Benefits of Sauna After Workout: 7 Amazing & Proven Benefits

Should you be hitting the sauna after a workout?

Saunas (at least to me) has always seemed like a self-care luxury reserved for fancy spas and high-end gyms.

But, that’s not true!

Saunas aren’t just for self-care and relaxation – they can take your exercise recovery to the next level.

From easing sore muscles, and decreasing muscle tension, to de-stressing, a sauna sesh has a ton of benefits post-workout.

Many of us have heard of the benefits of a cold therapy post-workout. But, are saunas actually better?

I decided to dig into the evidence, research, and studies to find out the benefits of a sauna after a workout. 

Let’s get into it!

Key Takeaways

  1. Saunas can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery by increasing circulation and oxygen to the muscles.
  2. The heat from saunas may aid the body's natural detoxification processes by promoting sweating.
  3. Sauna use is linked to improvements in cardiovascular health, including reduced blood pressure and heart rate benefits.
  4. Saunas can increase relaxation, mood, and feel-good hormones like endorphins after a tough workout.

What are The Benefits of Sauna After Workout?

Frequent sauna can help you tap into some crazy benefits. Let’s get into some of the major benefits of the sauna:

1. Decreased Muscle Soreness

Two men working out

A study conducted in 2015 showed that a sauna after a workout may have positive effects on perceived muscle aches and improve the function of exterior muscle groups.

What the heck does that mean?

Well, it means that muscles relax, oxygen circulation, and blood circulation is increased, aiding in muscle recovery and the reduction of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

And that’s not all—a study in 2013 showed that sauna time, specifically in the Finnish sauna, decreased oxidative stress by about 17.5% with a 40-minute endurance workout. What does this mean for you exactly?

Hitting the sauna post-workout may be exactly what you need to reduce that post workout muscle soreness!

2. Aids Detoxification Effects

The whole detox thing around saunas sounds pretty intriguing, right?

But here’s the thing: while the idea is exciting, the research is still in its early stages.

However, many people say that it has helped them “detox”. A study published in 2012 actually supported this notion and showed that the sweating sauna induces could help secrete heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. 

It’s important to remember that although saunas may help, your body already detoxifies itself through the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, and digestive system.

No green juice, diet, or heat exposure can replace your body’s natural mechanisms.

3. Improved physical performance

A study conducted in 2019 with 30 participants male and female showed a correlation between sauna therapy and increased physical performance.

After a moderate-intensity cardio workout, the group was divided into passive recovery, sauna suits, and full-body heat submersion. 

Lactate concentration (which is something that can increase post workout soreness) in the muscle was measured prior to the study and after the study.

The group that showed the most significant change was the group that was fully submerged in hot water. Again, this reduced feeling of muscle pain can increase performance and recovery aiding better workouts and therefore better results.

4. Increased Relaxation

Beyond just feeling relaxed at the moment, using saunas regularly has been linked to several health benefits related to cortisol output (the stress hormone).

Some research was conducted on the effects of sauna and male hormones showed no significant change in any hormone, besides cortisol.

The study showed that cortisol mean levels were sauna use helps reduce levels of cortisol – the main stress hormone. 

We can then correlate the reduction of “bad stress” to the use of a sauna after working out.

Deep breathing can also make the hole session more relaxing and easier to endure.

5. Improve Cardiovascular Function

Girl running

As Dr. Andrew Huberman stated in his podcast, The Huberman Lab, covering deliberate heat exposure, how blood vessels react, how saunas can reduce heart-related diseases and improve heart health. 

A large 2018 study on 1,688 participants analyzed the impact of using the sauna regularly. The sessions were conducted using traditional Finnish saunas with 10-20% humidity and average temperatures of 176-212°F (80-100°C).

The results showed that 4-7 sauna sessions per week lowered the chance of cardiac-related mortality by almost 50% in middle-aged adults compared to those who used saunas just once per week.

The blood flow and heart rate increase caused by sauna exposure emulates cardiovascular (heart rate from 100-150 bpm) exercise.

Studies suggest saunas not only help prevent cardiovascular disease, but also reduce problems like high blood pressure, incidence of stroke, and pulmonary issues.

While evidence suggests that saunas and steam rooms can provide increased cardiovascular health for most individuals, they are not universally suitable.

Caution and gradual exposure are advised, especially for those with hypertension concerns.

6. Increased Feel-Good Hormones

Dr. Rhonda Patrick explained on an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast that heat stress from saunas mimics the “good stress” of exercise. Hormones such as endorphins and norepinephrine.

The heat stress saunas provide can compound the endorphin and norepinephrine rush gained from exercise. This combination further elevates post-workout mood, energy, and mental clarity.

7. Improved Metabolic Function

Research indicates that a weekly regimen of heat and cold therapy may boost metabolic health.

According to Dr. Huberman and Dr. Susanna Søberg, roughly 57 minutes per week of heat exposure from sauna use, divided into multiple sessions, along with 11 minutes of cold exposure from showers or ice baths done 2-3 times weekly, can significantly improve metabolic markers (meaning it can help you lose weight.)

This combination of hot and cold stress has been shown to increase levels of brown adipose tissue in the body. Brown fat generates heat by burning calories, which can translate to better blood sugar control and could potentially aid in overall weight loss benefits over time.

Heat exposure also seems to enhance insulin sensitivity. It is important to note that is you see drastic changes in your weight within a couple of sessions it is most likely water weight and not actual effects on your body composition.

Cons of Sauna After Workout :

1. Dehydration:

Sweating in the sauna after an intense workout adds to the fluids and electrolytes already lost through exercise. Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends drinking an extra 16 oz of water per 10 minutes spent in a heated sauna to offset dehydration.

