The Health and Fitness Benefits of Sauna After a Workout
The first person who thought of entering a sauna after a workout… deserves a statue. Build him a statue in Finland, next to the man who invented the sauna himself.
Entering the sauna room is good enough, but going right after a workout turned out to be highly beneficial, and quite frankly, it hits differently!
From increased blood flow to better skin and less soreness…the sauna benefits are endless.
Let’s look at the benefits of sauna after a workout.
What Is Hot Therapy?
“Hot therapy” generally refers to the use of heat to treat your body. It typically relaxes, alleviates pain, and helps with injuries.
Hot therapy can take several forms, but today we will focus on the sauna…right after a workout.
It basically works by increasing blood flow, relaxing muscles, and often providing a soothing sensation.
For the best benefits, we should aim for 3 sauna sessions per week.
However, it’s essential to use hot therapy with caution, especially if you have any medical conditions, and it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new therapy or treatment.
What are the Benefits of Sauna After Workout?
1. Helps Muscle Recovery
One of the most significant benefits of a post-workout sauna is the positive impact on muscle recovery.
After an intense workout or practice, your muscles can become sore and fatigued. Sauna sessions can help alleviate muscle tension and promote quicker recovery.
When we work out, we ”damage” (in a good way) and tire our muscles. In return, our body takes energy, such as glucose we get from food, and transforms it into lactic acid to fuel our cells.
The high temperature in the sauna increases blood flow, which can flush out lactic acid and other metabolic waste products that accumulate during exercise.
When in heat, the body accelerates blood circulation, which also delivers more oxygen and essential nutrients to the muscles, aiding repair and rebuilding.
As a result, your muscles are likely to recover faster, allowing you to return to your fitness routine with reduced soreness, or faster for that matter.
2. Helps Heal Muscle Soreness
Sore muscles are what happens after a workout session. The exercise and stress you create on your body during exercise results in tired muscles.
A sauna session after a workout can significantly reduce the discomfort associated with muscle soreness, commonly referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS typically occurs 12 to 24 hours after a workout and can make it challenging to engage in training sessions afterward. This is the pain you feel in the morning after a challenging gym session!
By exposing your body to the heat and humidity of a sauna, you can effectively alleviate the symptoms of DOMS.
The high temperatures in the sauna relax muscle fibers and release tension, reducing the perception of pain. Your muscles relax, and you feel better!
It also increases the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers, providing a soothing and pain-relieving effect.
As a result, the discomfort of muscle soreness is notably diminished, allowing you to recover more swiftly and continue your fitness journey as relaxed as your muscles are.
3. Improves Your Flexibility and Joint Mobility
Heat exposure in a sauna can improve muscle flexibility and joint mobility.
The high heat of the sauna tends to reduce muscle stiffness, making them more pliable.
As your body temperature rises, your muscles become more relaxed (more flexible), making stretching exercises more effective and safe.
A common habit of mine is to stretch in the sauna.
I just found while writing this article that stretching when in a sauna can help increase your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury during workouts.
The heat also helps relax connective tissues, like your tendons and ligaments, making them more supple and responsive to stretching…and we all know how important those need to be healthy…
This increased flexibility is not only helpful for workout performance but also for everyday activities, as it helps prevent strains and injuries.
4. Enhanced Cardiovascular (Heart) Health
Regular sauna use, especially after exercise, can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
When you’re in a sauna, your blood vessels dilate and your heart rate increases as your body works to cool down and maintain a stable core temperature.
This cardiovascular workout can be beneficial, especially for individuals who cannot engage in vigorous physical activity due to medical conditions or injuries.
Over time, sauna sessions can lead to improved cardiovascular fitness, low blood pressure, and enhanced circulation.
These benefits contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and promote overall heart health.
Now, always make sure to consult with your doctor about using a sauna if you have heart problems. I must tell you that the use of a sauna is a bad idea if you have a heart disease.
Sweating is a natural way for the body to eliminate toxins, and saunas can facilitate this process.
Now you might ask yourself: Aren’t I already sweating from a workout?
The answer is yes, but after exercise, your body has an increased demand for water, and combining sauna sessions with proper hydration can aid in flushing out toxins more efficiently.
Basically, the sauna will help your body flush out even more by producing further sweating.
The heat in a sauna leads to lots of sweating, which helps remove impurities from your skin and metabolic waste products (as we saw earlier) from the body.
