TL:DR: A post workout trip to the sauna can improve your recovery and boost your overall health. However, it can also lead to cardiovascular complications and other temporary problems. Read on to learn the pros and cons of going to a sauna after your workout.
Saunas are a great way to relax and unwind after a workout, but before you hunker down in the heat, know that this ancient practice has both pros and cons.
Using a sauna in moderation (just like an ice bath) can help improve recovery and heart health, beat stress, and even boost immunity.
For certain individuals, however, the risks can outweigh the benefits. If you have severe heart disease, a compromised cardiovascular system, and/or especially sensitive skin, or if you are trying to conceive or are already pregnant, check with your doctor before you hit the hot box.
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The Story of the Sauna
The use of saunas after exercise has been practiced for centuries. Originating in Finland over 2000 years ago, saunas were soon adopted in other Scandinavian countries where they were used for healing purposes and also as gathering places for heated discussions.
Today, the sweaty ritual is a popular relaxation and wellness activity around the world.
The pros of a sauna visit after exercising will likely outweigh the cons for most people, but before you head to the hothouse, it’s crucial to follow a couple of precautions.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight ounces of water after your workout and before you step into the sauna.
- Once you’re inside, aim for a ten to twenty-minute roast. Less than this, and you probably won’t reap any health benefits. Longer? You run the risk of overheating.
The Pros of an After-workout Sauna
Saunas are associated with a wide range of health benefits. Among the pros of this workout wrap-up are improved recovery and potential boosts in immunity and cardiovascular health.
1. Improved Recovery
One of the primary benefits of using a sauna after a workout is improved recovery. A post-workout steam bath can increase the body’s core temperature, which causes the blood vessels to expand, allowing more blood to flow freely through the body.
The increase in circulation helps flush out lactic acid and other metabolic waste, which can reduce soreness and improve recovery time.
The sweat equity you put into your sauna soak comes with its own recovery bonus. The heat causes users to perspire, which helps to eliminate toxins and other impurities from the body.
2. A Boost in Heart Health
A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology found evidence to suggest that a 15-minute post-workout sauna sit has heart health benefits similar to a modest-intensity workout.
Another study links sauna bathing to reduced cardiovascular mortality and improvements in cardiovascular risk prediction.
Several studies show a correlation between frequent sauna use and lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke––benefits researchers attribute to improved blood vessel function and cholesterol levels, and less inflammation.
Study authors caution that it may be difficult to attribute improved heart health solely to sauna use. It may be that a lifestyle that allows for regular sauna sitting may deserve some of the credit.
3. Stress Reduction
A sauna’s relaxing atmosphere combined with its heat and humidity can help reduce stress and anxiety and allow the body to relax, leading to a better overall sense of well-being.
Addressing your stress should not be an after-workout afterthought. Stress can be the source of several mental and physical health problems from headaches and fatigue to depression and diabetes.
Feeling bad can lead to unhealthy behaviors that may make you feel better temporarily, but in the long run, end up compounding the problem. Instead of taming the tension with your favorite bad habit, sweat your stress out with a sauna soak.
4. Enhanced Immunity
When it comes to fending off infectious organisms, white blood cells are the body’s frontline defense, and there’s evidence to suggest a pre-battle sweat-fest can beef up your germ-fighting army.
In a study published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers document an increase in the white blood cell counts of study participants who took sauna baths after exercising but observed no change in those who skipped the steam room.
5. Weight Loss
The heat of a post-workout sauna gives your heart rate a slight boost, which stimulates your metabolism, cranking up the number of calories you burn while you sweat.
Researchers have found that sauna-level temperatures (150 degrees or more) will increase metabolic rates by about 20 percent for sauna-takers while they steam, and the effects last for a couple of hours after they return to normal temperatures.
Keep in mind that any weight you lose in the sauna will be water weight, and this kind of weight loss is due to dehydration, which is not a wellness goal. Always replace your water loss by sipping before and after your sauna.
Sauna baths alone will likely not affect weight, but as part of a healthy nutrition and exercise program, they can serve as healthy relaxation stations along your weight loss journey.
Sauna Cons: Reasons You May Want to Skip the Steam
Though using a sauna after a workout is generally safe and beneficial, consider these potential risks.
Spending too much time in a sauna can lead to overheating which can result in fatigue, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, or heat exhaustion. The intense heat can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can put a strain on your cardiovascular system.
