While many of us may choose to use a sauna after a workout, the benefits of it after exercise go beyond relaxation. In fact, evidence suggests that using a sauna after a workout can improve heart health, muscle recovery, endurance, and may even boost the immune system and weight loss efforts.
The following article explains the main benefits of using a sauna after a workout, and also explains the importance of rehydration after exercise and sauna use.
1. Can support heart health
When using a sauna, you can expect your heart rate to increase as your body adjusts to the high temperatures. This increase in heart rate mimics low to moderate intensity exercise, therefore strengthening the heart muscle.
It has also been shown that sauna use can reduce blood pressure (1).
Evidence suggests that perhaps using a sauna more frequently may boost its heart health benefits.
In one study, men who used a sauna two to three times each week had a 23% lower risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease, compared with those who only used the sauna once weekly (1).
2. Saunas can improve endurance
Interestingly, saunas may be able to boost our tolerance to heat, especially if preceded by exercise.
If we’re more resilient to heat, we may be able to better cope with the natural rise in body temperature that accompanies exercise. With increased heat exposure from a sauna, we might be able to continue high intensity exercise for a longer duration, hence, an improvement in endurance.
Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that post-exercise sauna bathing improved endurance in runners, in a matter of just three weeks (2).
3. May boost muscle recovery
After a workout, our muscles need time to rest, recover, and form new muscle fibers. This process is what strengthens and builds muscle.
Saunas cause an increase in blood circulation, thereby delivering more oxygen to muscles, which helps muscle recovery after a workout. Some small studies have found that athletes report improved muscle recovery after heat exposure (3, 4).
What’s more, heat can help muscles loosen and relax, and as many athletes know, rest and recovery is an integral part of a healthy exercise routine.
4. Can boost the immune system
The benefits of using a sauna after exercise may even be able to boost our immune system. A strong immune system is important to keep our bodies strong and able to fight off colds and infections.
While many health behaviors are key for a strong immune system such as exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction, adding a sauna into your wellness routine may give your immune system an extra boost.
Using a sauna after exercise has been shown to increase white blood cells, which is an integral part of the immune system (5).
Plus, saunas may help reduce overall inflammation, which is key in keeping the immune system strong, as inflammation is often at the root of sickness.
5. May help with weight loss
Did you know that sweating alone helps our body burn calories?
The act of sweating itself requires energy from the body. Plus, an increase in heart rate from high temperatures leads to a boost in energy burning.
Although using a sauna after exercise should not be anyone’s only weight loss tool, it can absolutely be a helpful addition to a healthy wellness routine. Of course, it’s still important to consume a balanced diet rich in lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
However, for those who have excess body fat, they are likely to burn more calories when in a sauna compared to someone without excess body fat.
The importance of proper hydration
Both exercise and sauna use dehydrate the body and deplete the body of electrolytes. So, after exercise and sauna use, proper rehydration is key.
When the body gets overheated, it cools off by sweating, which then causes the body to lose fluids. When we lose more fluids than we are taking in, dehydration can occur.
Luckily, dehydration is completely avoidable if we stay on top of our hydration needs, both before and after a workout, and after sauna use.
What is the best way to rehydrate after sauna use?
It’s not just water that’s important for rehydration. Electrolytes are a vital component of proper rehydration. In fact, the addition of electrolytes to beverages is more effective at hydrating than just drinking water.
The most important electrolytes to consider for rehydration are potassium and sodium.
Nakedade is a fantastic rehydration product that contains potassium and pink Himalayan sea salt to replete the body of lost electrolytes, after exercise and sauna use.
Pink Himalayan sea salt is beneficial for hydration as it of course contains sodium, as well as other trace minerals, which are important for keeping the body in optimal fluid balance.
What’s more, these electrolyte powder packets contain 14 grams of low glycemic carbohydrates, meaning they are slowly digested and don’t cause a spike in blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are not only essential for energy, but they help the body retain water, which is beneficial for rehydration after exercise and sauna-induced fluid loss.
Clearly, it’s important to choose a rehydration beverage that contains sodium, potassium, and ideally some carbohydrates or sugars for the best effect.
The evidence supporting using a sauna after exercise is plentiful.
In addition to being a relaxing post-exercise practice, using a sauna promotes heart health, boosts muscle recovery and weight loss efforts, improves endurance, and supports the immune system.
Further research is needed to better understand the benefits of sauna use after exercise, although the current studies are promising for using saunas after exercise.
However, it’s important to properly rehydrate after exercise and/or sauna use. The best way to rehydrate after heat-induced fluid loss is to ensure you are drinking something with electrolytes – specifically sodium and potassium.
Keep in mind that sauna use is not safe for everyone. If you are pregnant, have asthma, high blood pressure, epilepsy, or another health condition, it’s best to check with your doctor before using.