If you have ever considered taking advantage of the sauna at your local gym, it was likely after a hard workout that pushed your muscles.
But the reality is you need to sweat it out before you sweat it out.
While there are few instances when a sit in the sauna won’t feel good, you’ll get the most benefit from using the sauna prior to your workout.
Not only that, but you actually should avoid the sauna after a hard workout to give your heart rate a chance to gradually return to its resting rate.
You can think about the sauna much like you would passive exercise or, in a sense, a literal warm-up.
The goal of a pre-workout warm-up is to give your body the chance to begin movement, increase in temperature, and loosen tight or even sore muscles.
Although sitting in the sauna shouldn’t completely replace your physical workout warm-up, it can be a great complement to your routine, particularly if you seem sensitive to sore muscles and tension related strains.
You don’t need to spend an hour in the sauna to get this pre-workout benefit either, though you’ll probably find that you need to sit for at least five or more minutes to get the intended body warming effect.
Sauna Use Tips
Just like using the sauna at the right time is important, you also need to follow a few basic tips to get the most sauna before workout benefits.
A sauna bath not only helps the body prepare for work, but it is also therapeutic in that it helps your body release heavy metals and chemicals that may be causing additional stress on your body.
To best facilitate this, drink at least 8 ounces of water prior to entering the sauna and be sure to drink water inside as well as during your workout and after.
You should also shower off prior to entering the sauna to remove any dirt, perfumes, or other comedogenic substances from entering the pores.
Likewise, dress appropriately for the sauna.
Most people wear a towel or completely remove their clothing in the sauna, but if preferred, you can wear light, loose clothing.
Staying in the sauna too long or using a temperature that is too high is also not advised.
A period of 5 minutes is often enough to warm the body, while any time beyond 15 minutes may be detrimental to your health.
The sauna should be adjusted to a temperature that is comfortable to you, not above 196 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you’ve finished in the sauna and are ready to begin your workout, do so slowly with gentle flowing movement to allow your body to reacclimatize to the temperature outside of the sauna and avoid any strain to your body.
Additional Sauna Benefits
The sauna before workout benefits aren’t just limited to a good pre-workout practice, though.
The health benefits are extensive and range from increasing longevity to reducing disease.
Aging and life expectancy is based largely on the accumulation of damage to the cells within the body as well as the body’s ability to combat this damage.
One of the many benefits of sauna use is that it activates what are known as heat shock proteins, or HSPs, that function to repair this cellular damage, support cellular regeneration, and offset future damage.
The benefits of regular sauna use are so great that individuals who use the treatment just 4 to 7 times each week are 40 percent less likely to die from any known causes that those who do not.
Increased Weight Loss
Not only do individuals who use a sauna regularly lose nearly 2 times as much weight as those who do not, they also lose almost 5 times as much body fat.
Regular sauna use can help regulate the hormone ghrelin in the body, and in turn, normalize daily feeding behaviors and intake.
Additionally, regular use of the sauna can increase metabolic rate and oxygen consumption both during and after use, so your body begins burning more calories than before, contributing to weight regulation.
Increased Muscle Development
Sauna use activates HSPs that support cellular repair and prevent further damage.
Both of these play an important role in muscle breakdown.
Similar to its function in weight loss, the sauna helps regulate hormones in your body, including insulin-like growth factor I, which increase protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown.
These together result in reduced muscle breakdown and increased muscle growth.
Decreased Recovery Time
If you’ve been working out for long, you are likely familiar with post-workout soreness.
This muscle soreness is the result of lactic acid build up in the muscles during activity.
Sauna use helps regulate lactic acid build-up in response to hyperthermic conditioning, or acclimating the body to increased temperatures with the addition of added heat.
Using the sauna is also important in regards to recovery time as it reduces oxidative stress to the muscles and supports effective muscle regrowth.
Inflammation is the result of the body’s attempt to heal itself. While typically beneficial, inflammation can become problematic, contributing to many of today’s chronic diseases, when it forms a feedback loop that deters healing.
Sauna use stimulates HSPs that serve as anti-inflammatory proteins and reduce the chronic inflammation that may be the cause of ongoing pain, fatigue, and disease in many individuals.
In fact, you may experience lowered markers of stress and inflammation with just two weeks of regular sauna use.
Decreased Disease Risk
Sauna use can help reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease and cancer among others.
Using the sauna regularly improves cardiovascular flow as a result of an increase in endothelial nitric oxide synthase.
Likewise, it reduces oxidative stress that contributes to chronic diseases.
While you will get the most benefit from using the sauna at least 4 to 7 times a week in combination with exercise, even using it every other week has helped individuals reap a myriad of health benefits.