Most at risk of the negative health outcomes associated with overheating are people with severe heart disease and/or those who need to avoid risks associated with low blood pressure.
Individuals who have not had enough time to cool down after exercise or who seek out the sauna without replenishing the liquid lost during a workout also heighten their chances of overheating.
During exercise, the body produces sweat to cool itself, but in a sauna, the sweat is not released from the body, and the sauna’s heat and humidity can accelerate fluid loss.
To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water before and after a sauna session. Listen to your body and take breaks if needed.
2. Cardiovascular Complications in Heart Patients
Sauna sitting is generally a heart-healthy practice, but according to Harvard Health, if your heart is already under stress, it’s best to avoid extreme heat.
High temperatures cause the heart to work harder, which can be good if you’re healthy, but not if you have high-risk heart disease, chest pain (angina), or hypertension.
3. Skin Irritation
The hot air of a sauna can cause skin irritation, worsen existing dermatitis, and even cause burns or rashes among people with especially sensitive skin. Use a moisturizer after a sauna session to help prevent problems like cracking, flaking, and redness.
The sweat you shed in a sauna can draw out toxins, but also clog pores. If you are prone to breakouts, try a beta-hydroxy exfoliant to prevent sebum build-up that can lead to acne.
4. Temporary Sperm Count Slumps
Researchers who conducted a 2013 study on how sauna exposure affects human spermatogenesis found a sauna’s heat can reduce sperm production in otherwise healthy men. The lowered sperm counts were only detectable during three months when study participants made weekly steam room visits.
Once the men stopped using a sauna, their sperm counts returned to pre-study levels. Doctors recommend men avoid saunas if they are trying to conceive.
Is it good to have a sauna after working out?
Having a sauna after working out can be beneficial for recovery, cardiovascular health, and relaxation. Saunas are commonly found in upscale health clubs and gyms, as they have been praised by experts and research for their post-workout advantages.
How long should I sit in a sauna after a workout?
The recommended duration for sitting in a sauna after a workout is typically 15–20 minutes. This time frame is crucial as it enables your body to cool down and recuperate. Additionally, post-workout sauna sessions offer numerous advantages that aid in reducing muscle soreness and enhancing overall well-being. Let’s delve deeper into these benefits.
Should I shower after sauna?
The statement: “You should shower after sauna.” Rephrased answer: It is better for your body to cool off in the fresh air before taking a shower after a sauna, as sauna-goers should leave enough time to cool down before warming up again to avoid catching a cold from excessive sweating.
Can I sauna everyday?
You can use saunas every day, as studies indicate it is safe to do so. However, it is important to remember to stay hydrated during your sessions. While daily sauna use is not harmful, it is essential to be cautious of prolonged single sauna sessions as they can elevate the risk of dehydration.
Is it better to go in a dry or wet sauna after workout?
It is more effective and faster for muscle recovery to go in a wet sauna after a workout, as moist heat has been shown to work as effectively as, if not more quickly than, dry heat in relieving muscle soreness. This has been known by professional athletes for many years, as heat therapy can deeply penetrate muscle tissue and help alleviate DOMS.
How long should you stay in sauna after workout?
You should wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes after your workout before entering the sauna, allowing your body to cool down and your heart rate to return to normal levels. Once you’re ready to enter the sauna, you can stay inside for 10 to 20 minutes.
Is 10 minutes in sauna enough?
The recommended length of time to spend in a sauna is typically 15-20 minutes, although first-timers should start with 5-10 minutes. It is important to note that individuals with specific health conditions should avoid using a sauna.
Does sauna burn calories?
Sauna does burn calories. Spending 15-30 minutes in a sauna can result in burning 1.5 – 2 times more calories compared to sitting in any other place. Therefore, an average 150lb woman can lose approximately 68 calories during a 30-minute sauna session. Sauna bathing has the potential to positively impact both mental and physical well-being, making it a beneficial lifestyle choice.
Should you shower after sauna?
You should shower after a sauna session because it helps cleanse the skin and close pores, as well as release toxins that are expelled through sweating. Additionally, taking a cold shower after a sauna can activate cold shock proteins in the body, potentially aiding in weight loss by facilitating the assimilation of fat.
Is A sauna good for your skin?
A sauna can be beneficial for your skin as it promotes collagen production, which is responsible for skin elasticity. Spending time in a sauna with hot air and moisture helps rejuvenate your complexion by enhancing collagen production. Additionally, the heat in a sauna helps your skin shed dead skin cells, allowing new and healthier ones to take their place.
