Sauna bathing is a practice that not only helps your body relax and deal with stress but can also improve your health in many other ways.
Athletes, those who work out a lot, and anyone who engages in strenuous activity can improve their endurance and improve their recovery time between workouts by using a sauna regularly.
Saunas raise your core body temperature and release heat shock proteins, FOXO3 proteins, and other hormones and neurotransmitters that can help your muscles repair, regenerate, and feel better after activity.
There has been a great deal of research on the effects of sauna on endurance and recovery, and this guide outlines the findings from the most important of these studies.
Below, we explore over 20 different research reports, including their conclusions regarding sauna use and muscle strength and repair.
When you examine these results individually and combined, you will see that using a sauna is an excellent practice for anyone wishing to improve their physical performance.
Improves Recovery from Strength and Endurance Training
In a study designed to compare the effects on recovery of both far-infrared and traditional Finnish sauna use, researchers uncovered positive results for athletes (1).
Researchers used ten healthy male volunteers for this project, and they had each participant complete either 60 minutes of strength retaining or about 40 minutes of endurance training during the study period.
A sauna session then followed each exercise session.
To better understand the effects of far-infrared rays (FIR), researchers alternated between this type of sauna and a traditional Finnish experience.
During the FIR sauna, temperatures reached between 35 and 50 degrees Celsius and up to 35 percent humidity.
During the conventional sauna, temperatures stayed within the same range, but humidity climbed to up to 70 percent.
All sauna sessions lasted 30 minutes. After each session, participants sat for 30 minutes at room temperature.
To measure performance, participants completed bench presses, leg presses, countermovement jumps, and had their oxygen uptake levels take while they used a treadmill.
The results of this study showed that those who used the traditional sauna had a higher heart rate after use compared to the FIR experience.
FIR use did not perform better than traditional sauna use when it came to muscle recovery, but participants did perform better on countermovement jumps after the FIR sauna.
Researchers concluded that the FIR sauna might provide deeper penetration of relaxing and therapeutic heat to muscles and tissues compared to the traditional sauna.
Recovery was improved for endurance performance but not necessarily for muscle strength in this case.
Because of the smaller sample size of this study, these results should be replicated with a larger sample that also includes women for a more generalizable result, but this research does indicate the FIR saunas could help improve the endurance of some athletes, especially as it relates to the neuromuscular system.
Saunas Can Help Athletes Acclimate to High Temperatures
This recent study from 2019 examined the effects of sauna use on a cohort of females, a population that has not been widely studied.
The purpose of the study was to investigate whether short-term heat acclimation helped female athletes adapt to repeated heat stress (2).
Many athletes find that their performance suffers when they compete or work out in high temperatures or humidity.
Many turn to sauna use to quickly acclimate their bodies to these conditions.
While it was previously believed that just a few days (less than one week) was needed to enhance performance, this study wanted to see if more extended acclimation periods would yield better results.
The group of eight women was selected, and each performed cycling time trials for 15 minutes at their own pace.
They completed these trials before the acclimation period, after four days of heat acclimation, and after nine days of heat acclimation.
Heat acclimation consisted of 90 minutes of cycling under hot temperatures (40 degrees Celsius) and low humidity (30 percent).
After four days of this heat acclimation, there was no noticeable difference in distance, mean power output, or speed.
However, after nine days of heat acclimation, there was a statistically significant increase in all three metrics.
This indicates that the extra days of heat acclimation were enough to boost performance and help athletes perform better at elevated temperatures.
There was a difference in the number of active sweat glands per square centimeter of skin, and participants noted feel less hot before the final test as compared to the first test.
This study adds to the body of knowledge on heat acclimation and helps us understand that at least nine days of sauna use would be necessary to help athletes prepare for extreme conditions.
Additionally, it helps us see how hyperthermic therapy helps to acclimate the body to working efficiently at higher temperatures over time.
Sauna Use Post Workout Improves Endurance
Researchers from New Zealand wanted to examine how post-workout sauna use affects the endurance of athletes.
In this 2007 study, researchers chose six male distance runners as their participants (3).
They aimed to determine if post-workout sauna use improved athletic performance.
To test their question, researchers had participants complete three weeks of post-training sauna bathing, rest for three weeks, and then do three weeks’ worth of control training.
During the sauna portion of the trial, the runners say in a sauna that was around 90 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes after every workout.
