If you are regularly spending time at the gym, you have probably considered hitting the sauna after working out.
After all, what better way is there to destress and reward yourself for all the hard work you put in?
Saunas are a great place to relax and unwind and they provide many beneficial effects for your health.
This is especially true for a sauna session that you do post-workout because it can assist your recovery and help you properly unwind after your workout.
But how should you go about it? And what positive influences will an after-workout sauna session have on your body?
In this article, we will look at the many benefits of sauna bathing after a workout and guide you through some simple tips and tricks for making the most of your sauna post-workout experience.
Saunas and sweat lodges are a big part of the Finnish tradition but their popularity has spread all over the world.
Although they weren’t traditionally built to be used after exercise, nowadays, many gyms are equipped with saunas or steam rooms.
Let’s look at some of the biggest health benefits of using the sauna post-workout.
One of the biggest sauna benefits according to medical news is muscle recovery. After an intense workout, delayed onset muscle soreness comes into play.
This is because you exert your body and your muscles during a workout, which results in microscopic tears and sore muscles.
These tears often become inflamed and can lead to tension, tightness, and cramps. As your body heals the tears, your muscles become stronger.
If you enter the sauna after your workout in the gym, your blood circulation will increase and your muscles will receive more oxygen-rich blood.
This ensures that the muscles can become more relaxed and prevents any injury, muscle soreness, or cramps from occurring.
Some people supplement this practice with hot rocks.
Sitting in a hot sauna allows your blood vessels to expand, which in turn, improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
This contributes to an improved circulatory system and better overall heart health, which in turn, may act as preventative measures against many other health conditions.
Research suggests that saunas can assist in the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and other neurocognitive diseases.
People have found that muscle strength and power increases after hitting the sauna, which is why they are very popular for athletes and in gyms.
Spending time in the heat has also been shown to improve athletes’ endurance and boost performance.
Studies show that saunas contribute to an increase in lower blood volume through an increase in plasma and red blood cells, which improve overall endurance.
What’s more, they may make athletes more tolerant towards hot temperatures, which means they may not get as easily exerted as usual during their workout.
Saunas can also assist people who have chronic joint and muscle pain to manage their pain and fatigue, which makes it a popular treatment option for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Saunas are known for their ability to improve blood circulation, which leads to healthy and younger-looking skin.
The practice of sitting in the sauna will also remove dead skin cells, making your skin look and feel healthier.
The heat also triggers glands that are located on the scalp, which can improve the shine and health of your hair.
Just do not get a fright if your hair frizzes after spending time in the sauna, this is a completely normal reaction to the dry heat and air
You can opt to use a special hat or cap if you want to protect your hair whilst enjoying the benefits of sitting in the sauna.
Infrared saunas are soothing and if you have spent time in one after your workout, you know that it can be very rewarding and have a positive influence on your well-being.
The dimly lit room has a calming effect on people and it has been found that some downtime in the gym is associated with stress relief.
This heat stress response also protects the body from a myriad of negative factors associated with stress and it has been associated with a release of norepinephrine, which protects us from dementia and migraines as well.
This practice is also associated with an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which stimulates new neurons and cognitive functioning.
During exercise, we tend to start sweating as a way to release toxins from the body. Why not extend those benefits and continue your sweat session in the sauna?
Many people believe that the heat and sweat can detoxify the body and that this is the reason why you feel great after finishing up your session.
Several studies have found a correlation between sauna use, heat, and weight loss and this is due to a variety of reasons.
The dry heat means that you burn more calories at rest than you would elsewhere because of the increase in your heart rate.
It is no wonder that using exposure to intense heat three times a week has been positively associated with weight loss.
Some people report significant weight loss after increased use of the sauna; however, one should take caution because this is often water weight and not actual weight loss.
Infrared saunas can be a great way to lose weight if they are used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise plan. But the focus should be on a reduction of body fat as well.
The infrared heat from saunas can increase your human growth hormone (HGH) production and lower your cortisol levels, both of which will assist in weight loss and a reduction of body fat.
