BEST IELTS General Reading Test 449

BEST IELTS General Reading Test 449

IELTS General Reading Test
BEST IELTS General Reading Test 449

The Sauna

A. Two thousand years ago, the itinerant Finns established a fur trade with Central Europe and gave up their wandering ways. As their numbers increased, they moved inland, turning to the soil for sustenance. Anthropologists know little about the Finns before the Middle Ages; therefore, the origin of the sauna is in question. Most researchers agree that Finns always had some form of sweat bath, as did most people around the world. It was one of the simplest and most efficient ways to satisfy people’s innate need to keep clean.

When the Finns were nomadic, they probably used a sweat lodge they could take with them, similar to those carried by the American Indians and still seen among nomadic tribes in central Asia. The first sauna was dug into an embankment in the ground with plank sides. Later saunas were built above ground with wooden logs for the floor, walls and roof. Rocks were heated in a stone stove with a wood fire until the rocks were super hot.

This room did not have a chimney, but a small air vent in the back wall. It was a half-day process to heat this type of room and when the sauna reached the required temperature, the bathers entered after the smoke cleared. The walls and ceiling would become dark black and so this original sauna was called “savu” (Finnish for smoke).

B. In the early 18th century, Scandinavian saunas lost their functional use in society and gathered opponents in Europe. The opponents of the sweat bath in Finland, Norway and Sweden were a coalition of economists, who maintained it wasted firewood. Their claims were not unfounded. People traditionally took a sauna every day, which consumed a considerable amount of firewood.

IELTS General Reading Test

Furthermore, the outside saunas rotted faster than other buildings, seldom lasting more than twelve years, and they were in need of constant renovation. This put pressure on family and community finances. Finns were under great duress from the Swedes to abandon the sauna. Propagandists warned against its harmful effects, claiming they caused illness, convulsions, tumors, premature loss of vision, and that they were particularly dangerous for children.

C. The explosion of World War II halted this declining trend. Food became scarce, theaters and other forms of entertainment closed and life became bleak. Sauna was one of the few pastimes people could enjoy. The military also found the sauna essential. They used tents with special sauna heating units as means of delousing the soldiers and boosting morale. Often, a sauna left by an evacuated villager was repaired and heated by the freezing troops. After the war, the upward trend continued, helped by new companies creating better and cheaper to run saunas.

IELTS General Reading Test

D. In modern times, the benefits of the sauna are known around the world. Although sauna bathing can cause various acute, transient cardiovascular and hormonal changes, it is well tolerated by most healthy adults and children. Various studies have indicated that long-term sauna bathing may help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension, provide relief to patients with asthma and chronic bronchitis and also alleviate pain and improve joint mobility in patients with rheumatic disease. The use of extreme cold interspersed with the heat of the sauna has long been a perceived benefit of the sauna.

Today, rather than jumping into an ice cold lake after the sauna, people are more likely to use a plunge pool, and this process gently cools and cleanses the skin while closing the skin pores. The mental benefits of this ancient practice are still reported by many users. The warm and quiet environment stimulates circulation and the discharge of endorphins, creating a sense of peaceful relaxation and well-being.

IELTS General Reading Test

The endorphin discharge also aids the relaxation of muscles. As the body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate and circulation increases, which is thought to aid muscle repair. This has the effect of soothing aches and pains acquired from exercise, making use of the sauna perfect for post-sports recovery and the breakdown of lactic acid. The sweating process also helps to detoxify the body. Sweat contains many salts and metals, such as mercury, that are difficult for the body to dispose of.

E. Finns used the sauna for rites of passage. Children were born in the sauna, women went through the purification ritual before marriage, and old people often dragged themselves there to die. Even today, many middle-aged Finns boast of being born in the sauna. Besides its social value, the sauna was the only place that was warm, germ-free and with plenty of water. The sauna’s smoke contained tannic acid that sterilised the surfaces of the sauna. The sauna was also used as an infirmary where blood cupping, blood letting and minor operations were performed by the barber, surgeon or village apothecary.

IELTS General Reading Test

F. Obviously, the traditional sauna, with its hundreds of kilos of rocks and logs, was not a marketable item. However, as innovations developed, saunas became cheaper to build, run and maintain. The vented, continuous wood-burning stove was manufactured for countryside saunas and, immediately after World War II, gas-heated stoves began heating city saunas. Later, electrical stoves came into use in most parts of Scandinavia, as it was more convenient to heat up the stones with electrical energy.

This type of electrical heating is still used in many sauna houses of Scandinavia. Its use also curtailed the use of precious wood from the forest. High standards have helped the modern sauna’s popularity and the success of the sauna industry can be attributed to the Finnish Sauna Society, whose engineers and draftsmen have imposed stern standards on the sauna companies. Government legislation also helps the regulation of the implementation of sauna innovation.

IELTS General Reading Test

The text on the previous pages has 6 paragraphs (A – F). Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below. Write the correct number (i – ix) in boxes 27 – 32 on your answer sheet.

i. Sauna and Society Traditions

ii. The First Saunas

iii. A Spread of Disease

iv. Advantages to Health v Saunas for Children

vi. A Dip in Popularity

vii. Technology Helps Spread Saunas

viii. Saunas in the US

ix. Sauna Revival

IELTS General Reading Test

27. Paragraph A

28. Paragraph B

29. Paragraph C

30. Paragraph D

31. Paragraph E

32. Paragraph F

IELTS General Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer of the text? In boxes 33 – 37 on your answer sheet write:

YES – if the statement agrees with the writer’s views

NO – if the statement doesn’t agree with the writer’s views

NOT GIVEN – if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

33. The early itinerant Finns probably had a portable version of a sweat bath.

34. The earliest version of the sauna had rock walls.

35. Special trees were planted to supply the wood to burn for 18th century saunas.

36. One reason that saunas lost popularity in the 18th century was that it was accused of causing sickness.

37. Saunas were used in World War 2 to clean soldiers of lice.

IELTS General Reading Test

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

· Saunas well known for health benefits.

· Saunas can: stimulate the circulation

– release (38) _______________

– relaxes muscles

– dilate blood vessels

– soothe aches and pains by breaking down lactic acid

– detoxify the body through sweating

· Saunas had spiritual meaning – birth and rites took place there

· Saunas were very sterile because of the smoke’s (39) _______________

· Various medical procedures were performed there

· Modern technology made saunas marketable; especially advances in stoves helped this

· The (40) _______________ has ensured high quality with its strict requirements for workers and installers.

IELTS General Reading Test

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BEST IELTS General Reading Test 449

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IELTS General Reading Test

27. ii

28. vi

29. ix

30. iv

31. i

32. vii

33. YES

34. NO

35. NOT GIVEN

36. YES

37. YES

38. ENDORPHINS

39. TANNIC ACID

40. FINNISH SAUNA SOCIETY

IELTS General Reading Test

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