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Why Saunas are the new hot tubs

If you’re looking for a Canopy & Stars place to settle down for a few days, it’s certainly a tick in the plus column to see there’s a hot tub. Whether it’s a new-fangled electric, or old-fashioned wood fired number, you’d be hard pressed to think of a better pièce de résistance to your glamping space. Or would you? We’ve started finding more and more places where a sauna has been added, and frankly, we’re here for it. But other than feeling pretty amazing, what exactly do they do? You’ve undoubtedly seen an unending feed of wellness influencers touting various benefits, but what’s fact, and what’s fiction?

The history

There are some things so ubiquitous in human history that you can’t really work out who invented it. Stone circles, bread, wine and hummus are all pretty good examples of this. Every time you think you’ve narrowed it down to a people, new evidence points somewhere else. The current belief around saunas is that they popped up somewhere in northern Europe, and though it seems as if the ancient Romans and Greeks may have had them too – the Finnish tradition goes back to at least 7000 BC (take that, Classics). In fact, sauna is the only Finnish word in the English dictionary. But it’s not even a European phenomenon – there are traditions in the Mayan culture, as well as the indigenous American population. So, as it turns out, it’s a pretty widespread practice – but does that mean it’s good for you?

What is a sauna?

Well, first up, let's settle some differences. You may well have been using these terms interchangeably, but there is in fact a difference between a sauna and a steam room. The ultimate goal is similar, which is to make you sweat profusely, but they achieve that goal with different methods. 

A sauna uses dry heat, which is created from either a stove, or a collection of hot rocks to heat the room to a temperature range between: 65-90 degrees Celsius, with a low humidity that's controlled by sprinkling water on the rocks/stove.  

A steam room uses wet heat, and they function at a lower temperature, around: 43-48 degrees Celsius, and 100 percent relative humidity (think your office summer 2022).  

But, if any more curious about the different forms a Sauna comes in, you can always check in with The North American Sauna Society's website, we assure you it's not just full of hot air.

The benefits

So, which is better? Theoretically, they're very similar. The problem at hand is that there's simply not much research into steam rooms, and far more evidence for saunas. Whilst there's a few studies pointing to health benefits of steam rooms, they're few and far between, and even a handful suggesting they might cause low level harm in some individuals.  

On the plus side for saunas, there's lots of evidence for health benefits. So much so in fact that a 'systematic review' -- described as 'the most reliable source of evidence to guide clinical practice' has been done on saunas, and found a series of benefits, though more research is needed. Other studies have also found benefits like: reducing back pain, reducing risk of stroke, reducing depression and dementia risk, lowering stroke risk, improving cardiovascular healthand even boosting the immune system

Whilst there's little chance of any serious issues for the occasional jaunt into a steam room, perhaps stick to saunas for the most part for your sweating needs.

Before you get a sweat on

If you're keen to try out a sauna, then before you hop to it, take some advice from Harvard University on the matter, but remember, like with all fun new things, be that exercise regime or diet -- check with a health professional before you try it out, as if you have an underlying health condition, or even something as simple as low blood pressure, it might not be the best environment for you.

Our collection

As we mentioned, we're finding more and more saunas at our spaces, and if you're hoping to book one for your time away, we've even created a search filter for it! There are more spaces joining the list every day, but just for a taste, here's a few highlights:

Inshriach Shepherd's Hut, Highland

Spend a while exploring the Scottish wilderness, learning woodwork or bushcraft, or simply relaxing on the front porch with a coffee. There’s a sauna-in-a-horsebox?tucked away on the estate – it moves about, so you’ll have to either enquire as to its location or go find it. Sometimes it’s even next to the river, so you can enjoy dipping in to cool off after!

Southcombe Barn, Devon

From the inventor of Canopy & Stars itself, these spaces are onsite with a wealth of other activites, from sound baths to yoga, even an art gallery. Spend your downtime chilling out in the meadows onsite or exploring the moors nearby. There’s a stunning sauna onsite, and you might like to hop in for a sweat, before taking a cool bath – inside, or out.

Blyth Rise Stays, Suffolk

It’d be easy to get distracted here doing just about anything, whether that’s tending the firebowl, visiting seaside smokeries, learning to paddleboard or simply curling up with a good book. But one part you won’t want to miss will be the woodland saunas – specialist Igluhut Saunas big enough for four! Take a quick bath in the heat, and then cool off touring the grounds.

Pomeroy Treehouse, Somerset

It would probably be quicker to list what features Pomeroy Treehouse doesn’t have. This handcrafted space is perched amongst the treetops begging to be visited. There’s a BBQ, pizza oven, outdoor kitchen, even a top floor complete with dumb waiter, firepit and built in outdoor TV. But we’d put good money on you focusing on the electric Finnish sauna out on the deck, with not one, but two outdoor showers to cool off in.

Cwtch Woodland Camp, Pembrokeshire

A rather stunning group space in the Welsh wilds, Cwtch is aptly named – as it’s the Welsh version of hygge. These cabins champion the best of cosiness on a three-acre woodland you’ll have all to yourself. There’s no wifi, no TV, just good old-fashioned people, so you better bring the best of them. Cook up some cuisine on a BBQ and chill out amongst the trees. Pop in the stunning sauna to get a little sweat going, and then you can emerge into a little forest bathing after, for the cool off.

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