Is the Sauna Useful? If so, When and For How Long Should You Sit?

Is the Sauna Useful? If so, When and For How Long Should You Sit?

When asked about the advantages of sauna use at the gym, most people reply with something about detoxing and sweating out the bad stuff. While there is truth to this, I used to joke about the sauna being part of the “executive workout package” and would rarely incorporate it into my week unless I was post-holiday, birthday, or vacation and in need of some detox. Until a few years ago that is when I was lucky enough to come across a study showing a benefit to strength gains through sauna use after an intense strength session. (I couldn’t find the link to this study, but it showed sauna use post workout reducing fiber damage allowing strength gains to be maximized and recovery time minimized.) This aligned with my goals so I started to incorporate sauna post workout, especially after a more intense session.

A few months later I had my genetic testing done and started learning about how to maximize beneficial gene expression through nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation. (I highly recommend getting your genetic testing done as it dramatically reduces the guess work in nutrition and workout programming.) Through these readings I saw many studies finding significant long and short term health marker increases from sauna use beyond what I thought possible.

First, for anyone dealing with one or more risks of cardiovascular disease, a recent study showed dramatic improvements in many important biomarkers indicating reduced risk after just one 30 minute session. (Please don’t be ‘that guy/girl’ and hit the sauna once thinking you’re all fixed… just in case you are I’ll list some upsides to continued use.) If hypertension is a concern for you, then consistent use should be important. A study from The American Journal of Hypertension showed sauna use of 2-3 times/week cutting risk by a quarter and 4-7 time nearly halving it. The point here: on top of eating well and working on your conditioning, spend some time in a hot box.

But there’s more…

When I think of degenerative mental diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, I have to admit that it’s one of the scariest things I can imagine. So when I started finding studies correlating sauna use with decreases in both diseases with as little as 2-3 twenty minute sessions/week I was telling all my clients to take part, but it should be noted that those that sat in the sauna for 4-7 times/week saw ~65% lower risk for both. (Even after adjusting for nutrition and activity.)

There have also been findings published that show sauna use maintaining muscle mass and strength during immobilization or injury. This is obviously useful for me right now (those that don’t know, I had my leg pinned between 2 vehicles by an intoxicated driver on 11/20/17), but I had used this strategy during de-load phases as well.

So, what do you do with all this info? First, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about something like this. (If they ask why you’re interested, feel free to send them all the links provided in this article.) Even once you’re cleared to “go hot”, I would advise using the buddy system, and especially the first time you enter a sauna. The common times I see referenced in research results are 15-20 minutes. I’ve been sitting for 20 minutes, 2-5 times a week (on the higher end now, given my situation.) The temperatures used tend to be around 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit and I’ve seen anecdotal reasoning for toweling off every 7-10 minutes so as to not reabsorb the toxins you’ve released back into your pores (makes sense.) If you’re strength training… *ahem* which you should be… *ahem* plan sauna time after your strength sessions to decrease soreness, speed recovery, as well as all the additional upsides coming with it.

Thanks for reading! Please share this info to help make a healthier world.

5 Dirty Little Fitness Secrets

1.) Be as naked as possible as often as possible in the sun. Getting skin exposure to natural light helps with increased VitaminKBSPool D production (which is tied to a litany of health markers moving in the right direction) improved serotonin levels (helps increase your mood) and a recent study showed being in natural light for just an hour lowered the blood pressure in all 34 participants. So get outside and get some time by the pool, walking in the park or chilling on your back deck.

2.) Masticate more! (Chew your food) Proper digestion starts with fully chewing your food. If food is not properly ground down by the teeth then all following digestive steps will be less effective. This means that less micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) get in to your system. Without these your body’s metabolism can’t fully function and that can not only stifle fat loss but cause weight gain. Luckily the chewing processes the most enjoyable part because you taste the food so most are happy to adhere to this. If someone is a habitually fast eater, I will have them chew each bite 30 times. This usually builds the habit in a week.

3.) Bend over, to the side, and really every direction. As our daily lives become more and more static in a seated forward hunched position, new medical conditions are appearing. Desk postureText neck” is the latest and is easily avoidable. If you work in a desk job find out what it takes to get a stand up desk. Worst case scenario is you need a doctor’s note. If you have a doctor that won’t write one you seriously need a new doctor. Next, set an alarm every 15 minutes. When it goes off, check your posture. Chances are you’re slouching. To correct it lift the crown of your head tall, reach your hands out to the sides palms up and pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears. While maintaining torso and shoulder position, bring your hands in to the keyboard. Now, every 3-4 alarms go for a 5 minute walk and stretch a bit. This can help, but you should allot time after every workout and in the evening to mobility work.

4.) Sleep around… 7-8 hours. So many people love to brag about how little sleep they need. And while there may be exceptions to the rule, chances are it’s not you. EVERYTHING functions better when you are fully rested. You think clearer and faster, you’ll be happier, hell you’ll even be stronger. Setting yourself up for quality sleep is key. No phones, tablets, computer or TV the last hour (or 2) before bed. The light wave coming off of these screens suppresses melatonin telling. This is your body responding the same way your ancestors did from the morning sunrise. “Time to get up and go to work” is not the message you want to be sending just before hitting the hay.

5.) But seriously… bang. As if you needed more reasons to have sex regularly, here’s a few:550px-Censored_rubber_stamp_svg lowers blood pressure, decreases pain sensitivity, has been shown to lower chances of heart attack and certain types of cancer. On top of all this it helps balance testosterone/estrogen levels in men and women which aides in improving sleep, handling stress and keeping a lower bodyfat percent. Yeah teamwork! You can even count it as a workout!


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