local gym. They have a great many health benefits and the passive nature of them can be of particular benefit to many of us. In this article, you will find some resources on sauna as well as how we, the blind and visually impaired, can strategically use it in our unique circumstances.
First, listen to these two videos on saunas and its benefits. There are also considerations for whether it is safe or useful for you. Once you have listened, come back and finish reading for a breakdown!
Benefits for the blind and VI
Alright, a lot of information in those videos right? Let’s summarize quickly.
Sauna is useful because it disrupts our normal exposure to moderate temperatures by temporarily cranking up the heat our body has to acclimate to. This activates heat-shock proteins, teaches us to sweat more readily, and even affects blood flow. That is not where the benefits end though. Your brain can also gain a lot through sauna use.
Keep in mind that this is not a dose-dependent relationship where more time or hotter is always better. Err on the side of caution when starting sauna use.
How does this benefit those of us with visual impairments specifically?
Use #1: Reversing a sedentary lifestyle
The passive nature of sauna can be great for easing the body back into activity after a long layoff. Whether you were forced into sitting still due to an accident or haven’t figured out an exercise regimen with visual impairment yet, sauna can be a bridge to get your body back into shape. Let’s say you have been couch-ridden for years. Five hour-long workouts a week probably won’t go over very well initially. Now consider performing three thirty minute exercise bouts and two twenty minute sauna sessions. This would be a much more manageable workload and you would still get plenty of physiological benefits from the sauna while not taxing your tendons, ligaments and willpower. You can then slowly add more workout sessions, longer workout or sauna durations, etc. as you adapt!
Use #2: Improving Insulin sensitivity
If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, you probably know all about insulin sensitivity. Your body being able to respond to what you eat with a reasonable amount of insulin is hugely important. The fact that sauna helps with this is a big win for all of us, but more so for those of us with insulin sensitivity issues already. Turning this around can profoundly change your quality of life.
Use #3: Brain benefits to better adapt to our circumstances
As Dr. Patrick explained, sauna can even help your brain develop better pathways, which is wild! With a visual impairment, new or old, fresh or congenital, your brain has to be rewired to sense the world in novel ways. The more adaptable our brains are, the better we can cope with vision issues and not just survive but absolutely thrive!
I would like to note that exercise also increases the brain’s adaptability. So the potent combination of sauna AND exercise will help your brain adapt all the more!
Use #4: Help systemically react to stress better
Our ability to handle stressors of all kinds is imperative to handling the difficulties that come with visual impairment. As I am sure many of you have noticed, it is far easier to perform daily activities such as listening for cars so you can cross the street while in a calmer state of mind. The improved ability to react to and handle stress that Dr. Patrick referred to can certainly translate to staying calm in situations which allow it. It can also help you ramp up your adrenaline better as she noted. This can come in handy in more urgent situations.
I hope this information was useful to you or someone you know with a visual impairment. Take all of these benefits into consideration and figure out how you can use the sauna to live a happier, healthier life!
Disclaimer: Make sure you are medically cleared to safely use sauna treatments before partaking in any bouts of sauna or other heat-based therapy. You may need to consult with a medical professional to determine whether or not you are able to safely use the sauna.