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Hans Hägglund, professor at the University of Uppsala
Hans Hägglund, professor at the University of Uppsala

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“Soon, regular sauna baths might become a health advice as obvious as exercise and a healthy diet.”

A sauna lover since childhood

Hans Hägglund is known in Sweden as the Sauna Doctor. Driven by his strong commitment to public health, he is one of the driving forces behind the world’s first sauna lab that is being built by the University of Luleå. It comes as no surprise when Hans Hägglund says he has been an avid sauna lover ever since he was very little.

“My father used to design public baths when I was a child, and I would always tag along. Sauna bathing has always been a natural part of everyday life for me.”

Today Hans Hägglund is a board member of the Swedish Sauna Academy, in the role of medical advisor. The Academy’s mission is to spread scientific knowledge about the health benefits of sauna, and to gather and share all new research findings in the field of sauna and health. For the first time ever, the World Sauna Congress was held in Haparanda, Sweden 2018. The focus of the conference was “health, culture and sauna history.” The Swedish Sauna Academy arranged and hosted the successful event, including more than 200 delegates from more than 20 countries.

The world’s first sauna laboratory

Hans Hägglund notes that public as well as scientific interest in the health benefits of sauna is on the rise. A number of sensational discoveries have been made during the last couple of years, and at the moment Hans Hägglund is involved in founding the world’s first sauna lab in the north of Sweden. The research will focus exclusively on sauna and health, and will aim both to follow up on all the recent discoveries and to examine new questions and topics in the field of sauna and health.

”Among the most important findings that have been made recently are the connections between regular sauna baths and a dramatically lowered risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. This is something that really needs to be researched further, so that we can find out exactly how these connections works.”

Many of the recent findings have been made through a large, ongoing Finnish population study known as the Kuopio Study. In this study, a large number of people have been monitored for many years, and have regularly answered questions about their habits and their health. In the questionnaire, several questions regarding sauna habits are included, which is how the connections between sauna bathing and health were discovered. In Sweden, a similar study will be conducted, known as the Monica Study. Up until now, sauna bathing has not been included in the questionnaire, but from 2019 and onwards, it will be. Hans Hägglund considers this to be a step in a very positive direction.

”Today, as doctors we advice people to exercise, eat healthily and stop smoking. But very soon I think we might be adding regular sauna baths to our list of general health advice, considering how strong the benefits seem to be”

Hans Hägglund himself tries to find the time for a sauna at least four to five times every week. He takes a sauna bath at the gym after exercising, and he has his own sauna at his summerhouse.

”That’s my favorite kind of sauna - in the company of near and dear ones, and with a cooling lake to swim in right outside”

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