Sitting In The Sauna After Your Workout Has More Benefits Than You Think

Looking for a hot health tip? New research from the American Journal of Physiology suggests that a 15-minute sauna session after a workout can be good for your heart, as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In fact, even a short amount of time spent in a sauna can be just as good as a moderate-intensity workout, per HealthDay

47 primarily sedentary adults aged 30 to 64 participated in the eight-week study and were divided into three groups — one group exercised only, one group engaged in exercise followed by 15-minutes in a sauna, and one group neither exercised nor had a sauna. The group that exercised followed by time in a sauna had the highest level of oxygen consumption (VO2 max), which is the amount of oxygen your body can access during physical activity. In other words, the higher your VO2 max level, the better, according to Healthday.

While previous studies have already confirmed the health benefits of saunas, this latest study further supports the growing body of research that verifies how saunas can lower the risk of cardiovascular problems (via Healthday). However, while the study indicated that saunas could be good for people who have risk factors for heart disease, such as family history, obesity, and smoking, health experts note that saunas may not be safe for people with severe heart disease and who need to avoid the associated risks of low blood pressure.

Saunas: pros and cons

In addition to supporting heart health, saunas have other benefits, which is likely why sales of sauna units in the United States total $120 million and the industry reports seeing roughly 10% annual growth, per Forbes.

For one, the experts at Healthline point out that the sauna's heat leads to sweating, a key factor in promoting relaxation. Your sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system respond to the change in temperature to help keep your temperature balanced, which leads to this relaxation effect. Your body's reaction may also give you a sense of joy as the heat relaxes the muscles in your body, face, and neck. When the body is soothed in this way, it oftentimes spurs a sense of calm in the mind as well. This combination can also lead to better sleep. Studies have also shown that, over time, saunas may help reduce lower back pain, stiffness, and arthritis.

However, saunas are not for everyone and it is important to be mindful of some of the risks. One being dehydration. You should drink plenty of water before and after a sauna session, and leave the sauna immediately if you feel lightheaded or dizzy, reports Healthline. Also, some research indicates that two or more 15-minute sessions in a sauna each week may reduce fertility in men, though this requires further study. However, experts advise avoiding saunas entirely if you have asthma, severe heart disease, you are pregnant, or have been consuming alcohol.