History of the Sauna

Are saunas just another health fad that will come and go like Wii Fitness or pilates? Absolutely not! Saunas have stood the test of time, as they were first invented as long ago as 2,000 BC! Since then, they’ve proved time and time again to be highly beneficial in a variety of health and wellness aspects. Let’s take a look at the history of the sauna



Ancient Saunas

It actually is hard to pinpoint exactly when and where the very first versions of the sauna originated, but historians believe it was around 2,000 BC in Finland. These early saunas were more than just a steamy relaxation tool, but rather a way of life. They started out as man-made caves with animal skins draped over the entry. Sauna-users would start a fire over a pile of stones and burn it all day. Then, they would put the fire out, release the smoke, and pour water over the stones to create steam. These steamy little caves were used for much more than health and relaxation. They were seen as a survival tool and functioned as kitchens, washrooms, hospitals, spiritual dwellings, and in the winter months, simply a place to live.


The Middle Ages

Aside from the ancient saunas, the trend of soaking in steam stayed alive throughout The Middle Ages. Roman bathhouses were actually inspired by saunas. Due to the rising spread of disease throughout Europe in the 1500’s, this common practice died out. The large amounts of people that used the bathhouses at once became a way for disease to spread quickly and had to be stopped. Because disease wasn’t as rampant in Finland, saunas stayed mainstream which is why they are commonly known as Finnish practice.


The Industrial Revolution

During the Industrial Revolution, changes were made to the sauna, thus forming what most people to consider to be “traditional” saunas. These saunas were given metal stoves and chimneys in order to release smoke. The old version of the sauna with no chimney is now called a “smoke sauna” and is still used in some regions.



Today, saunas are popular around the world. They were popularized in America in the mid-20th century. Now, they can be found in many hotels, gyms, spas, and American homes. They are still wildly popular in Finland, as the country has more saunas than cars! The population of Finland is 5 million and they have 3 million saunas! We know today, due to modern science, that sauna use really is amazing for our health. So now you see, sauna traditions have been here for thousands of years and aren’t going anywhere soon!

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