#1 Faster recovery from your workouts
One thing that you’ll experience if you use a sauna consistently is faster recovery from your workouts. And there are several reasons for this.
One of them I already mentioned – saunas improve blood flow. This helps deliver nutrients to the cells and tissues that need them to recover.
Saunas improve blood flow by heating the body. The heat relaxes and dilates blood vessels, making it easier for your heart to pump blood throughout the entire body.
Studies also show that regular sauna use improves endothelial function. The endothelium is the inner membrane that lines your heart and blood vessels.
Studies also show that sauna use increases IGF-1, which is a vital hormone for growth and recovery.
One of these studies found a 142 percent increase in IGF-1 during sauna use. (1)
However, it’s still debatable how much of an increase in IGF-1 is required to speed up recovery.
Though, between improved blood flow and increased IGF-1, it’s no wonder why people claim faster recovery after a sauna.
Another big benefit from the sauna is improved mood. If you suffer from depression or just want to boost your mood, a sauna might help.
That’s because sauna use increases circulating beta-endorphins which produce feelings of euphoria. (2)
In fact, whole-body heat therapy has been shown to improve symptoms of depression in cancer patients through this same process. (3)
Also, a randomized double-blind study on depression shows that a single session of core body temperature elevation to 101.3F° (38.5°C) led to an acute antidepressant effect that lasted for six weeks. (4)
That’s obviously a powerful effect on your mind. It can also be noticed right away especially if you use a sauna consistently.
In addition to muscle recovery, as mentioned earlier, a sauna can relieve pain as well.
It does this by regulating the release of certain hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, and IGF-1.
For example, one study found that combining sauna use with other therapeutics assisted in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. (5)
Another study found that sauna therapy reduced pain from fibromyalgia. (6)
Regarding working out and delayed onset muscle soreness, there’s not enough solid evidence to say conclusively that in this case.
Although, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that heat therapy helps reduce post-workout soreness.
Most likely, saunas do reduce muscle soreness thanks to the improved blood flow and the release of endorphins. These are opiate-like chemicals that act like natural pain killers. (7)
#4 Mental performance boost
Next, let’s go back to another cognitive benefit which is the fact that it can help improve your mental performance.
Stress from heat increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF. This is a crucial protein for cognitive health. (8)
BDNF helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which essentially helps neurons communicate. This in turn assists with learning and memory formation.
Research also shows that BDNF is involved in muscle repair and the growth and development of new muscle tissue. (9)
It can also help combat cognitive decline associated with aging.
This is shown in a study on men from Finland. Researchers found that frequent sauna users (4-7 times per week) had a 65 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
This was compared to those who used the sauna only once per week. (10)
In another study, men were instructed to stay in a 176°F (80°C) sauna for as long as they could. The results showed that there was a 310 percent increase in norepinephrine and a ten-fold increase in prolactin. (11)
These things benefit your cognitive health because norepinephrine enhances focus and attention while prolactin promotes myelin growth. Overall, this makes the brain function faster.
Similar results were found in women. Twenty-minute sessions in a dry sauna twice a week resulted in an 86 percent increase in norepinephrine. Prolactin increased by 510 percent. (12)
Another benefit you’ll experience is your stress levels will go down.
It’s well-known that chronic stress is terrible for your health. It’s linked to things like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and much more.
Luckily, the sauna might offer some help. Research shows that sauna use can reduce levels of cortisol, which is your body’s primary stress hormone. (13)
Also, I already mentioned earlier that sauna use can increase BDNF. This is beneficial not only for learning and memory but also for your stress levels.
Research shows that reduced levels of BDNF can play a role in depression and anxiety. (14)
So by boosting this unique protein in your brain, you can reduce your stress.
To reap the maximum benefits, try to focus on your breath while you’re using the sauna. That way, you’ll also experience the benefits that deep breathing exercises can have on reducing stress.
