Sauna After Workout
There's no better feeling than that post-workout sensation.
When you've wrapped up a challenging fitness class or gym session, dripping with sweat and feeling the rush of endorphins coarse through your body. With sore muscles and general fatigue, you're more than ready to focus on your recovery session. Whether it entails stretching, rehydrating, or some sort of cooldown, what you do in the hours following exercise can dramatically impact whether your body continues to burn more calories, repair, and build muscles.
The post-workout activity that many athletes are opting for today is using infrared saunas. A relaxing and detoxifying sauna session has a multitude of health benefits, proving that spending time in the sauna after a workout, whether it be brief or lengthy, can significantly aid in the muscle recovery process, boost your cardiovascular health, and promote weight loss.
Using a sauna
For thousands of years, saunas have been used to help people unwind, relax and sweat it out.
Typically heated to temperatures between 70 to 100 degrees Celsius or 158 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, a traditional sauna uses dry heat with a relative humidity that is often between 10 and 20 percent. As the body temperature rises, you begin to heavily sweat, the heart rate rises, and the body begins to free itself of toxins.
In just a short amount of time sitting in a sauna, it's not uncommon to lose roughly a pint of sweat. Many people enjoy using a sauna for the sole purpose of relaxation. However, research has shown that hitting the sauna following a workout has an outstanding amount of health benefits.
There are several types of saunas, differing by how the room is heated. A wood-burning sauna is one that is heated by firewood, which leads to less humidity and higher temperatures. Similar in style, electrically-heated saunas are heated through the use of an electric heater attached to the floor and also produce low humidity and high temperatures. Infrared saunas use special lamps that use light waves to heat a person's body rather than the entire room. While the temperature is typically lower, your body still sweats the same amount.
Lastly, while different from saunas, steam rooms are an alternative option and involve high humidity and moist heat.
Time in a sauna
Regardless of what type of sauna you use, the effects on your body are similar. It's very important to approach saunas with the appropriate procedure in order to reap the full benefits. Due to the high level of heat, dehydration is a common side effect and possible risk of sitting in saunas for too long.
Therefore, the general rule on how long to stay in a sauna depends on your level of experience. For beginners, be sure to hydrate beforehand and aim to spend between five and ten minutes per session.
Once your body is properly adjusted to the heat, you can build up to longer time intervals. The positive effects of the sauna begin when the heat causes your pores to open, your heart rate increases, and your blood vessels widen. As a result, the body begins to detoxify from the inside out and your metabolism goes into overdrive.
Following each session, make sure to take some time to cool down and hydrate to level out the fluid balance and avoid getting dehydrated. Whether it is to relax the body or aid in recovery, the use of a sauna can help your body in countless ways and enhance your performance in your next workout.
The benefits of sauna
When your body is experiencing muscle soreness following a rigorous workout, there is nothing better than a post-workout sauna session.
Many gyms and sporting facilities offer the use of a sauna on-site, making it easy and accessible directly following your exercise routine. While there are many proven benefits of heat therapy, utilizing a sauna after a workout has been shown to drastically enhance the muscle recovery process by increasing blood circulation and transporting oxygen-rich blood to the oxygen-depleted muscles.
After intense exercise, your muscles are inflamed and very tight. In an effort to boost muscle recovery, heat is a powerful tool in relaxing and loosening muscular contraction, which noticeably reduces the pain and aching you normally experience following your time at the gym. This not only helps to avoid future injuries but it can help to reduce muscle breakdown and in turn, help to increase muscle building. Sauna use directly enhances the production of reparative proteins which prevents muscle damage and protects us against oxidative damage. Take care of that muscle soreness by hitting the sauna after a workout.
Sitting in a sauna can also improve heart health and be beneficial to longevity. Stints of time spent in hot temperatures can benefit you by raising the heart rate, causing increased blood circulation throughout the entire body.
