If you’ve never been in a steam room, the thought of sitting in a small hot steamy room might sound a bit claustrophobia-inducing. I thought the same thing. But once I started using my gym’s steam room about a decade ago, it became my treat at the end of a long workout. The hot steam relaxes muscles and joints, and helps speed up muscle recovery by increasing blood flow. Plus, steam opens your pores and forces your body to sweat out impurities. The increase in circulation, in addition to the humidity, temporarily plumps your skin giving you a more youthful look. Try using your gym’s steam room as often as possible for one month and see if you can see and feel a difference in your body!
Sit in the steam room for 10-20 minutes, depending on how accustomed your body is to the heat. Do what feels good for your body, you don’t want to get dehydrated. If you’re a little nervous, try 5 minutes to start and work your way up to longer sessions.
Always sit on a towel, and yes, you totally can go naked. Even if you’re a bit shy, no one can really see much with all the steam. If going nude is a no-go for you, wrap yourself with a towel or wear a bikini.
Here’s my routine: After a tough workout, I quickly rinse off in the locker room shower, grab a hand towel and run cool water over it (this will feel great against your face in the hot steam room). I bring my water bottle in the steam room and I drink about 16-30 ounces in about 15 minutes because I usually feel like my body needs it, but make sure to get at least 8 ounces. This is pretty obvious, but be sure to wear flip-flops or shower shoes since the floors can be pretty germy from pollutants tracked indoors by street shoes and you don’t want that on your skin.
Post-steam room session, you’ll want to rinse off in the shower. Use a towel, brush or washcloth to lightly scrub your skin to slough off dead skin cells and to further increase blood flow. Your face will be plump and glowy like you just had a facial!
And if the glowy skin, muscle recovery, relaxation and toxin-release isn’t enough incentive for you, breathing in steam can also help speed-up recovery from a cold, specifically congestion.
According to a study in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, patients suffering from the common cold were subjected to two 20-minute steam inhalation sessions and recorded their response during the week following treatment on a daily symptom score card. “Steam inhalation resulted in alleviation of cold symptoms and increased nasal patency in a significantly higher percentage of patients in the actively treated group than in the placebo-treated group.” So, if you have a cold, do a light workout then hit the steam room.
Use this time to just sit and unwind — no smartphone, no distractions.