Your workout is over and you are sitting exhausted in the locker room. You’re contemplating hitting the shower, and then you notice that quite a few of your fellow gym members are in the habit of spending time in the sauna immediately after their workout. You wonder if they know something that you don’t about the health benefits of the post workout sauna.
Chances are they do. But not for long. In this article, you will discover the 10 benefits of sauna after workout that nobody told you about.
10 Body Rejuvenating Benefits of Sauna After Workout
Benefit #1: It Makes You Feel Great
Spending a few minutes in the sauna after your workout is going to relax your muscles, refreshing them after you’ve just worked them in the gym. But it will also rejuvenate your mind. Rather than quickly showering and rushing off to the next part of your day, you are able to take the time to reflect on your workout and truly appreciate this time of the day that you have dedicated to your own bodily well-being.
There is also a physiological reason that the sauna makes you feel so wonderful. The heat effect of the sauna promotes the release of endorphins, the same feel-good hormones that can be released as a result of a good workout. In that way, you are able to sustain the euphoric training effect after the workout is complete.
Benefit #2: It Relieves Muscle Pain
The dry heat of a sauna very quickly elevates the body’s skin temperature. Within minutes it can get as high as 104 degrees F. This heat will go a long way to help you to find relief from the muscular aches that you should be feeling from your workout. The heat effects of the sauna will also help to remove lactic acid from your muscles cell. This will help you to recover faster from your workout.
According to the Harvard Medical School, when you are in a sauna, the amount of blood flow nearly doubles. As the blood flow increases, the muscles become more relaxed.
Benefit #3: It Removes Metabolic Waste
After a few minutes in the sauna, you will sweat out about a pint of water. Within that sweat is a lot of metabolic waste product. Most people do not sweat regularly enough. That can lead to a toxic build-up in the body. The sweat you produce cools the body and is primarily made of water. But the deep sweating that occurs when you are in a sauna will also release such minerals as nickel, mercury, lead, copper zinc. That make the sauna a very effective way to undergo a painless body detox.
Benefit #4: Greater Endurance
There is research evidence to suggest that taking a sauna after exercise can improve your workout endurance. A 2007 study out of Otago University in New Zealand had male runners taking a 30-minute sauna after their endurance training sessions for three weeks. The sauna was set at 190 degrees F. Results showed that all athletes increased their running endurance. The researchers speculated that increased blood volume from heat exposure was responsible for the improved endurance.
Benefit #5: Less Stress
Stress is a major factor in illness. It can also lead to weight gain as a result of hormonal imbalance, bad sleep, and general irritability. Spending time in the sauna helps you to relieve stress by secreting you in a quiet, secluded environment where you can be at one with your thoughts. You’ll be able to take the time to smell the roses (or at least the sweat rolling off the tip of your nose) and catch your breath. The heat effect on your body also releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
Benefit #6: Skin Cleansing
People around the world have used saunas as a primary means of cleansing and purifying the skin for thousands of years. The deep sweating that is associated with sauna use will remove dead skin cells, boosting the natural life cycle of skin. Bacteria is flushed from the epidermis and removed with the sweat. Circulation of the capillaries is also enhanced through sweating, which keeps the skin looking soft and supple.
Sweating provides the skin with its own workout, in a similar way that exercise works out the muscles of the body. Sweating coats the skin with a nutrient rich liquid. The nutrients in the sweat fill the gaps between cells, effectively firming and plumping up the skin. Regular sweating has the result of preventing the breakdown of collagen, which is responsible for wrinkles and sagging skin.
The sauna can even help with acne. It will clean your pores from the inside, helping to flush out the toxins that cause zits.
Benefit #7: It Improves Your Cardiovascular Fitness
The changes that the body undergoes when you are in a sauna will improve your ‘cardiac output’. The heating of your skin will lead to an increase in your core body temperature. This will cause the blood vessels under the skin to dilate.
Your heart rate will also go up as you sit on the sauna bench. From 60-70 beats per minute, it can quickly elevate to between 120-140 beats per minute. Then, when you leave the sauna, the heart rate is likely to drop below your resting level. The effect of these changes is that your cardiac output is increased and your heart muscles become stronger, while your cardiovascular regulatory system is also improved.
To make your sauna experience even more cardiovascularly beneficial, perform sauna ‘sets’ where you spend 10 minutes in the sauna and then take a quick cold shower. Repeat this sequence three or four times. The quick temperature change will see your heart rate elevate by up to 60%. This is a similar effect to doing moderate cardio exercise.
