by Divine Saunas Team June 29, 2022 10 min read

Fitness Benefits of Sauna After Workout (How to Do It)

Even for fitness enthusiasts, it’s often challenging to find time for a long workout. Considering the goal of personal fitness is to generally improve your health or appearance, then of course, you want to get the most out of every exercise session. 

You’ve probably heard information here or there about the benefits of a sauna after workout sessions. And you’re likely wondering if adding sauna time to your gym routine is an effective use of your already-limited free time. 

Here at Divine Saunas, we pride ourselves on offering accurate, unbiased sauna information and education. We wouldn’t be a leader in the luxury sauna and spa space without this dedication!

By the end of this guide, you’ll know all about the risks and benefits of saunas, the best time to use one, different types, and how to start enjoying the gains that come with strategic sauna use.

Sauna Bathing: Definition and How It Works for Sports and Fitness

To reap the benefits of a sauna session after a workout, first, you need to understand how it works and what to do. 

Let’s start with the definition of sauna bathing: it’s when your whole body is in a temperature-controlled room for around 20 minutes at temperatures between 113 degrees Fahrenheit and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauna bathing is a recognized form of thermotherapy that’s been used for thousands of years. (1)

“Sauna bathing is inexpensive and widely accessible with Finnish-style saunas more often used in family, group, and public settings and infrared saunas more commonly built and marketed for individual use.”

  • NCBI

Originally, saunas were a bit more rudimentary— the first saunas existed in caves with animal hides draped over the entrance, and a fire burning under stones inside. 

The fire would burn all day, and then the smoke would waft out once the fire was extinguished. The end result? The hot stones inside gave off radiant warmth and steam for hours, keeping people warm and relaxed and ready for recovery. You may have also seen sweat lodges in movies or while vacationing, which is another kind of sauna.

Today, Finnish saunas are the gold standard for people worldwide. Most gyms and spas around the globe choose traditional Finnish saunas for their facilities. Finnish saunas today work using the same basic chemical reactions which powered ancient saunas. 

Essentially, a fire or heater is used to warm a central pile of stones. You may also see a wood stove, electricity-powered, or hot embers as the heat source. Water is introduced to the hot air in a safe and controlled manner, creating steam and maintaining the heat.

People sit in the sauna after their workout to take advantage of thermotherapy for their sore muscles. After a set amount of time, you’re good to go—it doesn’t take long for the heater to work its magic.

In recent years, sauna technology has advanced quite a bit. There are many customization and feature options that can now be included with your new luxury sauna. Now let’s take a look at how you can add a sauna session to your workout routine. 

Should You Add Time in Saunas to Your Gym Routine?

As long as your doctor okays it, you should absolutely add sauna time to your gym routine. While you should always consult a medical professional for medical advice relating to your diet and exercise regimen, fitness experts agree that some sauna time can benefit almost any individual. 

More research and data are needed before the medical community is willing to make an official statement, but early studies show promising results. Healthy individuals who partake of Finnish or infrared sauna bathing often enjoy many positive effects on their health, especially athletes who want to improve and reach their goals. 

We’ve never met an athlete who wasn’t trying to push themselves to improve. Assuming your doctor gives you the all-clear, a sauna is a powerful addition to your gym routine.  

Should You Visit the Sauna Before or After a Workout?

You should visit the sauna after a workout, rather than exercise after sauna. You’ll enjoy the most benefits after workout sessions, no matter what type of exercise you’re doing. Hitting the steam room post running, weightlifting, and even yoga can add to your progress and gains.

Why You Might Want to Avoid Going Before Exercise

There are a few really good reasons not to hit the sauna before your workout session. 

First, the sauna’s heat loosens and relaxes your muscles. This is great when you’re tense afterwards, but it can be dangerous before you’ve exercised or during exercise if not done with care. Being so relaxed can put you at a higher risk of tearing or pulling a muscle during your sports workout routine.

However, professional athletes and serious workout buffs can get used to training in heat and see positive effects from doing so, which is why we sell saunas for hot yoga.   

Second, you can sweat profusely during a sauna session. The sweat dehydrates your body while the heat raises your overall body temperature. This combination will ultimately make you more tired pre-workout and could put you at a greater risk of overheating. 