Tests were run on the first and second days following the three-week trial period and consisted of a treadmill test.
Participants ran to exhaustion at their current best speed over 5 km/hour, which took about 15 minutes.
Throughout the trial period, blood was drawn to test plasma, red-cell, and total blood volume.
The trial tests were compared to the control tests.
The results of this study indicated that sauna bathing increased the run time to exhaustion by 32 percent, which would equal a two percent enhancement in an endurance time trial.
Researchers noted increased plasma volume and total blood volume correlated to performance, but there was no significant correlation with red blood cell count.
The three-week trial of the post-exercise sauna was deemed to produce a worthwhile result by enhancing the performance, and researchers believe this is due to the increased blood volume.
Therefore, athletes who regularly use a sauna after their endurance workouts could notice a considerable improvement in their overall time or speed.
While this study was conducted on runners, it is believed to be applicable to athletes of all types.
How a Single Sauna Session Affects Immunity and Cortisol
Many claims have been made about how sauna use boosts immunity or helps to reduce stress, but many times, the variables make it hard to know the exact response your body has to using a sauna.
This study sought to examine how just one session of sauna use would affect both athletes and non-athletes, and researchers chose to investigate white blood cell profiles and cortisol levels as markers for change (4).
The participants in this study were nine trained male runners and nine male non-athletes.
Each subject participated in a 15-minute session inside a Finnish sauna that was heated to around 100 degrees Celsius.
They were given a two-minute cooldown session with water, too.
In addition to measuring BMI before and after the test as well as blood samples pre- and post-sauna, participants also had their body temperature measured at five-minute intervals throughout the trial.
Blood samples were analyzed for total protein, hematological indices, and cortisol levels.
The single sauna session resulted in a more significant loss of body mass in the active group compared to the non-athletic group.
In all participants, there was an increase in white blood cells, lymphocyte, neutrophil, and basophil counts after the sauna session.
Those with more athletic training saw a higher increase in leukocyte and monocyte counts, which are different types of white blood cells.
Levels of cortisol increased in all participants, regardless of athletic training, but the increase in the level of this hormone was much higher in non-athletes versus athletes.
The results of this study indicate that sauna bathing can stimulate the immune system and that this effect is stronger for athletes versus those with less physical training.
Non-athletes undergo higher levels of heat stress than athletes because their bodies are not acclimated to higher temperatures.
The results concerning cortisol levels and sauna use are inconsistent across studies, so this report allows us to see what a single sauna session does to stress levels in the body.
Sauna Use Increases Plasma Volume and Influences Heart Rate
This 2015 study sought to explore the relationship between sauna use and blood volume further, particularly as it relates to heart rate variability, an important factor in performance and endurance (5).
Researchers wondered if changes in plasma volume could be tracked using changes in various measures of heart rate.
Participants were seven male cyclists, and each was monitored for a period of 35 days.
Seventeen of those were considered baseline training, which was followed by ten days of training plus sauna use, then eight more days of training.
The sauna sessions were 30 minutes in length at 87 degrees Celsius and 11 percent relative humidity.
Saunas were taken immediately following a normal training session.
Samples were taken of participants blood throughout the trial to measure plasma volume changes.
Additionally, participants’ heart rate and vagal-related heart rate variability were taken every day when they woke.
On days 1, 8, 15, 22, 25, 29, and 35 of the trial, participants completed a five-minute cycling test at 125 watts of output.
After each test, heart rate recovery was assessed.
When compared with the baseline data, trial data should that sauna use influenced plasma volume after jut four exposures.
However, using heart rate and heart rate variability did not prove to be an accurate predictor of blood volume increase.
Based on these results alone, it is unclear how sauna bathing improves performance based on the limited data collected.
Sauna Use for Heat Acclimatization Can Improve Performance in Cooler Conditions
The research commentary examined the effects of heat acclimatization on physical performance in hot as well as colder conditions and hypothesized that, while heat stress training does help to improve endurance and strength at warmer temperatures, the same mechanism of action should work to help support activity done at lower temperatures, as well (6).
The authors note that substantial research exists to support the claim that repeated sauna use helps the body to adapt to hotter climates, which means you can exercise more, even when your core temperature rises from exertion.
While performance is naturally optimized at cooler temperatures and muscle deterioration slows under these conditions, there is still heat stress being exerted on the body.