In addition, saunas can help the health off cells within the arteries by boosting the strength of the cells that form in the artery lining. Research published on heart health and sauna use has shown that men who use a sauna several times a week had a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease.
By spending time in a heated sauna room, your heart rate is rapidly increased, which mimics the response to performing moderate exercise. Between your overall cardiovascular health, fitness performance, and reduced risk of heart failure, time in the sauna is hugely beneficial to your general health.
Sauna use can also boost weight loss and can be a healthy way to boost metabolism. While you can't expect to drop several pounds by sitting in a sauna, it is a guarantee that you will lose a certain percentage of water weight.
An intense workout tends to stress our bodies out, leading to muscle fibers inducing the process of water retention. As your body releases cortisol, the fluids in your body are disrupted which causes the retention of water. While this may cause slight weight gain and bloat, a sauna can assist through the process of sweating. As you sweat, you begin to lose the excess water that is being stored in your body.
Having to work harder to combat the heat, your heart rate rises and ultimately boosts your metabolism. While this is beneficial to the body, it can also increase the risk of dehydration.
The time you spend in a sauna can also free toxins and impurities from your body, clearing out your lymphatic system which helps to burn fat more effectively. This ultimately provides you with more energy for your future workout and in turn speed up weight loss. If you are turning to saunas simply to lose weight, you will not succeed. However, following a workout, weight loss through water weight has been successfully proven as one of the many benefits.
Endurance and Aerobic Capacity
Heat therapy through the use of saunas can significantly improve your endurance and aerobic capacity. For the purpose of stamina training, studies have shown that long-distance runners who spent time in the sauna several times a week following their workout increased their time to exhaustion by 32 percent.
Thanks to an increase in plasma and red blood cells volumes, saunas help to increase the overall blood volume. In addition, saunas can help our tolerance to heat, which in turn allows us to handle the natural increase in body temperature that is associated with prolonged physical exertion. As for aerobic capacity, the heat from a sauna significantly improves the health of your lungs. Not only does the dry heat, and sometimes steam, help to further open and cleanse the lungs, but it enhances the overall function and capacity of the lungs. By allowing for better oxygen intake, you have a heightened availability for oxygen when exercising.
It should come as no surprise that another benefit of sauna use is mental relaxation. If you are in search of a way to relax the mental and physical body, whether or not you have just hit the gym, relaxing in a sauna is crucial to your well-being. Just as exercise helps to improve your physical health, taking time to slow down the mind and decompress has many health benefits. By teaching the mind to adapt to stress, you significantly lower the risk of depression and other mental health issues. Research has shown that infrared saunas have a rapid and powerful antidepressant effect and help to positively improve fatigue, appetite loss, and overall mood. By lowering cortisol levels, your body's main stress hormone, you are much less likely to experience anxiety or tension. The overall boost in your mood is drastically enhanced, thanks to the improved circulation and stimulation of endorphins which gives you a natural feel-good chemical reaction.
As you expose your skin to dry heat or steam, depending on what type of sauna you are using, deep sweating occurs. When this happens, sweat rinses bacteria out of the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. The skin ultimately cleanses itself by removing dead cells and toxins, aiding in the capillary circulation. The nutrients and minerals found in sweat are extremely beneficial to the collagen structure of the skin and therefore helps to give you that soft, glowing appearance. While dehydration is a concern and can have a negative effect on your skin if you are mindful about replacing fluids in the body, you can experience a deep cleanse by flushing body waste through individual cells.
Sauna after workout
The next time you are finishing up a long, hard gym session, take advantage of the many health benefits associated with sauna use after a workout. Whether your focus is to relax the body, aid in muscle recovery, or boost metabolism, it has been proven time and time again that just a short amount of time spent in a sauna following your time at the gym or partaking in any form of physical exercise can drastically improve your fitness, mental health, and cardiovascular health. Treat yourself to heat therapy and experience the wonderful benefits that will keep you healthy and prolong your physical longevity.