Getting into a hot sauna can be relaxing, but can the sauna boost the benefits of exercise for your heart? Keep reading to find out.
Exercise is an active practice that enhances heart health and sauna bathing is a passive heat therapy that relaxes you – so what do they have in common? According to studies, just like regular physical activity reduces mortality risk, frequent sauna bathing may reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality outcomes.
In fact, a new study from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland shows that combining sauna bathing with exercise provides greater benefits than exercising alone. Their findings appear in a recent issue of the American Journal of Physiology.
Combining Saunas and Exercise
In their study, researchers divided 48 participants into three groups. One performed guideline-based regular exercise and had a 15-minute post-exercise sauna session, another just performed regular exercise, and the third was the control group.
According to their results, both intervention groups had higher cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and lower fat mass than the control group. However, the sauna group had more significant increases in CRF and more significant decreases in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and total cholesterol than the exercise-only group.
How It Works
“What we know from the literature is that the post-exercise period is what is known as a ‘window of opportunity,’ where there is enhanced insulin sensitivity and blunted blood lipid levels (for no longer than 60–90 minutes),” explains Earric Lee, a doctoral researcher at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland and the lead author of the study. “This presents itself as an ideal opportunity for conjunctive interventions such as heat therapy, and in this case, sauna bathing.”
“In addition, during the post-exercise period, angiogenic factors are elevated and thus altering blood flow or oxygen delivery post-exercise can have an additive or synergistic effect on angiogenic signaling induced by exercise alone, although this has yet to be experimentally established in humans,” Lee added.
Improving Your Benefits
According to Lee, increasing the sauna temperature fortnightly by 5 degrees Celsius may help avoid a plateau effect. He compares it to exercise and how exercise intensity, duration, or frequency have to be increased over time for improvements to continue.
“I bring this point up because most people who use the sauna would perhaps only have access to a publicly available one, where they may not be able to modify the temperatures,” Lee says. “In such cases, it may be more feasible to either increase the frequency of visits over time- [going once per week for a month and then twice per week for the next month, for example- or increase the session duration- from five minutes each time for six weeks to seven minutes for the next six weeks].”
In addition to exercise, you can boost your heart health by eating healthily and taking L-arginine Plus. As a heart supplement, it promotes circulation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. Give your heart the support it deserves by exercising regularly, using saunas, and taking L-arginine Plus.