Hyperthermic conditioning could help to improve performance at lower temperatures in the same way it enhances endurance in warmer conditions by helping the but more efficiently work under stress.
The authors hypothesize that this effect should be logical but note that there is little evidence available to support these claims.
They further speculate that exertion at extremely low temperatures, which can result in hypoxia, could be made more comfortable with the addition of heat acclimatization training for athletes.
In summarizing research from other studies, these authors note that research into sauna training and other forms of hyperthermic condition indicate that longer sessions for more extended periods yield better results.
In some cases, variables such as speed or intensity would need to be tested under different temperature conditions and tested against warmer ones.
They further note that there is no existing data to suggest that this type of training regimen impairs the performance of athletes in colder weather.
They suggest further lines of research to test these various hypotheses, including studying the effects of hyperthermic conditioning on elite athletes who perform at very low temperatures.
Passive Heating Strategies Improve Endurance
Four Australian researchers published their results in 2018 after studying the heat acclimation strategies currently used by endurance athletes (7).
Instead of studying active heat acclimation techniques, they examined the effects of more passive methods, including sauna use.
The most common active acclimation procedures used by athletes include the so-called “controlled hyperthermia technique,” exercising at a constant workload in hot or humid conditions, and participant selection of their own work rate during exercise with heat exposure.
These are all proven effective training techniques, but they are not always practical or economical for the everyday athlete looking to boost their endurance.
Passive techniques, as described by these authors, include resting in a heat chamber, using a sauna, or taking a hot bath.
There may be other passive strategies that have yet to be studied by the medical community.
This meta-analysis examined all the research on heat acclimation to determine what could be learned about the effects of these types of passive approaches to hyperthermic conditioning.
What the researchers found from their extensive review of the literature is:
- Passive heat acclimation approaches can successfully adapt to heat in the body
- Passive strategies often result in improvements in performance, the ability to regulate temperature, cardiovascular health, and overall endurance.
- Saunas are an effective strategy for inducing heat stress for the purposes of acclimation.
- For the best results, you should use passive heat strategies, such as saunas, after your exercise is complete. You should use the sauna as quickly as possible after you finish your physical activity.
- You should stay in the sauna for at least 30 minutes to enjoy the full benefit of this therapy.
- Sauna use is best when you use it on consecutive days up to one week without interruption.
- There is limited evidence on the magnitude of the possible performance changes that can result from passive heat acclimation.
Sauna Use Connected to Lower Inflammation and Higher Cell Death
The researchers of this study proposed to examine the connection between cardiovascular fitness level and any changes in gene expression that is linked to inflammation or apoptosis caused by sauna use (8).
They wondered if those with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness would experience more positive changes caused by heat stress.
Participants in the study were 22 healthy men, eleven of whom were athletes and the others were non-athletes.
All had similar BMIs, and the mean age for the group was 19 years old. Before the study period, the participants refrained from sauna use.
The athletes engaged in two sessions of training per day throughout the study period and the control group participated in normal physical activities, with exercise limited to two days per week and no more than 45 minutes per session.
Health status for all was considered to be healthy prior to this study.
During the trial, all participants used a dry sauna three times per week for four weeks.
The average temperature of the Finnish sauna was around 100 degrees Celsius with only approximately 10 percent humidity.
Sessions consisted of two 15-minute sessions with a short break of about five minutes between sessions.
Measurements of weight, body fat percentage were taken before and after each sauna session, and blood samples were drawn before and after the first and last of the sauna sessions.
Results of the blood analysis indicate that all participants experienced a reduction in pro-inflammatory proteins and improvements in cell death associated with proper immune system function.
The active group saw more significant increases in these areas, suggesting that cardiovascular health plays a role in the effects of heat stress on immune system response.
The adaptive response of the body to heat stress, therefore, occurs faster in people with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.
Sauna Use Could Enhance Different Forms of Movement and Activity
Combining high temperatures with other types of activity, including yoga and Qigong, is becoming a more popular choice among practitioners.
Researchers in Hong Kong wanted to examine the effects of combining heat stress with this type of controlled movements (9).
By combining a heated environment with diverse kinds of moves, the question is does this lead to better results.
This study examined the effects of practicing Qigong in a sauna room.
They sought to investigate the safety and cardiovascular effects of this combination.
