When we go in to an infrared sauna, it is not only our body that is put under heat but our brains too. research has demonstrated that whole-body heating activates serotonin-producing cells in the mid-brain while also activating neurons in the brain that synthesize the neurochemical serotonin - the happy chemical. when we tap into this pathway, we feel happy because heat makes the brain feel happy. if happiness was not enough the infrared heat also increases levels of norepinephrine in the brain leading to more focused attention. additionally, the medial orbitofrontal cortex area of the brain is activated by warming the skin. this part of the brain is associated with the regulation of mood. perfect for those months when vancity becomes raincity.
If being happier, more attentive, and having a stable mood wasn’t enough of a reason to move under the infrared heat you should also know that researchers have found a link between heat exposure and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons that leads to a long chain of events that enhance neural health. moving (exercising) in heat increases BDNF to a greater degree than moving (exercising) at lower temperatures this is because moving (exercising) in heat increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier all of which helps promote myelin growth allowing your brain to function faster.
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Hussain, J., & Cohen, M. (2018). Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 1857413. doi:10.1155/2018/1857413
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