Benefit #8: Calorie Burn
While there have been many unfounded claims about the ability of sauna’s to magically boost fat loss, the truth is that they can help you to lose a moderate amount of weight. The cardio effect mentioned in Benefit #7 will be responsible for an increased metabolic rate as a result of the heart working harder. The very act of sweating is a calorie burning activity that requires energy derived from stored carbohydrate and fat.
According to Ward Dean, M.D., a medical researcher with the US Army, “a moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.”
People who are overweight are likely to burn even more calories. So, even though the sauna is a not a miracle fat cure, it can be a useful tool in your fat burning arsenal.
Benefit #9: It Helps You to Sleep Better
When you exercise, especially if you are engaged in weight training, you are causing major stress to your muscles. In fact, each workout causes micro tears to the worked muscle fiber. It is only through proper post workout nutrition and rest that the fibers are able to grow back bigger and stronger than they were in the first place. That is why sleep is so important. If you don’t get quality sleep, you will not fully recover from your training, and, as a result, will not fully benefit from it.
Saunas help you to get a good night’s sleep. Not only will you sleep longer, but you will spend more time in deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
If you work out in the evening, taking a post workout sauna will be an even more beneficial sleep enhancer. Your body temperature will be elevated when you are in the sauna, and then will readjust its temperature when you come out of the sauna. This process of elevating and then normalizing your body temperature is extremely calming. It will put you in the perfect frame of mind to drift off to sleep.
Benefit #10: It Encourages Social Interaction
Often when we work out, we find ourselves sweating alongside the same people, day in and day out. However, we never get to actually meet them. We go in, do our thing, shower and then leave. When you take the time to spend time in the sauna afterward, however, you have the opportunity to actually engage with these people who have goals that are clearly in line with your own. You are able to build a relationship.
That effort to actually get to know the people that you train alongside can have positive effects in terms of your training. For one thing, you are able to share training tips and anecdotes. For another, with the ice broken between you, you can more readily ask him for a spot or if you can work with him when there are no more weight benches to use in the gym. Then again, you might just end up going out for a (low calorie) drink afterward.
What To Do Before and After You Go Into the Sauna?
Between the time your workout finishes and the time you step into the sauna, you need to drink water. When you are in the sauna, you are sweating out the impurities and the sweat that is already in your body. But drinking water before you go into the sauna will keep you hydrated. If you don’t drink water before going in, you are likely to dehydrate.
Set The Temperature and Timer
You want your sauna temperature to be between 140-160 degrees F. You should also set the timer on your stopwatch for between seven and fifteen minutes. Start off conservatively at seven minutes and then increase your time as your body gets used to the experience.
Exit With Care
Be very careful when you come out of the sauna. Stand up straight and move slowly. You have to get yourself acclimatized to normal room temperature again. Sit on a bench in the locker room and then drink some more water to stay hydrated.
3 Sauna Cautions to Be Aware of
Caution #1: Don’t Stay In Too Long
If you are new to the sauna experience, you should limit your stay to 10 minutes. As your body gets more used to it, build up your time progressively. However, do not exceed 30 minutes at one sitting. If you overstay, your body can actually start to blister. You may also become dehydrated.
Caution #2: Leave if You Feel Dizzy
If you’ve had an especially hard workout and then go into the sauna without giving yourself time to cool down (you should wait at least ten minutes) and hydrating well, you could easily start to feel dizzy, and even nauseous after a few minutes in the sauna. If you do start to feel this way, you should go out immediately. This is especially the case if you are alone in the sauna. Sit for a while in the locker room. Then take a refreshing shower.
Caution #3: Don’t Wear Jewelry and Glasses
If you wear jewelry into the sauna, it is going to get hot. So will the metal rims of your glasses. If you’re wearing rings, the heat may cause your fingers to swell slightly, causing restriction. Be safe and remove them all before you enter the sauna.
Getting into the habit of taking a sauna after your workout is a smart move. Now that you are aware of these 10 benefits of sauna after workout that nobody told you, try to develop the sauna habit two or three times per week after your workout.
It will relax your body and mind, help you to recover from your workout, reduce post workout soreness, and give you a better night’s sleep. It may even help you to develop new fitness friendships. Those are pretty good reasons to get heated up!