Five participants who had more than two years of experience using a sauna were used.
Before introducing the sauna, they each practiced a prescribed series of Qigong movements, including upper limbs stretches, bent-knee poses, and controlled breathing exercises that use abdominal and diaphragmatic muscles.
The first sauna session was for 15 minutes without exercise.
The next session involved 15 minutes of Qigong practice inside the sauna room.
This cycle was repeated three times for each participant.
After each sauna session, radial pulse and blood pressure were measured.
Participants were also asked about their comfort and status regarding their practice.
Participants noted no changes in their enjoyment of the Qigong practiced within the sauna as opposed to those practiced outside.
Both activities are practiced to promote peace and relieve stress.
Both with and without exercise, participants experienced an increase in heart rate from the sauna, with similar increases experienced in both exercise and non-exercise trials.
Blood pressure remained stable or lowered slightly with Qigong as opposed to just sauna use.
Combining stretching and other meditative movements with sauna use could help to enhance the emotional or physiological effects of the activity, but it can improve the stress-relieving outcomes, as noted by the lower blood pressure rates.
Sauna Use Improves Muscle Power
In a 2002 study, Australian researchers explored the effects of sauna use on athletes, specifically on their muscular endurance, strength, and power (10).
The ten volunteers for this study were healthy men who engaged in weight training with an average age of 23 years old.
The participants were divided into two groups.
One group received no sauna treatment while the other received 30 minutes of hyperthermic conditioning at 65 to 75 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity level of 15 percent.
All participants were asked to perform physical activities.
These included bench presses, leg presses, and vertical jumps, and measurements were taken at various stages, including before, during, and after.
Blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature were also taken for all participants.
After the sauna session, all participants experienced increases in their blood pressure and heart rate, indicating hemodynamic stress.
Those who sent into the sauna has an increase in their core body temperature between 2.48 and 2.71 degrees.
There was no difference between the sauna and non-sauna group on one repetition of bench press strength.
However, there was a significant decrease in leg press strength for the sauna group.
Endurance was also significantly decreased in the sauna group for both leg press and bench press.
The vertical jump is a measure of muscular power.
This metric increased dramatically after sauna exposure.
The researchers involved in this study concluded that acute heat exposure, such as using a sauna, can decrease muscular endurance and possible muscle strength, but it does have a positive influence on muscle power.
Additional research in this area could further elucidate these effects and explore the more intricate understandings of these effects.
Sauna Use Improves Recovery from Muscle Fatigue
Japanese researchers in 2012 wanted to example the effects of various bathing methods on muscle fatigue.
Since mist saunas have risen in popularity as a home treatment and technique for relaxation and bathing, the researchers wondered if this form of hygiene could help muscles recover from fatigue.
At the time of this study, there had been no studies on the effects of mist saunas on physiological function (11).
To compare the effects, the researchers chose four conditions.
These included a full-immersion bath, a traditional shower, a mist sauna, and no bathing, which was the control condition.
The full-immersion bath consisted of hot water at 40 degrees C up to the neck.
The mist sauna consisted of misting participants with fine drops of warm water at this same temperature.
Showering involved participants in a seated positive.
Ten men were recruited to participate, and they each completed four sessions.
During each of these sessions, they engaged in 30 minutes of rest, a 10-minute elbow flexion task, a 10-min bathing period (one in each condition), and 20 minutes of recovery.
The tasks performed were designed to test maximal voluntary contraction, muscle fatigue, and rest contraction.
Researchers also examined the mean power frequency of the muscle as measured by an electromyogram, rectal temperature, skin temperature, skin blood flow, and the concentration of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood.
They also asked participants for subjective evaluation.
What they found was the full-immersion bath improved the mean power frequency and the skin blood flow, and oxygenated hemoglobin were much higher for the mist sauna condition compared to showering and no bathing.
Both full-immersion bathing and mist sauna bathing were effective in helping to facilitate recovery from muscle fatigue.
Sauna Use Can Enhance Brain Relaxation
A recent 2018 study from Lithuania helps us understand how sauna use influences the mind, not just the body.
Researchers wanted to investigate sauna use’s influence on brain neural network arousal, information processing, and cognitive performance (12).
While it is widely accepted that sauna use promotes relaxation of the body, it is not known how this practice influences the brain’s functioning, if at all.
