Sweating in a steam room is no replacement for vigorous cardio workouts.
You work up a sweat in the steam room and, as good as it feels, you might try to justify replacing your cardio workouts with time in the wet sauna. Your heart beats faster as you sweat up a storm, so maybe it seems logical that the steam room and aerobic exercise are interchangeable. You may have even noticed you weigh less after a steam, but it's not the kind of weight loss that lasts.
Although a session in the steam room works up a good sweat, it's no replacement for regular cardio exercise.
Compare Weight Loss
When you get a sweat going on the treadmill or in an aerobics class, you're using energy and causing your metabolism to burn calories. Done consistently, your cardio workout can result in fat loss. But when you spend time in a steam room, the sweat that pours out is strictly a result of your body trying to cool itself, no significant metabolism change or excessive calorie burning is involved. The reason you may notice a difference in your weight after you take a steam is because you've sweated away fluids. So any weight loss you experience from the steam room will be regained once you've replaced those fluids when you drink water, a sports drink or other beverage.
Increase Your Heart Rate
The heat in a steam room helps increase your circulation, and that can result in an elevated heart rate. But because you're not expending energy, it isn't a workout. That's why cardio is the better choice for boosting your metabolism to increase your heart rate and burn calories. Aerobic exercise should increase your heart rate 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to ExRx.net. The exercise website also recommends a combination of weight training and cardio exercise for optimal weight loss, advising that exercisers incorporate their resistance workouts with high intensity interval training, sprinting and plyometrics.
Consider Benefits of Steam
Just because the steam room can't replace a cardio workout, that doesn't mean that they aren't beneficial. The moist heat in a steam room is relaxing and can provide relief for sore muscles after a workout, and helping to increase flexibility. Even if you don't have aching muscles, a short stint in the steam room - about 15 to 20 minutes - can help reduce stress after a hectic day, increasing feelings of well being and relaxation, according to Harvard Health.
Use Caution and Be Safe
Steam rooms are essentially safe for most people of varying fitness levels to use. However, seniors, babies and those who are pregnant, have uncontrolled blood pressure or heart problems should stay out of the steam room. Also, avoid the wet sauna if you are sick or are on a medication that could affect your body's ability to sweat or regulate temperature. You're at risk of dehydrating any time you sweat so, even though the heat in a steam room is a moist heat, drink 16 to 32 oz. of water after spending time in a steam room.