After consuming the ideal pre-workout meal, taking your supplements, and crushing your workout, the final step to getting the most out of your gym session is your post-workout routine.
However, this step is often overlooked or cut short.
Some decide to skip cooling down for the sake of time or forgo stretching because it feels a little uncomfortable.
But there’s one other post-workout activity that offers incredible benefits to your muscles, as well as other feel-good benefits for you – the sauna.
Not sure how a sauna can help with your post-workout recovery?
Keep reading to learn about all of the benefits of using a sauna post-workout.
Types of Saunas
There are a few types of saunas you might see at your gym (or choose to put in your home gym).
Traditional – Usually heated with an electric heater between 150°F and 195°F with low humidity.
Steam room – This type of sauna has a lower temperature, but a higher humidity level.
Infrared – Special lamps release light waves to heat your body, not the sauna itself. Infrared (IR) saunas typically have a lower temperature, around 140°F.
What are the Benefits?
Using the sauna for 30 to 45 minutes after your workout can benefit your fitness and mental health.
As soon as you walk into a sauna, you’ll likely experience some level of relaxation. Thanks to the heat, your muscles start to relax and your heart rate increases slightly.
Your body’s physiological response in order to regulate its temperature causes the body to relax even further, especially in areas like the neck and face that tend to hold more tension.
2. Improve muscle soreness
Working out puts stress on the muscles, which causes microtears. During recovery, these microtears heal and muscle fibers rebuild.
Although this is the process that allows you to build muscle and strength, it often also leads to some temporary soreness.
In the sauna, heat dilates your blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the muscles. This relieves tension and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the muscle so it can repair itself after a workout.
3. Improve cardiovascular health
Using a sauna on a regular basis has been associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. In one prospective study with a follow-up period of 14 years, using a sauna more often and for longer periods of time was related to a lower risk for mortality from cardiovascular disease.
Other studies with similar findings suggest that spending time in the sauna slightly increases the heart rate and dilates blood vessels, which contributes to lower blood pressure, improved artery health, and beneficial changes in lipid levels.
Improved cardiovascular health also helps with endurance. Small studies have demonstrated increased endurance in athletes who participate in regular sauna use.
4. Better sleep and recovery
Because spending time in the sauna helps your muscles and mind relax, it could also help you fall and stay asleep.
Post-workout recovery continues long after your workout ends, and proper sleep is key to getting the most out of your gym session.
Therefore, the sauna may help you feel more rested and see more improvement in your fitness.
Does Sauna Help With Detox?
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The promise of detox is thrown around a lot in the wellness industry. The truth is that in otherwise healthy people, the liver and kidneys take care of detox. Other detox supplements, juices, and diets aren’t really necessary.
One common claim you’ll see about saunas is that they help you detox by “sweating out” the toxins in your body.
The science on this is conflicting, with some studies noting the presence of toxins in sweat while others find no solid evidence that sweating is a notable method of detoxification.
Are There Risks to Sauna Use?
Saunas are safe for most, but people with certain conditions should avoid using a sauna or limit their time based on their health provider’s advice.
Otherwise, the most prominent risk of sauna use is dehydration.
Drinking water before, during, and after your workout will help you avoid dehydration. You also lose electrolytes when you sweat, and replacing them can help your body regulate fluid balance.
The citrus electrolytes powder from Naked Nutrition is a low-sugar option that can easily be added to your water bottle.
Cut your sauna time short if you start to feel overheated or lightheaded. These are signs of dehydration, but some people can only tolerate short periods of time in the heat.
Spending time in the sauna after your workout is a great wait to relax and help your muscles recover. Doing this regularly could improve your fitness, sleep, cardiovascular health, and more.
Before you add time in the sauna to your gym routine, make sure you’re prioritizing proper hydration and talking with your healthcare provider if you may have any conditions that should limit sauna use.
About The Author:
Breanna Woods is a registered dietitian and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University and a Master of Science from Bowling Green State University.