#6 Healthier and better-looking skin
Now aside from the internal effects, a sauna can provide many benefits externally as well. For example, a sauna can improve the health and appearance of your skin.
Studies show that regular sauna use has a positive effect on skin health, especially surface pH levels and hydration. (15)
One of these studies showed that sauna use led to less oil on the forehead of participants. That’s why it might be good for oily, acne-prone skin.
But it’s important to keep in mind that sweating causes your body to secrete zinc.
Sweating is one reason 21-43 percent of athletes have low levels of zinc.
So, if you’re an athlete and/or you use saunas regularly it’s important to get enough zinc.
In fact, other than the many important functions that zinc has inside your body, it’s also crucial for skin health.
You can take a zinc supplement if you use a sauna every day. Though better than a supplement is real food.
Examples of zinc-rich foods are oysters, beef, chicken, firm tofu, lean pork chops, hemp seeds, and lentils.
The next potential benefit that you’ll get is more weight loss.
Of course, make no mistake – a lot of this weight loss will be in the form of water weight.
This is the main reason why the sauna is used by athletes that want to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers, for example, will use a sauna to drop weight to a lower weight class.
But these effects are only temporary. When you rehydrate after sweating, the lost water weight will be reabsorbed.
Another way that people have suggested that a sauna could potentially benefit weight loss is by elevating your heart rate.
But in reality, you’ll only burn slightly more calories in a sauna compared to just sitting at room temperature.
Instead of burning 40 calories after 30 minutes of sitting at room temperature, you’ll reach 60 calories in a sauna.
That’s not going to make too much of a difference. You’d burn much more calories by hitting the gym or performing almost any kind of workout.
There still is one more way that sauna use may facilitate weight loss. And that’s through molecules known as heat shock proteins.
These proteins are present in all cells and are essential for basic cellular maintenance. They play a role in many processes, including immune function, cell signaling, and cell-cycle regulation.
Using a sauna can elevate the levels of heat shock proteins. According to animal studies, these proteins may help reduce fat mass. (16)
However, this effect needs more research because there’s a lack of evidence that shows that similar benefits apply to people.
Also, even if the effect did apply, it wouldn’t be as impactful as dieting or exercising.
#8 Better cardiovascular health
Weight loss will be mostly limited to water weight. This can help decrease bloat, and temporarily make you appear more vascular, with thinner-looking skin.
But a major health benefit that can’t be overlooked regarding regular sauna use is the impact on your heart.
There are many ways that sauna use can benefit your heart. For example, it can reduce the stiffness of your arteries, improve your blood lipid profiles, and lower your blood pressure.
Studies also support the heart benefits associated with heat therapy. For example, a 2015 study involving Finnish men looked at the link between sauna use and fatal cardiovascular events. (17)
The participants that used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 48 percent reduced risk of heart disease compared to those who only used it once a week.
More studies are necessary to establish the mechanism behind the link between sauna use and improved cardiovascular health. (18)
And we did get more of an understanding of this link in a later 2018 study. The benefits could be due to improved heart muscle contractions, reduced arterial stiffness, and blood lipids, and lowered blood pressure. (19)
With the potential heart benefit, it’s easy to see how another benefit of consistent sauna use is increased longevity. This means that it may help you live longer.
The 2015 study I just mentioned didn’t only find a reduction in cardiovascular disease events. It also found that the participants who used the sauna more often also had a reduced rate of all-cause mortality.
The researchers even mentioned that this reduced risk of all-cause mortality was present even independently from conventional risk factors. (20)
The exact mechanism that’s associated with increased longevity is still unknown. But one way that heat therapy may lead to an increase in longevity is by stimulating heat shock proteins.
Evidence shows that flies that are repeatedly exposed to heat stress experience much higher levels of heat shock proteins. This is coupled with a significant increase in lifespan. (21)
Of course, data from flies may not translate over to humans. There’s also a limited amount of quality data on how heat shock proteins impact longevity in men and women.