Does sauna after workout hurt gains?
Sauna after a workout does not hurt gains. Heat shock proteins play a crucial role in the body’s healing process, including muscle repair. Research has demonstrated that using a sauna can actually enhance muscle regrowth by 30%, which greatly contributes to hypertrophy, recovery, and combating age-related atrophy.
Do you gain weight after sauna?
Rephrased answer: You do not gain weight after a sauna session. While in a sauna, your body expends more energy to regulate its temperature, resulting in increased calorie burn. As a result, you may temporarily shed a few pounds of water weight due to excessive sweating. However, once you rehydrate, it is likely that you will regain the lost weight.
Should you wipe sweat in sauna?
Statement: You should wipe sweat in the sauna.Rephrased answer: It is advisable to wipe sweat during your sauna session, but it is important to ensure that your cloth is clean to maintain the health of your skin. Additionally, we recommend taking a shower after your session to cleanse your skin. If you opt for a cold shower, it can help close up pores and activate cold shock proteins, which may assist in weight loss.
Does sauna release growth hormone?
Sauna sessions have been found to release growth hormone, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The research showed that engaging in two 20-minute sauna sessions at 176°F (80°C) resulted in a two-fold increase in HGH levels. Additionally, another study demonstrated that HGH levels increased five-fold after 30-minute sauna sessions at 163°F (73°C).
What happens to muscles in sauna?
The muscles in the sauna experience improved circulation, leading to various advantages. According to Okubadejo, increased oxygen levels received by the muscles aid in their repair process and assist the body in reducing swelling and pain. This can be particularly beneficial for joint pain, mobility, and arthritis.
What are the disadvantages of a sauna?
The disadvantages of a sauna include the risk of overheating due to the extreme heat inside, which can raise body temperatures to unhealthy levels. It is advised by doctors to never exceed 30 minutes in a sauna, with most recommending a maximum of 15-20 minutes. On the other hand, saunas have the advantage of increasing blood flow and circulation.
Do saunas really sweat out toxins?
Saunas do not actually sweat out toxins, as there is no credible scientific evidence to support this claim. While sauna use has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, potentially due to the increased heart rate similar to moderate exercise, it does not have the ability to cleanse our bodies of toxins. It is important to note that excessive use of saunas or sweat therapy can be dangerous.
Is it OK to sauna everyday?
It is safe to use saunas every day, as long as you remember to stay hydrated during your sessions. While daily sauna use is not harmful, the risk of dehydration can increase with prolonged single sauna sessions.
Are saunas healthy or harmful?
Saunas are generally safe for most individuals, but it is advisable for those with uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease to consult their doctors before using a sauna. To ensure safety, it is recommended to refrain from consuming alcohol and medications that may hinder sweating and cause overheating before and after using a sauna.
Do saunas actually have health benefits?
Saunas do have health benefits, as emerging evidence suggests. These benefits include reducing the risk of vascular diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, and neurocognitive diseases. Saunas also have positive effects on nonvascular conditions such as pulmonary diseases, including…
Do saunas dehydrate you?
Saunas can cause dehydration due to the significant amount of sweating they induce. On average, sauna use for about fifteen minutes can lead to a loss of approximately one pound of fluid. Although this may initially result in temporary weight loss, it can also lead to dehydration and the depletion of vital nutrients such as magnesium, sodium, and iron.
How long is safe in a sauna?
The safe duration to stay in a sauna depends on your hydration level. If you are not adequately hydrated, it is recommended to limit your time to 20 minutes to avoid dehydration. However, if you are in good health, physically fit, and properly hydrated, you can extend your sauna session to a considerably longer timeframe, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, or even up to an hour.
Should I sauna before or after workout?
The rephrased answer would be: Sauna sessions can be beneficial both before and after a workout. If taken after a workout, they may help alleviate muscle soreness and promote relaxation. On the other hand, if used before a workout, saunas can warm up your muscles, enhance blood circulation, and prepare your heart rate for exercise, especially when combined with a warm-up routine. To maximize the advantages and minimize risks, it is recommended to limit sauna exposure to 5 to 20 minutes.
Why do I feel dizzy after sauna?
After using a sauna, feeling dizzy can be attributed to the possibility of experiencing low blood pressure. This occurs because the body directs more blood towards the skin’s surface in order to cool down. Consequently, blood pressure decreases, which can result in symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, blurred vision, and, in severe instances, loss of consciousness.