In addition, it boosts the functioning of your immune, cardiovascular and lymphatic systems which can also reduce body fat.
If you are in a position where your muscles are already sore from a previous workout, it may be wise to pay a visit to the sauna.
This is because heat application is one of the best ways to relieve and treat muscle tension.
In fact, heat therapy increases the production of “heat shock proteins”, which protect against oxidative damage and repair damaged proteins.
Sauna time is also associated with growing muscles due to an increase of the growth hormone and a decrease in insulin sensitivity, which assists with maintaining a lean body mass and regulating sugar.
Yes, you read that right. Sauna usage can allow you to live longer.
One study found low mortality rates and many other benefits in Finnish men who regularly visit the sauna. The same study also showed an overall reduction in all-cause mortality amongst these men.
There are many reasons why visiting the sauna can help you improve longevity including the physiological changes associated with it and the protection against heart disease and other chronic issues.
In addition, it has been said that the increased heart rate people experience in a sauna can be equated with low-intensity exercise.
So in a way, you are still getting in a bit of a workout after your workout and this contributes to an increase in physical health.
It has also been found that saunas have a bigger impact on athletes than non-athletes, especially in terms of an increase in white-blood-cell counts.
This is why it is a great idea to include the sauna after your gym session.
So, you have decided that you will go to the sauna after your workout. What now? Before you rock up to the sauna, there are a few important things to take note of.
Each sauna and gym will have its own rules but there are a few general rules of thumb that you should take into account when using the sauna:
- Do not eat a heavy meal before entering the sauna. This is because your body will want to use its resources to adapt to the heat and, therefore, won’t have much left to digest a double cheeseburger.
- Take your towel and sandals. It is customary to place a towel on the bench before you sit down and to wear sandals to protect you and other people from germs.
- Leave your phone outside or in the locker room. Yes, unfortunately, electronics are not allowed in the sauna.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after. Saunas can make you become a bit dehydrated, which is especially risky after completing a workout that also dehydrated you. So, drink water or electrolytes to prevent this and to ensure you stay hydrated.
- Be quiet. The sauna is a place to relax and retreat so avoid loud talking, chewing, screaming, laughing, or singing. Just be still, and chill.
- Wear clothes. Yes, there are some saunas where nudity is allowed but there are also many saunas that require you to cover yourself, especially at gyms. Wear something comfortable and preferably cotton-based to ensure that you can relax. You can also wear a bathing suit or wrap yourself in a towel to ensure you don’t feel uncomfortable.
- Shower before you enter the sauna. Once again, it is customary to keep the sauna hygienic and enter it clean so ensure that you wash off that post-workout sweat before you enter the sauna.
- Enter and exit the sauna quickly. Remember, each time the door is open, heat escapes so it is rude to leave the door open for long or to take your time when exiting and entering. When you enter, close the door behind you quickly and do the same when you leave.
Although it can be tempting to physically warm up the muscles before the workout in a sauna, we don’t recommend this.
Going to the sauna before your workout does not carry the same health benefits as a post-workout sauna bath.
It can be quite dangerous. The heat in saunas relaxes your muscles which means that they can become injured or sore more easily when working out.
When working out, the muscles mustn’t be too loose to properly engage and perform exercises.
Also, time in the sauna before your workout can lead to dehydration.
This is because you will start the work-out while you are already sweating, which increases the risk of becoming dehydrated during exercise.
The relaxing and calming effect that saunas have is also not the best way to amp yourself up for a bout of rigorous exercise in the gym, which is why it is always better to spend time in the sauna after you have completed training. RELATED: Do Saunas Help You Lose Weight?
By now, you have probably realized that visiting the sauna after your workout can benefit you in more ways than one.
It is no wonder Finnish people have sworn by saunas for so many years. Who wouldn’t want to boost their muscle recovery, lose weight, promote longevity and relax after a work-out?
If you are still unsure whether this is for you, follow the guidelines above and plan a trip to the sauna after your next workout at the gym.
Who knows, you might even enjoy the experience so much that it becomes part of your permanent post-workout gym regime.