Finland: Sweating It Out in Good Company
Saunas are everywhere in Finland: in the backyards of homes and lakeside cottages, nestled in apartment buildings, at hotels, on the rooftops of many office buildings (where free drinks and snacks are an occasional after-work perk)—even in Helsinki's Parliament building. The custom involves sitting nude, usually with members of the same sex, on a bench in a small room or outdoor hut heated to between 170 and 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Water is thrown over hot rocks to produce a small amount of steam. Finns retreat to these hot boxes at least once a week, where they zone out and sweat off the stress of the day with friends or family members, but it's also not uncommon for professionals to take over a sauna for a business meeting. The heat can lower blood pressure and slow the pulse by causing vessels to dilate (making them dangerous for people with heart disease or abnormal blood pressure) and induce a blissful feeling of total-body meltdown. (The popularity of saunas could help explain how Finland was ranked the world's second-happiest nation in the UN-commissioned World Happiness Report.) To heat up and chill out like the Finns, suggest a post-workout sweat with one of your gym friends—just remember to shower beforehand.