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  • Writer's pictureLexie Haren

Do you even sauna?! Explore the health benefits of regular sauna use with me!

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

I sure freaking hope so . . . because the plethora of benefits that an individual can experience from regular sauna use is absolutely mind-blowing. I'll do a deep dive on my background with sauna use & research pertaining to heat training, the myriad of benefits of sauna use & of course use scholarly articles & research studies to back it all up baby.

My college presentation of sauna use research studies using a sauna sweat suit to improve metabolic markers

It all began in my last year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to help some graduate

students with their research studies and it lit a fire under me (literally & figuratively). The research study consisted of researching individuals that exercised in sauna suits (kind of like a wet suit, but more of a sweat suit). The results? We found that those individuals who exercised in hotter environments had a total boost in their metabolism after exercise. They were essentially getting more bang for their buck from their workout, just by introducing the component of additional heat stress. I don't say this to encourage you all to sweat your guts out while you are exercising by adding in a sauna suit too, but I mention this to note that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how sauna use can boost overall wellbeing.


From this moment on, I was committed to learning more about how heat stress could positively impact the body!


10 key points I've learned over the years about sauna use . . .


1) Sauna use is a great tool for those who may have an injury or physical limitations to exercise, but who still want to get cardiovascular and overall health benefits! This works because sauna use mimics cardiovascular exercise. Heart rate typically elevates somewhere between 100-150 BPM when an individual is in the sauna for at least 20 min (1). This is enough of a raise in heart rate to mimic low-moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise (and JUST by sitting!). Pretty cool eh?

sauna use has similar benefits to exercise without the physical or mechanical stress on the joints or heart

2) Sauna use is an excellent recovery tool for athletes & gym-goers. The improved circulation from sauna use can help the muscles recover better & promote optimal gains post-exercise or training sesh.


3) Sauna use causes the body to release more Heat Shock Protein (HSP). HSP is essential for helping protect the body against neurodegenerative diseases by helping with protective cellular functions, along with many other resiliency tactics (3,5)!

the body responds holistically to sauna use and heat stress, promoting long term benefit

4) Regular sauna use (at least 4 times a week for 20 min) can greatly reduce an individual's risk for all cause mortality (4). A specific study by Laukkanen et al. demonstrated that men who used the sauna 2-3 times a week were 27% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and men who used the sauna 4-7 times a week were 50% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Simple interpretation: the more sauna, the better. There was clearly a dose/response relationship between those who used the sauna more frequently and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (4).


5) There are many many benefits to sauna use!

the benefits of sauna use

6) There are very few contra-indications to sauna use! The main ones include those who are under the influence of alcohol & those who have unstable cardiovascular disease. Otherwise, sauna use is considered a relatively "safe" tool for many individuals! (Of course, consult your doctor prior to sauna use if you have any concerns).

contraindications to sauna use

7) Sweating induced by regular sauna use, can help keep detox pathways open & is one of the most efficient ways to help the body rid itself of toxins! In fact, there has been research demonstrating that elimination of toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals, & plastics is more efficient via sweat than the body's elimination via urine (1).

sweating out environmental toxins in the sauna

8) There are MANY indications for an individual to use the sauna regularly.

indications for regular sauna use

9) For optimal dose/response of sauna usage, it doesn't take a ton of time out of the day! The ideal dose/response for traditional dry saunas and infrared saunas are below!

dose/response for traditional dry sauna use
dose/response for infrared sauna use

10) Sauna use is not only helpful at a cellular level, but it is simply ultra relaxing as well. Personally, my brain feels much clearer after a solid sauna sesh & my load feels lighter. I hope yours does too!


Stay sweaty my friends!


Lex


**None of this is medical advice & should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure disease. Seek your medical professional prior to using the sauna.**


Works Cited:

1. Hussain J, Cohen M. Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018 Apr 24;2018:1857413. doi: 10.1155/2018/1857413. PMID: 29849692; PMCID: PMC5941775.

2. Hannuksela, M. L., & Ellahham, S. (2001). Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. The American Journal of Medicine, 110(2), 118–126. doi:10.1016/s0002-9343(00)00671-9

3. Dalleck, Lance. “Certified™: December 2020 - Hyperthermic Conditioning: The Next Frontier in Exercise Programming.” ACE, https://www.acefitness.org/continuing-education/certified/december-2020/7724/hyperthermic-conditioning-the-next-frontier-in-exercise-programming/.

4. Laukkanen T, Khan H, Zaccardi F, Laukkanen JA. Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):542–548. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187

5. Patrick, Rhonda P., and Teresa L. Johnson. “Sauna Use as a Lifestyle Practice to Extend Healthspan.” Experimental Gerontology, vol. 154, 2021, p. 111509., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2021.111509.





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