Updated: Jan 9
With the new year comes renewed determination to get fitter and healthier but did you know that incorporating regular sauna bathing sessions as part of your new healthy regime can have serious performance and recovery benefits?
In this post, we will take a look at some of the benefits of using a sauna for athletes (or indeed anyone taking regular exercise). We will also discuss different types of saunas, how to use a sauna during exercise, and tips for getting the most out of a sauna.
Introduction to Saunas for Athletes
Saunas have been used for relaxation and to aid in the healing of muscle soreness and stiffness for centuries and are popular in many different cultures around the world.
The temperature in a sauna can range from 60 to 90 degrees Celsius, depending on the type of sauna, and this heat helps to increase blood flow, relax muscles and improve circulation which helps to improve athletic performance.
In addition to the physical benefits of using a sauna, there are psychological benefits as well. Studies have shown that spending time in a sauna can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn can improve focus and concentration during workouts. Better focus produces better results!
Benefits of Saunas for Athletic Performance
Here are some of the primary ways in which saunas can improve athletic performance:
· Increase muscle condition: The heat in a sauna helps to increase blood flow, which can help to improve muscle condition buy bringing more oxygen to the muscles. This helps to reduce fatigue and speed up muscle recovery time.
· Stress relief: It shouldn't be understated just how beneficial the stress relieving qualities of regular sauna bathing can be. For the athlete, the relief of tension and stress can lead to significant gains when it comes to training better and harder.
· Improve cardiovascular endurance: With increased blood flow comes increased heart rate, which can help to improve cardiovascular endurance, allowing you to potentially push harder for longer.
· Increase hormone function: Studies have shown hot saunas increase the release of hormones such as cortisol and testosterone, which are vital to athletic performance improvements.
· Increase protein synthesis: The heat in a sauna also helps to increase the production of protein in the body, which can help to build (and rebuild) muscle.
How Saunas Can Improve Muscle Condition
Frequent sauna bathing can help to improve muscle condition in several ways. As mentioned above, the heat in a sauna helps to increase blood flow, which allows more oxygen to reach the muscles. This increased oxygen supply helps to reduce fatigue and improve muscle recovery time.
By also increasing the production of hormones such as cortisol and testosterone, sauna heat helps improve muscle growth and strength. In addition, the process helps to increase protein synthesis, which is a vital stage in the building of muscle.
Regular use of a sauna can also help to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness, which will naturally aid athletic performance. Relaxed muscles experience reduced pain and therefore improve mobility.
How Saunas Can Help with Stress Relief
It's well documented that spending time in a sauna can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which should be fairly noticeable to any regular sauna users. By relaxing both body and mind, sauna sessions soothe stress and improve your mental clarity.
What's more, sauna bathing can also help to improve sleep quality by promoting a deeper, more restful sleep. Naturally better sleep leads to better results in all areas of daily life, whether at work or play.
How Saunas Can Improve Cardiovascular Endurance
This is one of the primary reasons saunas are so popular among professional athletes and can be commonly found at gyms and health clubs. Using a sauna can help to improve cardiovascular endurance in several ways. Firstly, that heat-induced increased blood flow leads to increased heart rate, which pushes your heart to bolster its endurance.
What's more the release of hormones help to increase energy levels and improve stamina whilst the heat in a sauna helps to increase the production of endorphins. These endorphins help to reduce fatigue which also improves endurance.
How to Use a Sauna During Exercise
When using a sauna during exercise, it is important to stay hydrated and take regular breaks. Understandably the heat in a sauna can cause dehydration, so it is important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after using a sauna.
It is also important to take regular breaks from the sauna to cool down and allow the body to recover. These breaks form part of the traditional Nordic/Baltic sauna ritual, following stints within the heat with short bursts of cold such as by jumping into icy water or taking a cold shower.
Most gym users will consider a sauna session at the end of a workout, for the recovery benefits, but it can be just as useful taking a sauna before a vigorous exercise session and if you can, do it before, during and after!
Different Types of Saunas
There are many different types of saunas available, including traditional wood-fired saunas, infrared saunas, smoke saunas and outdoor saunas.
Traditional saunas are usually made of wood and are heated by a stove or heater whilst infrared saunas use infrared light to generate heat. The steam generated by a traditional sauna stove tends to offer a more authentic sauna experience but infrared saunas can be suitable for those with a more limited budget.
Garden saunas are a great option for athletes who want to enjoy the benefits of a sauna without having to go to a gym or spa. Wildhut’s range of luxury outdoor saunas are perfect for anyone looking to improve their athletic performance and come with a variety of optional features including wi-fi connected adjustable temperature control, outdoor rainforest shower and your choice of wood-burning or electric stove. Find out more about the Wildhut range of luxury outdoor saunas today.