Basically, a sauna puts you into the ideal state you should be in for performance and recovery. Starting your routine feeling tired, sluggish, and excessively warm is going to have a negative impact on your workout (and the gains you’ll see from that workout). But again, you can incorporate heat training into your workout routine with care. Given the risks, we recommend you seek advice from an experienced coach and your doctor before jumping into heat training.

Risks of Using a Sauna

The truth is, saunas may not be appropriate for absolutely everyone—especially those with cardiovascular issues or certain skin issues. (2)

Even if you’re healthy, there are a few things to watch out for as you start using a sauna regularly. For example, for those with cardiovascular issues it’s inadvisable to go straight from a hot sauna into a cold body of water. Doing so can unsafely elevate your blood pressure. 

People with low blood pressure in general or a heart attack in their past should speak with their doctor prior to beginning a sauna regimen, because sauna use can lead to falling blood pressure. 

You should also be mindful of the risks of dehydration. While you sweat during your sauna time, you’re losing fluids. If you have certain conditions—such as kidney-related issues—you may have a higher risk of dehydration, nausea, and dizziness. 

Many of the risks of taking a sauna can be mitigated by following a couple simple tips. Most importantly, drink plenty of water throughout your exercise routine to stay hydrated. If you aren’t feeling well after your workout, skip the sauna that day. 

Follow these tips and use common sense during your sauna sessions, and you’ll start enjoying the effects almost immediately.

Health Benefits from Using a Sauna

As we mentioned earlier, the medical community is not yet ready to make official statements on the subject. But new studies are being completed and evaluated regularly, making it easy for us to understand the findings. Here are the most commonly experienced benefits:

Benefit #1: Muscle Recovery

It’s no secret that your muscles will be a bit sore after any good exercise. That’s a good sign that you’ll see progress from your exercise performance.

But what if you could help aid your performance, achieve full recovery and reduce some of the discomfort?

According to new research, this routine can help expedited muscle recovery. Basically, heat therapy from a sauna has been shown to help your body speed up the repair and recovery process. It can even help maintain your lean body mass and regulate your body’s absorption of sugar.

On a molecular scale, remember that spending time in a sauna increases your blood circulation. This means your blood holds more oxygen and reaches your tired muscles lightning-fast, improving your muscle recovery in a fraction of the usual time. 

All of this adds up to mean that instead of spending a few days feeling sore and achy, you’ll be refreshed far sooner—and your muscles will start to grow sooner, too.

Benefit #2: Relieve Overall Tension

After most workouts, your muscles are tense. Some of the best exercises will strain groups of muscles, making you feel tired in places you didn’t even know you had. This is great for strengthening and growing your muscles, but the tension and discomfort leave a lot to be desired.

A sauna is the perfect solution to this predicament. Studies have shown for years that heat therapy is one of the best ways to relax muscles—it’s why heat packs are a product loved by athletes everywhere, and it’s why massage therapists often use heating pads with their clients. 

Quite simply, heat causes the human body to start loosening and letting go of muscle tension. Heat also increases your blood circulation. Better circulation means more oxygen for your brain, other organs, and muscles, releasing feel-good endorphins.

The endorphin release paired with the heat melting away your physical tension makes taking a sauna one of the absolute best ways to treat yourself.

Benefit #3: Improved Cardiovascular Health

Some benefits of sessions after working out can be seen physically, like your toned muscles and reduced overall body fat. But other beneficial things happen on the inside, like the benefits to your cardiovascular health. 

We’ve talked about how hard your cardiovascular system works during your sauna session. This is basically strength training for your heart and cardiovascular health. Current theories suggest that sauna time helps your nervous system control reactions better, reduces stiffness in your arteries, and lowers your systemic blood pressure. 

When a person sits in a sauna, their heart rate increases and blood vessels widen. This increases circulation, in a similar way to low to moderate exercise depending on the duration of sauna use.” 

–Medical News Today

Studies have shown that the sauna can help your heart stay strong and fight off disease, in addition to boosting your cardiovascular health.  Frequent sauna-goers typically enjoy a reduced risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurocognitive diseases, and even “all-cause mortality” as a whole.

Said another way, regularly visiting the sauna once you’ve exercised can reduce your chance of dying from nearly any health-related cause. Considering the slew of other benefits you’ll enjoy, taking a sauna is 20 minutes well-spent.