This, however, doesn’t change the fact that the sauna benefits your heart, blood vessels, and even nervous system. And in turn, this can improve longevity.
#10 Better athletic performance
Last but not least, a sauna can help benefit your athletic performance.
Using a sauna regularly can give you a boost with endurance-based activities.
In a high-heat environment, like a sauna, you can train your body to become accustomed and functional at high temperatures.
This is actually called “hyperthermic conditioning,” and it works especially well for endurance athletes.
For example, let’s say an athlete lives in an area with low-to-moderate temperatures. They are however training to compete in a place where the weather is much hotter.
They could use a sauna regularly in preparation for the competition. That can actually improve their ability to cope with the heat, which benefits performance.
This same idea can be applied to other endurance activities. The steam room especially can help your respiratory system function optimally.
That’s because oxygen is the primary energy pathway for many endurance-based activities. So it’s easy to see how optimizing your cardiorespiratory system can lead to benefits in exercise and performance.
So those are 10 major benefits that you can expect from using a sauna consistently.
As mentioned, weight loss is something that can be temporarily accelerated with sauna use. But it will mostly be in the form of water weight.
To truly improve your body composition and health, sauna use should be combined with a solid diet and workout plan.
You can even use a sauna directly before your workout to warm up your body and get the blood flowing. Or you can use it afterward to relax your muscles and speed up recovery.
Regardless, your main goal is likely fat loss or improving your body composition with more muscle mass. If so, you will need to adjust your diet and training regimen.
So if you need any extra help, check out the link below. You’ll find everything you need.
There are done-for-you programs that are helping my clients lose 20 pounds or 5 percent of their body fat in just 6 weeks. But you’ll also find one-on-one coaching and custom-made nutrition plans.
Click the link below to find out more.
- Study found a 142% increase in IGF-1 hormone during sauna use.
- Sauna might be able to help with depression. Sauna use increases beta-endorphins in the blood and produces feelings of euphoria.
- Whole-body heat therapy may improve symptoms of depression in cancer patients.
- Double-blind RCT on depression. Elevating core body temperature to 101.3°F caused an acute antidepressant effect that lasted for six weeks after the treatment.
- Using the sauna stacked with other therapies aided the treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Sauna therapy reduced the pain from fibromyalgia.
- There is little evidence on sauna’s alleged soreness reduction from workouts. But that is likely because saunas cause the release of endorphins. These are opiate-like chemicals that act as natural pain killers.
- Heat stress increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as DBNF. This is a protein that is crucial for cognitive health.
- BDNF is also involved in muscle repair and the growth of new muscle tissue.
- Middle-aged Finnish men who used the sauna 4-7 times per week had a 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This was compared to those who used the sauna only once per week.
- The result was a 310% increase in norepinephrine and a ten-fold increase in prolactin.
- “Heat stress significantly increased prolactin and norepinephrine secretion. The percentage increases from initial plasma concentrations of 113% to 1280% (mean 510%), and from 18% to 150% (mean 86%)”.
- Research shows that sauna use can reduce levels of cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone in the body.
- Research indicates that reduced levels of BDNF might play a role in depression and anxiety.
- “Data suggest a protective effect of regular sauna on skin physiology, especially surface pH and stratum corneum water-holding capacity.”
- And according to animal studies, those proteins might reduce fat mass.
- 2015 study involving Finnish men between 42 and 60 years of age. They looked at the link between sauna use and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events.
- “Further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and cardiovascular health.”
- Study suggests main health benefits from sauna use. Improved endothelium-dependent dilatation, reduced arterial stiffness, modulation of the autonomic nervous system, better circulating lipid profiles, lower blood pressure.
- “Frequent sauna bathing was related to a considerable decreased risk of all-cause mortality independently from conventional risk factors.”
- Flies that are repeatedly exposed to head stress experience a significant increase in lifespan.