Heat exposure is widely used for recovery among athletes.
Sauna use is a practice that is becoming more and more popular in elite sporting circles, with endurance athletes and bodybuilders alike swearing by its positive effects. Listeners of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast may even have heard the comedian raving about how sauna can increase life span.
But what are the benefits of sauna? Built for Athletes takes a look.
Release Of Hormones That Aid Exercise Recovery
Research has shown the sauna’s high temperatures, which reach around 180°F, encourage the body to produce various hormones that help it recover after exercise.
Among them are heat shock proteins (HSPs) which help repair and restore muscle tissue. Because skin temperature rises to around 104°F, the body believes it is in danger and secretes HSPs in response.
Growth hormone is also produced, which helps to regulate muscle and bone growth, a key argument used by post-workout sauna advocates. Increased blood flow and circulation also helps flush out toxins and lactic acid from the muscles.
Other Helpful Hormones & Fluids
As well as hormones that actively restore the body, high temperatures cause endorphins to be released into the bloodstream to help relieve pain and stress. This can cause a temporary relief of muscle soreness and have various other positive effects on well-being.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lowered too, further aiding resilience to mental health conditions. And the immune system gets a boost from an increase in the production of white blood cells.
Even sporting endurance can be improved by time in a sauna. Studies involving elite athletes using Finish saunas have shown an increase in plasma volume (the liquid which carries cells and proteins in the blood). This allows the body to operate with a lower heart rate during exercise.
There are loads of reported benefits to using saunas, although it is important to note there is a limited amount of scientific data at present.