Benefit #4: Weight Loss

We know what you’re thinking. “If you weigh yourself before and after a sauna session, you’ll weigh less. But it’s only because you sweat out a bunch of water weight, which you’ll gain right back.” At face value, this statement is true—and research is still being conducted before the medical community can weigh in. 

The thing is, a couple studies have seen a link between after-exercise sauna use and lower overall body fat. The most prominent hypothesis is that it’s related to your heart rate. When you sweat, your heart rate increases. This is how you know your body is working to cool you down and maintain a safe internal body temperature.

Your heart rate also increases in this same way when you run a marathon, lift weights, or do any kind of cardio. While increasing your heart rate with heat alone won’t build muscle, it does appear to burn a certain number of calories.

In a nutshell, yes, any weight lost immediately following a sauna is water weight. But you’ve also burned more calories and expended more energy than if you’d only done your exercises, promoting additional weight loss.

Benefit #5: Stress Relief

The effects of using the sauna post workout sessions go beyond physical—you’ll get a nice mental boost, too. If you’ve ever spent time in a sauna before, you’re familiar with that all-encompassing sense of relief as you sit down inside. Like we mentioned earlier, the heat of the sauna releases your physical tension. 

For thousands of years, people have used saunas as a way to cleanse and calm the mind. Individuals often report feeling relaxed, at peace, and even pensive or meditative during their sessions. While more medical research is required, this effect seems to stem from the way stress impacts us (both physically and mentally.)

When you’re stressed, you feel it physically. Your neck tightens up. You may ball up your fists and strain your wrists or fingers. You clench your jaw and furrow your brow. Basically, stress makes you tighten up most of your muscles and hold that tension for far too long. 

The physical pain exacerbates your mental symptoms. The added mental strain makes you tense up even more. It’s a painful, vicious cycle. But the sauna can help you easily break out of it. 

Heat causes your muscles to loosen and relax. Removing the physiological symptoms of stress almost always eases a large part of your mental burden, too. Finally, don’t forget that the heat causes the release of endorphins—those feel-good hormones that cause the famous “post-sauna glow.” 

Exercise followed by a sauna session is one of the best stress-busters for humans around the world.

General Benefits of Sweating

Several of the benefits of sauna after workout sessions come back to the general benefits of sweating.  

Sweating is a big part of the weight loss benefits you’ll enjoy from regular sauna visits. When you sweat for a long period of time (like during exercise or in a sauna), you have to work hard to cool yourself back down. Specifically, your cardiovascular system puts in a lot of elbow grease to regulate your temperature.

And your cardiovascular system consumes energy to do so, meaning you’re burning calories while you sweat. 

While modern medical experts are debating just how many toxins our sweat flushes from our bodies, there’s general agreement that some toxins are indeed removed. Sweating isn’t a detox that gives you a completely clean slate, but studies have found that heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and arsenic are removed when we sweat. 

A sauna isn’t a replacement for drinking water and following a healthy diet, to be clear. But regular sessions to sweat it out help remove toxins from your body that’d otherwise outstay their welcome. 

All You Need is 20 Minutes

The best thing about pursuing the benefits after exercise is that you only need twenty minutes! The longest your sauna session should be, on average, is around 20 minutes. You won’t see any benefits past that time—in fact, you’d likely start to see some negative impacts on your overall health. 

This means finding the time for the sauna is even easier than finding the time to exercise, which usually takes 30 to 90 minutes.

You have so much to gain from sauna bathing after your exercise routine. No matter what kind of exercise you’re doing, frequent sauna bathing will help you feel better faster and see positive results sooner.

And whether you want a traditional Finnish sauna or a new cutting-edge infrared in your home for your regular sauna bathing, our team at Divine Saunas is here to help. You can use the menu above to browse all of our world-class luxury saunas, compare, and find your perfect match.

Looking for even more detail about and information about getting the most out of your sauna? Just visit the Divine Saunas blog to find what you’re after.

References:

  1. National Library of Medicine, Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941775/

  1. Medical News Today, What Are the Benefits and Risks of a Sauna?

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313109 

Divine Saunas Team
Divine Saunas Team

The team at Divine Saunas, brings years of combined expertise in the sauna industry and in creating helpful customer experiences online. With our unique perspectives we work together to help our customers fulfill their goals in creating a wonderful sauna oasis and spa. We do the research of high quality products, information and solutions and deliver that to you.


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