To Schvitz or Not To Schvitz?

Finnish sauna II

Last week I had the opportunity to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: visit the Cleveland Schvitz. For the Yiddish-impaired, Schvitz translates as “sweat,” but informally refers to a sauna or steam room. The Schvitz in Cleveland is an entire complex, a building all to itself. There is a large sauna room, changing/locker room with beds, shower room and cold pool; there is also a wonderful restaurant serving steaks, salmon, tuna, etc.

I went with my brothers-in-law and a couple of friends and the experience was everything that I thought it would. I had the feeling that I was stepping back in time to a cultural institution from the “old country.” The food was as good as I had heard–perhaps even more than I expected.

At the JCC, whenever I work out I spend 5 minutes in the steam room after my workout. This is different, though, since the Schvitz is more of a dry room than a wet one. Last year I went to a Korean Spa near Baltimore and it was a similar experience, right down to the excellent food; the only difference was the the place in Maryland was co-ed. The Schvitz is all testosterone.

I enjoy a quick Schvitz; it relaxes me and helps to clear my head. I use those few minutes to do some PT exercises to ward off my old tennis elbow. I wondered, however, whether there really is any benefit to using a sauna/steam room. What I’ve heard is that it is a good way to relax and it helps to sweat out the toxins in our bodies.

I did a little research on the internet (so it must be true) and found that there seems to be some real benefits to the Schvitz. The heat causes an elevated heart rate which can have the same positive effects as cardiovascular activity, but at a much lower level. Asthma sufferers may find some relief in a sauna as well as those with certain skin conditions. One article I found came from a reputable source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/saunas-and-your-health. Its conclusion is that Schvitzing is not dangerous as long as we follow safe practices (do not combine with drug/alcohol use/observe reasonable time limits/hydrate). There are studies from Finland (where else?) that see to indicate that sauna use leads to longer life spans, but that will need more research. As for sweating out toxins, the article states that this is done more through our internal organs than through sweat. In the meantime, the article suggests that the benefit is really the sense of relaxation and wellness we may feel in the Schvitz.

To Schvitz or Not to Schvitz? I vote for Schvitz. We all need to take care of ourselves, and if the sauna/steam room helps us to relax, there seems to be no reason not to Schvitz.

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