The participants of this study were sixteen males around the age of 24 years old.
The use of a Finnish sauna helped to induce whole-body hyperthermia.
One week before the trial, they were each familiarized with the procedure and practiced various oddball tasks three times on three separate days.
During the experimental trial, subjects were first weighed, then rested for 20 minutes at room temperature (23 degrees Celsius).
Measurements of temperature and stabilized heart rates were also recorded.
To investigate brain neural network arousal, EEGs were then performed both before and during the completion of two oddball tasks, which explored the information processing and cognitive performance of participants.
Next, participants entered the sauna, which had a temperature of between 80 and 90 degrees Celsius and relative humidity of 20 percent.
Sauna bathing occurred in four sets, with the first one lasting 15 minutes and the other three lasting 10 minutes, with 15 minutes of rest between each set.
At the end of the fourth set, temperature and heart rate was again recorded.
Each participant then rested for 60 minutes, took a one-minute shower, dressed, and EEGs were again recorded both before and during two oddball tasks.
Participants were then weighed.
During the control trial, all variables were kept the same except for causing hyperthermia.
Sauna bathing increased temperature and heart rate, but both of these had recovered by 90 minutes post sauna.
Following sauna recovery, researchers noted an increase in alpha power as well as improvements in visual tasks and executive motor-cognitive processing.
There was a decrease in post-sauna in auditory tasks, including non-target cognitive processing.
But there were no significant differences in task performance noted.
The sauna leads to increased neutral network relationship as well as increased in cognitive processing economy.
Any changes that were noted in the event-related brain potentials were not enough to influence task performance.
Sauna Use Can Modulate the Autonomic Nervous System
Researchers in Finland just this year (2019) examined the effects of sauna bathing on heart rate and heart rate variability (13).
Because there is conflicting evidence on the effects of sauna use on cardiovascular risks, this study was created to explore how a single sauna session could influence average people.
93 participants were recruited, with an average age of 52 years old.
A little over half were males, and all had some cardiovascular risk factors.
Sauna sessions were 30 minutes in length with a temperature of 73 degrees Celsius and relative humidity between 10 and 20 percent.
Data was collected on heart rate variability before, during, and after the sauna session.
The single sauna session significantly influenced both eh time and frequency-domain heart rate variability variables.
Most variability tended to disappear about 30 minutes of recovery.
Resting heart rate was lower at the end of the recovery period compared to pre-sauna levels.
While the sauna session mildly lowered the vagal component of variability, the cool-down periods showed modulation of the autonomic nervous system activity.
These results demonstrate that sauna bathing can increase heart rate and that heart rate variability can increase during the cooling down period.
This variability shows the dominant role of parasympathetic activity as well as decreased sympathetic activity of the cardiac autonomic nervous system.
What we do not know, though, and still need more research to explore, is if these changes could provide long-term cardiovascular benefits.
Sauna Therapy Can Help Women with Postpartum Recovery
Researchers in Australia examined the effects of several types of traditional rituals, including many that involved forms of heat therapy, on recovery from labor and delivery (14).
In the traditional communities of Laos, several types of heat therapy, including hotbeds, mother roasting, steam saunas, and steam baths, are used to help women in postpartum recovery.
In addition to the use of heat in various capacities, medicinal plants are also used, including the application of essential oils in many ways.
Researchers visited 15 rural villages to interview 65 women from four different ethnic groups within the country.
They discussed the various heat therapy, confinement rituals, and plant use associated with postpartum recovery in their village.
Researchers identified the different plant species used in the area and extracted samples to analyze later.
While the focus of this study was on the plant species used during recovery from labor and delivery, the use of heat therapy to enhance the effects of these plants or to help heal the perineal area was an important focus for these researchers.
What they concluded was the steam and heat sources are a way to kill germs and reduce the risk of infection for women who live in unsanitary conditions.
Heat can help relax new mothers while also promoting blood flow that brings nutrients and oxygen to healing areas of the body.
Heat also improves the effects of several plants used for aromatherapy.
The heat used in hotbeds, mother roasting, and sauna treatments is effective at killing germs and helping to prevent infection associated with childbirth.
Hygiene is also improved with frequent sauna and steam baths, which help to keep the new mother free from bacteria and other pathogens that can enter the body during this sensitive time.
These forms of postpartum therapy are useful in these areas of the world.
