Can A Post-Workout Sauna Boost Your Health?

Done working out? Stop by the sauna for 15 minutes or so to boost your heart health.

That’s the main conclusion from a new research in Finland, which found taking a sauna after working out provided additional cardiovascular benefits, compared to just exercising itself.

Published earlier this month in the American Journal of Physiology ⁠— Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, the study found some of the cardiovascular responses that our bodies get from sauna bathing are comparable to moderate intensity exercises, at least acutely.

For the study, 47 fairly sedentary adults aged 30 to 64 were divided into three groups: resistance and aerobic exercise three times a week for 50 minutes per session; resistance and aerobic exercise three times a week for 50 minutes per session followed by a 15-minute sauna; or no exercise or sauna.  This was done over the course of eight weeks

Everyone in the study also had at least one risk factor that contributed to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, and obesity. If they were uncomfortable in the sauna, the participants were also allowed to leave. However, no one did.

The researchers measured the participants’ maximum rate of oxygen consumption (VO₂), which refers to how much oxygen our body uses during exercise. The higher it is, the better your physical fitness.

Per the findings, people in the  exercise-sauna and exercise-only groups showed an increase in their maximum VO₂. In addition to this, the participants who took a sauna after exercising also showed higher increases in VO₂ compared to the exercise-only group.

According to S. Tony Wolf, a postdoctoral scholar in kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, which is not tied to the research, these new findings add to the growing body of research regarding sauna health benefits.

"The topic of sauna bathing or heat therapy to improve cardiovascular health has been taking off for several years," he said, adding due to the head increasing our blood flow and heart rate, it makes sense that saunas would provide health benefits.

Saunas are an important part of the Finnish culture, and are found everywhere across the country. 

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