After a few minutes of sauna use replenishing electrolytes is key. 

Pay close attention to hydration before, during, and after sauna use to avoid depleted sodium and fluid levels.

2. Tiredness:

The right sauna timing is important – you don’t want to interfere with your natural circadian rhythms. Later in the day may be best for heat therapy to aid relaxation as the body temperature starts dropping.

It’s suggested to engage in cold exposure in the morning when cortisol spikes are more common. If doing a sauna after evening workouts, the heat exposure can support sleep. Just listen to your body and don’t overdo it if feeling drained.

Inside a blue stone sauna

What Are The Different Types of Saunas?

Dry sauna room, wet, infrared light sauna, what kind of sauna should you choose?

Which one is best? Let me break down the differences for you.

1. Finnish sauna

The original and arguably most authentic type of sauna is the traditional Finnish sauna (aka dry sauna).

It’s basically a wood-lined sauna room heated to exceptionally high heat ranging from 176-230 degrees Fahrenheit (80-90 Celsius).

If you want to increase the temperature of a Finnish sauna you can pour water on the sauna rocks.

Finnish saunas typically take around 30 minutes to fully heat up and utilize hot rocks to maintain humidity levels between 10-20%. Due to the low humidity it is very dry heat.

On average, sessions last 15-30 minutes, but can sometimes go longer for experienced sauna users. Most research studies have been conducted using Finnish saunas.

2. Wet sauna

girl in robe inside a wet sauna

Next up we’ve got the wet or steam sauna. This is basically like a steam room. It’s a small room cranking 100-115 degrees heat along with like up to 100% humidity.

Usually, it is surrounded by glass and you can literally see the water condensing in water drops in the glass. The crazy humidity makes it feel even hotter and harder to breathe.

But in a relaxing way, you know? Sessions are usually pretty short, less than 15 minutes.

3. Sauna/ shower combination

The sauna and shower combo requires professional installation. This is a good and convenient way to do heat therapy, but it may not get as hot as typical saunas.

Due to the setup, you need to make sure you don’t burn yourself in the hot water spurts. I do like that you can make it a cold shower or a steam shower. 

4. Infrared sauna

Inside a Finnish sauna

Next up is the infrared sauna.The infrared light has been a fairly debated topic.

This one uses infrared lamps or heaters to directly warm up your body instead of heating the whole room.

Infrared heat is a more targeted approach rather than warming the atmosphere.You’ll have to chill for 10-15 minutes first while it gets up to temp.

Infrared saunas are dry though, so no intense humidity to deal with. You can stick it out longer too, with sessions ranging from 20-30 minutes typically. It usually hits between 120-140 degrees.

Some experts say that an infrared sauna may not get hot enough to offer health benefits.

Research hasn’t really shown that one sauna is “better” than another. It really comes down to what you enjoy, what will keep you consistent, and the temperature your sauna gets up to.

Who Should Avoid The Sauna After Working Out?

As we’ve discussed, there are a ton of benefits related to spending time in the sauna after exercise.

Although the benefits of using a sauna are numerous, some people would be better off avoiding them.

Don’t use the sauna before talking to a professional especially if you meet the criteria below:

  • Individuals With Psychotic Disorders
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with coronary heart disease
  • People with extremely high or low blood pressure
  • Dehydrated individuals
  • Those with unstable angina

It is imperative to consult with a doctor before using a sauna or adding any drastic changes to your routine that can impact your overall health.

Long Story Short – My Personal Take:

I personally think saunas after a workout are great. I find that after I step out of the sauna, I feel extremely refreshed and rejuvenated.

I specifically like combining it with cold showers! So, if your gym offers a sauna or steam room, I would say give it a shot! It’s worth noting that saunas may not be accessible to everyone.

Other forms of heat therapy can be beneficial too, like jacuzzis, layering clothing in a hot room, building your own sauna, sauna tents, and more.

If you are considering hopping into the sauna after your workout, it is important to talk to a professional and ensure you aren’t doing more harm than good.

Sauna after workout: FAQ

What is the average sauna temperature?

Typically, the average sauna temperature falls between 80 to 100 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 176 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal temperature range to see the sauna benefits after working out.

How long should I stay in a sauna?

Research shows that sitting in a sauna for 5-20 minutes per session, multiple sessions per week is best. It also depends on how heat-adapted you are. If you’re new to saunas, you may want to start with shorter sauna sessions, less frequent, or less hot.

Post workout sauna could help reduce muscle pain and aid to overall stress relief.

Are there any other health benefits associated with sauna bathing?

Yes, using a sauna after a workout has several other health benefits. It can help detoxify the body by promoting sweating, improving respiratory function, and reducing stress levels.

Can I save sauna time for my gym routine?

Absolutely! Added sauna time to your gym routine can provide additional benefits to your workout. Just make sure to follow the proper guidelines for sauna use and listen to your body’s signals.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and the information provided in this communication should not be considered medical advice or suggestions. The content shared is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk with a healthcare professional prior to making any decisions regarding your health or medical condition. Any actions taken based on the information presented are at your own risk.

About the Author, Sophia Victoria
About the Author, Sophia Victoria

Sophi is a health, wellness, and lifestyle blogger who uses, research, and tests products and theories to help others improve their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. With her own eating disorder journey, regulating her hormones, and working with 10+ nutritionists, she deeply understands the health and wellness. Sophi is also well-knowledged in self-development and committed to sharing her knowledge, experience, and expertise with her readers.

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