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The Physical Benefits of Saunas

The Physical Benefits of Saunas

Have you ever been sat in a sauna, sweating through every pore, wondering how long it is until you can get out?

Did you ever think to yourself, I’ve heard this is good for me, but why?

Today, we’re going to explore why spending your precious time in the sauna could be of interest.

The benefits of sauna use are often underestimated. People will cite relaxation or sweating out toxins as the main reasons to use one, but this is only scratching the surface.

What about improving cardiovascular health? Lowering blood pressure? Building muscle?

And yes, this is from sauna use, not just physical exercise. Let’s dive into it.

The cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting blood cells and nutrients around the body. The high temperature in the sauna causes your blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow to the skin.

This causes blood pressure to drop and your heart rate to elevate, much like low-intensity exercise. While this might not be a replacement for cardio, the effects are on the body are quite similar.1,2,3 Best results will be found from combing the two (perhaps not at the same time).4

Research has also shown that sauna use can enhance protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. That means, building more muscle while losing less of it.

The group of proteins responsible for this are called Heat Shock Proteins (HSP’s). They’re responsible for protecting your cells from extreme stress.5, What’s important here is that exposing yourself to high temperatures upregulates their production significantly, creating a protective stress response adaptation, much like exercise.6,7

These benefits can be experienced with sauna use alone, but it’s clear that having both exercise and sauna use in your routine will provide the best rewards.

Ok, so now that you’re Googling your closest spa, how often and how long?

If you’re a beginner, start with 3 x 10-minute sessions per week, increasing to 3 x 15-20 minutes as your tolerance improves.

To progress further, try adding additional rounds on the same day e.g 2 x 15 minutes with 5 minutes in between each round to cool off.

Pro tip: You’re going to sweat a lot! Keep hydrated.

Next time you’re sitting in there sweating profusely, you can smile on the inside knowing that your body is absolutely loving it. Consider making saunas a regular part of your training cycle and treat them as such.

References

  1. Gayda, M., Paillard, F., Sosner, P., Juneau, M., Garzon, M., Gonzalez, M., Bélanger, M. and Nigam, A. (2012). Effects of Sauna Alone and Postexercise Sauna Baths on Blood Pressure and Hemodynamic Variables in Patients With Untreated Hypertension. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 14(8), pp.553-560.
  2. Gayda, M., Paillard, F., Sosner, P., Juneau, M., Garzon, M., Gonzalez, M., Bélanger, M. and Nigam, A. (2012). Effects of Sauna Alone and Postexercise Sauna Baths on Blood Pressure and Hemodynamic Variables in Patients With Untreated Hypertension. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 14(8), pp.553-560.
  3. Laukkanen, T., Kunutsor, S., Zaccardi, F., Lee, E., Willeit, P., Khan, H. and Laukkanen, J. (2017). Acute effects of sauna bathing on cardiovascular function. Journal of Human Hypertension, 32(2), pp.129-138.
  4. Li, Z. and Srivastava, P. (2004). Heat-Shock Proteins. Current Protocols in Immunology.
  5. Naito, H., Powers, S., Demirel, H., Sugiura, T., Dodd, S. and Aoki, J. (2000). Heat stress attenuates skeletal muscle atrophy in hindlimb-unweighted rats. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88(1), pp.359-363.
  6. Schmid, J. (2017). Some like it hot: Cardiovascular health benefits of Finnish sauna. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 25(2), pp.127-129.
  7. Schwandt, P. and Haas, G. (2019). Family Based Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Children by Lifestyle Change: The PEP Family Heart Study. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, pp.41-55.
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