Discover the benefits of using a sauna consistently. Even if you don’t use it daily, a sauna can assist with weight loss, muscle recovery, improve longevity, and much more. Less than just 30 days of sauna use can provide all of these benefits, and your cardiovascular system can start benefiting after just one sauna session.
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Using a sauna can benefit your muscles, it can help improve blood flow, and even though it may be uncomfortable sitting in a sauna provides a ton of health benefits for your body. And many of these benefits carry over to your workouts and can even help improve your body composition.
For example, one thing that you’ll experience if you use the sauna consistently is faster recovery from your workouts and there are a number of reasons for this. One of them I already mentioned, saunas improve blood flow, and this helps deliver nutrients to the cells and tissues that need those nutrients to recover. The way that saunas improve blood flow is by heating the body. The heat relaxes and dilates blood vessels, making it easier for your cardiovascular system to pump blood throughout the entire body. Studies also show that regular sauna use improves endothelial function which is the function of the thin inner layer membrane that lines your heart and blood vessels. Now on top of all of that, studies 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 this IGF-1 hormone during sauna use. (1) Now it’s still debatable how much of an increase in IGF-1 would be required to speed up recovery, but between the improved blood flow and boost to IGF-1 it’s no wonder why people claim to recover faster after using a sauna.
Another big benefit from the sauna can be felt in your mood. If you suffer from depression or just want to improve your mood, the sauna might actually be able to help. That’s because sauna use increases beta-endorphins in the blood which produces 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 we have a randomized, double-blind study on depression, that shows that a single session of elevating your core body temperature to 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit or about 38.5 degrees Celcius led to an acute antidepressant effect that lasted for six weeks. (4) That’s obviously a really powerful effect on your mind and it can be noticed right away especially if you use a sauna consistently.
Now in addition to muscle recovery, I kind of eluded earlier to the fact that a sauna can relieve pain as well. It does this by increasing the release of anti-inflammatory 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) And another study found sauna therapy reduced pain from fibromyalgia. (6) In regard to working out and delayed onset muscle soreness, even though there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that heat therapy helps reduce post-workout soreness, we don’t have enough solid evidence to say conclusively that it does. But it most likely saunas do reduce muscle soreness thanks to the improved blood flow and the release of endorphins, which are opiate-like chemicals that act like natural pain killers. (7)
Next, let’s go back to another cognitive benefit which is the fact that it can help improve your mental performance. You see the stress from heat increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, which is a crucial protein for cognitive health. (8) BDNF helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which essentially helps neurons communicate and that assists with learning and memory formation. Research also shows that BDNF is involved in muscle repair and it’s even involved in the growth and development of new muscle tissue. (9) On top of that it can help combat the cognitive decline associated with aging. In a study on men from Finland, researchers found that those who used the sauna four to seven times per week had a 65 percent reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who used the sauna only once per week. (10) In addition to this study, there’s another one where men were instructed to stay in a sauna that was heated to 176 degrees Fahrenheit or 80 degrees Celcius until they felt totally exhausted and felt like they had to leave to take a break from the heat. And 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, which makes the brain function faster. Similar results were found in women. Those who completed twenty-minute…
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