Sauna After Workout: Is It the Steamy Path to Recovery?

You may think a sauna session is the last thing you need after a sweaty workout, but research says otherwise. Sauna bathing for post-workout recovery continues to grow in popularity thanks to the multitude of benefits we are becoming aware of. The potential benefits of a post-workout sauna session include enhanced muscle recovery, reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular health, and better heat tolerance. Read on to learn why the sauna could be your new best friend.

Types of saunas

There are several different types of saunas, but let’s explore the differences between the most popular three: the traditional Finnish sauna, the infrared sauna, and the steam sauna (or steam room).

Traditional Finnish sauna

As the name suggests, this is the most traditional style of sauna with deep roots in Finnish culture. These saunas were originally heated with a wood-burning stove, and although this type of sauna still exists, the electric sauna is much more common now.

Rocks are heated with an electric stove, and water can be splashed on them to increase the heat and humidity. These are found in many gyms and spas but can also be easily installed at home. The earliest versions of the traditional Finnish sauna are believed to be from 7000 BC.

Infrared sauna

The infrared sauna is the new kid on the block. This type of sauna is rapidly gaining popularity thanks to potential benefits that may even outweigh the traditional sauna.

This sauna uses infrared waves to heat the body rather than warming the entire room. This means the temperature in an infrared sauna is usually much lower than in a traditional sauna.

Steam sauna

The steam sauna, or steam room, heats up by regularly releasing steam into the room. This creates a room with much higher humidity than a traditional sauna — up to 100%. Although the temperature is lower in a steam room than in a traditional sauna, the high humidity makes it feel warmer.

For this reason, most people can’t stay in a steam room for as long as a traditional or infrared sauna. Like traditional saunas, steam rooms are popular in gyms and spas.

Benefits of using a sauna after a workout

There are a huge number of benefits to using a sauna after exercise, such as improved muscle recovery and reduced inflammation. It’s easy to see why an increasing number of gym-goers are hopping in the sauna after their workout.

Let’s explore some of the top sauna benefits after a workout.

1. Muscle recovery and growth

One of the biggest benefits of sauna use for athletes is its effects on muscle recovery. A small study from 2023 found that a single infrared sauna session after resistance training reduced muscle soreness and improved perceived recovery.

Sauna use promotes muscle growth and recovery by triggering the release of growth hormone (HGH). Research showed an increase in growth hormone after a 100° C (212 °F) sauna session.

2. Inflammation reduction

There’s evidence that sauna use can decrease inflammation, which is great after exercise. Intense exercise may increase inflammation, so post-workout may be the perfect time to hop in the sauna.

3. Improved cardiovascular health

Regular sauna bathing may reduce your risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Although it is unknown exactly how this process works, research suggests this may be due to an improved response of your arteries to blood pressure changes, improved blood flow adaptation based on what your tissues need, improved levels of fat in your blood, lower blood pressure, and better regulation of involuntary body processes such as heart rate and breathing.

4. Endurance enhancement in hot environments

Regular sauna bathing causes a positive adaptive response to heat stress. This may carry over into hot training environments, giving you an edge when the temperature climbs.

Dangers of using a sauna after a workout

Although moderate sauna use appears to be safe for most people, you should speak to your doctor before sauna bathing if you have blood pressure issues, cardiovascular disease, or have ever had a heart attack. Saunas are best avoided during pregnancy.

Here are some potential risks of sauna use after a workout:

  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Heat discomfort
  • Leg pain
  • Airway irritation
  • Potential pregnancy complications

How to use a sauna post-workout

Here are a few tips on how to use a sauna post-workout. These will help you make the most of the incredible benefits of sauna bathing.

Timing

The best time to use a sauna is after your workout. This allows you to reap muscle recovery benefits and, unlike pre-workout sauna bathing, does not put you at risk of becoming dehydrated before you even start your workout.

Duration

5–20 minutes is the ideal time frame to access all the benefits the sauna has to offer. If you’re new to saunas, start with 5 minutes and slowly work your way up over time according to your tolerability.

Hydration

To avoid dehydration, top up on water before and after a sauna session. You lose lots of water through sweat in the sauna, and it’s important to replace it.

Safety tips for using saunas

For a safe and enjoyable sauna experience, avoid alcohol before heading into the sauna and limit sessions to 20 minutes. Drink plenty of water and avoid the sauna altogether if you’re pregnant or unwell.

The benefits of saunas are supported by research; however, not all benefits are fully understood and more quality research is needed. If you have underlying health conditions, please seek advice from a healthcare provider.

Tempted to try a post-workout sauna after learning the benefits? Make sure to use the sauna responsibly and follow the safety tips outlined in this article. Sauna bathing can make a great addition to your wellness routine, improving recovery, muscle growth, and cardiovascular system. Therefore, giving it a try may prove useful.

FAQ

Key takeaways:


Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.