Full of physical and mental benefits, a sauna regimen can be amazing. So you ask, what can the sauna do for athletes? Well, the sauna offers benefits to your skin, body, and mood. People use saunas for a variety of reasons, whether at home, at the spa, or in the locker room at the gym. In Finland and other Scandinavian countries, the sauna has an important cultural role. It’s not uncommon for co-workers to hang out in the sauna, as workers in the US get a happy hour and many homes are built with home saunas.
Well, saunas can be of great help. In this post, we will explore the different types of saunas and the benefits of saunas after training. Read on to learn how saunas work and how they can boost your workout results.
Types of Saunas
There are several different types of saunas, but in general, all saunas are rooms heated to a temperature between 90°F to 120°F (32°C to 49°C).
Finnish-style saunas are considered “dry” while Turkish-style saunas have a lot of steam. People usually spend about 15-30 minutes in the sauna, depending on how much heat they can handle. The more humid saunas are generally harder to endure for longer periods.
The differences in saunas are in the methods used to generate heat. The most common types are:
- Wood stoves: Wood stoves are used to heat the stones in the sauna. The temperature is high, but the humidity is low.
- Electrically heated sauna: An electric heater attached to the floor or wall is used to heat the room. The temperature is high, but the humidity is low.
- Steam rooms: Also known as “Turkish baths“. The temperature is low and the humidity is high at 100 percent.
- Infrared: light waves from special lamps are used to warm your body without heating the room. The benefits are similar to conventional saunas but at a lower temperature. Infrared saunas are usually around 120°F (49°C).
Although the temperature and humidity levels are different, the effect on the body is similar for all types of saunas.
Apart from being a relaxing way to end your workout, saunas also have various health benefits. If you’re wondering what the sauna can do for you, these health benefits are the primary reasons athletes and folks all over the world enjoy saunas all year round.
Staying in a sauna can have a positive effect on heart health. Some research shows that exposure to high temperatures helps dilate blood vessels, which improves circulation and lowers blood pressure.
Some athletes use saunas to improve performance and endurance. After using the sauna, the strength and power of the muscles seem to increase. If you want to build strength and power, saunas can help.
Relaxes muscles and releases endorphins
Spending a few minutes in a sauna after exercise relaxes the mind and muscles due to the high heat your body experiences while exercising. The high temperature of the sauna increases blood circulation. Improved blood flow carries more oxygen to your body, resulting in faster regeneration of worn-out cells. Heat also stimulates the production of endorphins, known as feel-good hormones. Endorphins are called feel-good hormones because they are responsible for reducing pain and anxiety. What the sauna can do for muscles, is help them recover faster and feel less sore.
Relieves muscle pain
The dry heat of a sauna can cause the skin temperature to reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. The fever-like effect can help relieve muscle soreness caused by prolonged or intense exercise. The heating effects of the sauna will also help remove lactic acid from your muscles. This will help you recover faster from your workout. According to Harvard Medical School, blood flow almost doubles in a sauna. As blood flow increases, the muscles tend to relax more.
Eliminates metabolic waste
After a few minutes in the sauna, you can expect to sweat out a liter of water. That sweat contains many metabolic waste products. Most people do not sweat regularly enough, which leads to the accumulation of toxic substances in the body. Therefore, the deep sweating will help release minerals such as nickel, mercury, lead, copper, and zinc. This makes the sauna a great way to detoxify the body painlessly.
Research shows that taking a sauna after exercise can increase your endurance. A 2017 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand followed male runners who took a 30-minute bath at 190°F after three weeks of endurance training. The results showed that all athletes improved their running endurance. Researchers hypothesized that by improving a runner’s cardiovascular system, oxygen levels improve, leading to greater endurance.
Improves cardiovascular fitness
During a normal sauna session, your heart rate will increase to 120-140 beats per minute. Then, when you come out of the sauna, your heart rate will likely drop below your resting level. These changes increase cardiac output and strengthen the heart muscles.
Sauna “kits” can be shared to make your sauna experience even more rewarding. Spend 10 minutes in, then take a 2–3-minute break to cool down. Repeat this process three or four times. A rapid change in temperature will increase your heart rate by up to 60%. This will have a similar effect to moderate cardio.
Helps burn calories
The high heat levels in the sauna cause the metabolic rate to increase, which can burn calories. Also, sweating itself is a calorie-burning activity that requires energy from stored carbohydrates and fat.
According to Ward Dean MD, Medical Investigator in the US Army, “a reasonably fit person can easily produce 500 grams of sweat in a sauna.”
People who are overweight are likely to burn more calories. So, while a sauna may not be a miracle fat-burning machine, it can be a valuable tool in your fat-burning arsenal. Using this valuable tool alone will not help you lose weight, but it can be beneficial when used as part of a healthy weight loss plan.
We’ve attempted to detail the most important health benefits of what the sauna can do for athletes. Using a sauna after exercise can be beneficial if done carefully and responsibly. According to Dr. Ai Mukai, you should facilitate using the sauna. “I usually tell people to start with less time and see how they feel after and then for the rest of the day.” Try starting with just five minutes. If you feel comfortable, develop the habit of using one daily after a workout session.