Cardiac Function Improves with Infrared Sauna Use
This meta-analysis of the literature of sauna use prior to 2016 was conducted to look for evidence of the effects of this practice on heart failure (15).
The purpose of this review was to examine the current literature to suggest paths for future research as well as possible clinical applications.
Researchers hypothesized that sauna bathing has positive effects on patients with heart failure.
The medical research databases were searched to find all randomized and nonrandomized controlled studies to compare the effects of sauna bathing to no sauna bathing.
The researchers explored results for both infrared sauna and Finnish sauna use.
Each study was evaluated for the strength of the evidence using a known approach for meta-analyses.
Of the 1444 studies that were discovered, only nine met the inclusion criteria for this review, with seven of these being included in the final evaluation.
After evaluation, only those studies that examined infrared sauna met the inclusion criteria.
The evidence compiled from these seven studies suggests that 15 minutes of sauna bathing in an infrared sauna bath at 60 degrees Celsius, followed by 30 minutes of rest five days per week for two to four weeks can improve some heart function.
Specifically, the most significant positive influence was on a reduction of B-type natriuretic peptide and the cardiothoracic ratio as well as an improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction.
There were no other effects of note to blood pressure or left-ventricular end-diastolic or left atrial diameter.
From this data, researchers concluded that infrared sauna bathing is associated with some short-term improvements in cardiac function, which could benefit those with heart failure.
They also noted that more evidence is needed to uncover the long-term effects of this type of sauna use.
There is insufficient robust data on Finnish sauna’s effects on heart failure to warrant conclusions about its use at this time.
Sauna Use Reduces Muscle Damage and Soreness
Exercise that is high intensity or uses unaccustomed muscles or movement can result in delayed-onset muscle soreness or a phenomenon known as Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage (EIMD).
Researchers in this study wanted to investigate sauna use as a possible way to prevent this damage from occurring (16).
While this type of soreness or injury is common in larger muscles, such as the quadriceps, all muscles can be affected by vigorous or unaccustomed exercises.
This study chose to study the forearm muscle group because little research has been conducted on this area of the body, despite its importance to functions include carrying, grasping, and caring for yourself.
To this end, researchers sought to examine the effects of sauna use on the symptoms of EIMD from eccentric exercises with the wrist extensor muscle group.
28 subjects were recruited and divided randomly into the sauna and control groups.
In the treatment group, participants showered and then entered the sauna, where they sat in temperatures between 76 and 83 degrees Celsius with relative humidity between 15 and 30 percent for 15 minutes.
All participants then experienced EIMD induced by a dynamometer.
The non-dominant arm was used for the eccentric exercise.
Measurements were made of pain intensity, pressure pain threshold, and the range of motion of the wrist flexion and extension.
Grip strength and wrist extension strength were also tested.
There were baseline data as well as data from immediately after the test as well each day for eight days after the test.
Results indicate that the sauna group demonstrated a lower deficit in passive flexion and extension as well as grip strength and wrist extension strength compared to the control group.
The application of sauna prior to exercise-induced muscle damage proved effective at reducing pain and improving muscle function in the wrist extension muscle group.
Sauna Use Can Improve Work Efficiency
The rise in popularity of the mist sauna, an experience that combines the sauna with aromatherapy, is rising in popularity in Japan.
Researchers wanted to compare various morning bathing rituals to determine which, if any, influence the body and mind’s performance throughout the day (17).
When people switch from bathing in the evening to taking care of this self-care need in the morning, researchers hypothesized that there might be an increase in workplace productivity and cognition.
Researchers measured several key metrics, including body temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, the relative power density of the alpha wave (α-wave ratio) of the electroencephalogram, alpha attenuation coefficient, and the error rate of the task performance.
They wanted to know if showering, mist sauna bathing, or no bathing would have different effects.
Ten male subjects were recruited for the study.
Results indicated that mist sauna bathing lowered heart rate more than not bathing and that the α-wave ratio after the mist sauna bathing was significantly lower than those after no bathing.
Time on task after the mist sauna was also higher than those who showered.
People were also more accurate in performing functions after taking a mist sauna.
A morning mist sauna could, therefore, be presumed to help improve work efficiency when compared to other morning bathing methods.
Saunas Enhance Rapid Weight Loss Without Affecting Power in Men
In a 2013 study, researchers from Spain explored the weight loss effects of sauna use as well as how this training strategy influence strength and power in both men and women (18).