This cleansing effect not only contributes to better physical health but can also result in clearer, more radiant skin…which leads us to the next benefit of sauna after a workout 🙂
6. Improves Skin Health
Sauna sessions can be particularly beneficial for your skin.
It can open up your pores and reduce proneness to acne and blackheads.
The increase in blood circulation, combined with sweating, helps to flush out impurities from the skin’s pores. This process can lead to clearer and more radiant skin.
The heat in the sauna can also stimulate collagen production, which contributes to skin elasticity and a youthful appearance.
Many people reportedly found that regular sauna use leaves their skin looking healthier and more vibrant.
7. Stress Reduction and Mental Health
While we always talk about the physical benefits of a sauna, we must note the mental benefits of sauna after workout.
Sauna sessions can help with stress relief and promote relaxation. The heat and quiet environment create a serene setting that allows for mental rejuvenation.
Pair that with meditation and you just bought yourself a ticket to mental Valhalla (yes I had to let you know I watch Vikings).
Sauna use also triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers, promoting feelings of well-being and reducing anxiety.
The practice of mindfulness and relaxation in a sauna can also help alleviate mental stress and improve sleep quality, which are two pillars of overall health.
8. Enhanced Immune Function
One of the many health benefits of regular sauna use is boosting your immune system. The high temperature in saunas tends to mimic the conditions the body undergoes during a fever.
This can help activate and strengthen the immune response and may lead to increased resistance to common illnesses and faster recovery from infections.
Hest from the sauna also stimulates the production of white blood cells, which play a crucial role in defending the body against pathogens (organisms causing disease to our bodies).
A stronger immune system means less downtime due to sickness, allowing you to stay consistent with your workout routine.
9. Weight Management
Sauna bathing is reported to make one lose weight…temporarily.
There are two ways a sauna can help you with your weight loss:
Losing your water weight through sweat.
Raising your heart rate which helps burn calories.
I purposefully added ”temporarily” since water weight will be gained back once you hydrate yourself.
However, if you are on a weight loss journey, then a sauna can not only benefit you in calorie burn but also in optimizing your immune system, which is a long-term solution.
When combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, regular sauna use can aid in achieving weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Different Types of Sauna (And Their Benefits)
Saunas come in various types, each with its unique features and heating methods. Here are some of the most common types of saunas
This is your typical ”gym sauna”, and it is the most common type.
This type of sauna is heated with an electric stove, wood-burning stove, or infrared heating elements.
There are two subcategories of the traditional sauna:
Dry Sauna: Usage of rocks or a heating element to generate dry heat.
Wet Sauna: Usage of rocks or a heating element to generate heat, but water is added for extra steam
Uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat that is absorbed directly by the body.
The reason you would choose the infrared saunas is because they operate at a lower temperature (usually between 120°F to 150°F), making it a more comfortable option for those who find traditional saunas too hot.
This type of sauna does not have humidity, instead, it raises your core body temperature with the lights emitted.
Don’t worry, the infrared saunas have similar health benefits as traditional saunas, such as detoxification and relaxation.
The steam room provides a wet heat environment with high humidity levels (usually around 100% humidity).
Steam generators produce steam, which fills the room and raises the temperature.
You would go for a steam sauna because of its increased benefits regarding respiratory health, relaxation, and skin rejuvenation.
Smoke Sauna (Traditional Finnish Sauna)
Originating from Finland, this traditional type of sauna is heated by burning wood, usually with little to no chimney.
The burning wood produces smoke that fills the room, giving it a unique smoky aroma…it smells AMAZING!
Often considered an authentic and rustic sauna experience, its benefits can include better sleep quality and an immunity boost.
The benefits of using a sauna after a workout are substantial and multifaceted.
From improved muscle recovery and reduced muscle soreness to cardiovascular health, detoxification, and stress reduction, saunas offer a plethora of advantages for the body and mind.
Integrating sauna sessions into your post-workout routine can enhance your overall well-being and help you achieve your fitness goals more effectively.
Warning About Saunas!!!
It’s important to note that while saunas offer numerous benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone.
Individuals with certain medical conditions or those who are pregnant should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating sauna sessions into their fitness routine.
Additionally, it’s essential to stay hydrated, limit sauna exposure to recommended durations, and exit the sauna if you experience discomfort or dizziness.
The recommended sauna time by professionals is 15-20 minutes.