The researchers were curious about the extent to which sauna-induced dehydration could decrease body weight as well as if this practice reduced explosive power in healthy athletes.
The participants were six males and six females who are all athletes.
None had a history of weight-cutting procedures.
They were each tested on three occasions- before the sauna after three sauna sessions, and after one hour of rehydration following sauna use.
Sauna sessions lasted for 20 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius with five minutes of rest between sessions.
During rehydration, participants drank 2.5 milliliters per kilogram of their body weight every 15 minutes during the 60 minutes of rest.
They drank a carbohydrate beverage that included glucose.
Participants were measured for their body composition.
They were also evaluated on their strength using row- and handgrip- strength measures.
The explosive power was measured through their squat jump, counter-movement jump, and elastic capacity.
The results showed that sauna-induced dehydration led to decreased body weight in both men and women and that all participants did not regain all the weight lost through rehydration.
While the sauna use did not affect the strength or jump capacity of men, women saw a significant reduction in squat ump, a measure of strength.
This reduction was proportionate to the percent reduction in body weight.
While men may use a sauna to help them quickly shed weight, women should exercise caution with this strategy, as it also includes a reduction in power.
Circulation Improves with Sauna Use
Patients with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, are often prescribed exercise and relaxation therapy as a part of their therapy regimens.
The researchers of this study wanted to examine the specific effects of these on actual patients to determine their effectiveness (19).
Patients in this trial all had aortocoronary venous bypass (ACVB) surgery and were hypertensive.
Measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, and both peripheral and central hemodynamics were taken before exercise, after resting, and during exercise.
Participants engaged in running as well as sauna bathing as well as bicycle training.
43 male subjects participated and were tested at various intervals before and after therapy.
Results showed significant increases in the at-rest ejection fraction in both groups.
Peripheral microcirculation improved only in the group that engaged in sauna bathing.
Sauna therapy influenced neither blood pressure after exercise nor while resting.
Sauna Use Promotes Better Healing than Cooling
While many athletes use cryotherapy, or the cooling of the body, in their training, the assumption that this is best for optimal muscle function has not been evaluated.
The researchers of this study determined that there was insufficient evidence on the effectiveness of cryotherapy to prevent muscle damage and improve strength and endurance, so they chose to design this research study (20).
Previous research in this area indicated that warming muscles prior to activity increased power and endurance more than cooling muscles.
A key finding of the researchers’ earlier inquiries was that muscle temperature during recover was positively correlated with fatigue resistance during subsequent exercise.
Researchers also examined the intact muscle fibers to determine recovery of muscle function with both heated and cooled tissues.
They found that cooling of muscle tissues depressed recovery efforts and that fatigue resistance was impaired when muscle fibers were cooled versus heated during recovery.
The results of this study indicate that the recovery of muscle tissues after exercise is better accomplished under heated conditions versus using cryotherapy.
Therefore, sauna use post-workout is an appropriate and therapeutic application that can help muscles repair and recover faster.
These findings contradict the well-worn practice of icing or cooling muscles to reduce inflammation, which is believed to promote faster healing.
Instead, athletes should consider sauna bathing after strenuous activity to affect healing and repair more positively.
If you are wondering if sauna use enhances your physical performance or influences your strength and ability to recover from activity, researchers have many answers to help guide you.
Heating your body places it under heat stress, and when you condition yourself to endure and even perform under these conditions, you are training your cells to work more effectively at elevated temperatures.
Heat can play a role in limiting your ability to perform at your optimal rate or endurance level, and hyperthermic conditioning is a way to combat this.
As we have reviewed in this report, endurance, stamina, strength, and power can all be influenced by sauna use.
In some cases, it helps to use a sauna before activity, and in others, you will achieve better results when your sauna happens after your workout.
Well-trained athletes respond better to heat stress therapy, but all muscles and cells will react to this type of conditioning, no matter your athletic ability.
Even those with heart failure can see improvement with heat therapy.
Heat stress therapy can encourage the release of growth hormones, heat shock proteins, proteins associated with longevity, and improved red blood cell production.
Sauna use also reduces pain and inflammation, which plays a role in your ability to recover and perform.
There are no downsides to using a sauna to improve your endurance or performance, and, in most cases, there are many benefits.