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9 Benefits of Sauna for Runners

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Saunas can be a relaxing and beneficial part of a runner’s wellness routine, but responsible use and awareness of potential side effects are crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • How do you choose what type of sauna to use?
  • What are the overall benefits for people using saunas?
  • Are there benefits specific to runners?

Sauna Use Health Benefits for Runners

There are many health benefits of sauna use. Having advantages in recovery, experiencing less muscle soreness, increasing cardiovascular capabilities, getting more sleep, etc. are just some of them.

Here’s a complete list of benefits:

1. Aids in Recovery

Relaxing muscles and soothing aches will both occur during regular sauna use, which can aid in recovery.

In addition, your body will produce endorphins which will, in turn, minimize pain. Using a sauna post-workout can minimize muscle tension and rid the body of lactic acid.

2. Better Cardiovascular Fitness

Saunas widen blood vessels which results in an increase in heart rate and blood circulation. The heat of the sauna leads your body to think it is working out which works to improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Regular sauna use also can reduce high blood pressure and help keep it stable.

3. Detoxification

The heat of the sauna and high temperatures will cause intense sweating. Sweating can remove toxins such as lead, zinc, copper, mercury, and other items from your body.

Since the average person sweats out a pint of liquid during a short, moderately hot visit to the sauna, it is easy to see why it acts as such an excellent detox!

4. Increase Metabolism

While a sauna is certainly not a weight loss miracle, regular use of a sauna can give you a metabolism boost.

It should be noted that some people use a sauna and chalk up the couple of pounds they sweat out as weight loss. This weight will come right back on once you rehydrate.

5. Muscle Relaxing

A sauna can provide almost immediate relief as muscle tension literally melts away. Regular sauna bathing can provide excellent recovery benefits for athletes and non-athletes alike.

6. Pain Reduction

Those suffering from chronic pain, such as that caused by rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, can find relief through regular sauna use.

The pain reduction occurs in part as a result of the relaxation of muscles. Athletes with muscle soreness can find sauna use helps.

7. Skin Health

Hoping to get clean, clear skin? The hot air and moisture of a sauna will enhance the production of collagen which is beneficial for your skin.

Collagen rejuvenates your complexion, causes the skin to shed dead skin cells, and leads to new, healthier cells as well as improved elasticity. Skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema may benefit from saunas as well.

8. Sleep Benefits

Saunas can also lead to melatonin production which helps people to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.

The process of relieving anxiety and stress may also result in better sleep, as well as higher quality sleep.

9. Stress Reduction

Regular use of a sauna will reduce your cortisol levels which helps with stress and anxiety. Having stress relief is good for both physical and mental health.

Using a sauna also leads to the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural “feel good” chemical.

It is worth mentioning that pregnant women are advised not to use saunas.

Infrared sauna
Infrared sauna

What Type of Sauna is Best for Runners?

Ultimately, the best sauna for runners will depend on individual preferences and specific goals. It’s a good idea to try different types of saunas and see which one provides the most benefits and comfort for your post-run recovery routine.

Here are a few sauna options that can be beneficial for runners:

Infrared Sauna:

  • Infrared saunas emit radiant heat that directly penetrates the body’s tissues, promoting muscle relaxation and recovery.
  • Infrared heat can help alleviate muscle soreness and stiffness, making it a great option for runners.

Traditional Finnish Sauna:

  • Traditional saunas use dry heat and heated rocks to create an environment that induces sweating and helps with detoxification.
  • The heat can promote blood circulation and relaxation, aiding in muscle recovery after intense running sessions.

Steam Room:

  • Steam rooms offer moist heat that can help relax muscles and promote circulation.
  • The humid environment can be soothing for runners with respiratory issues, and the steam can provide relief to tired muscles.

Hybrid Saunas:

  • Some saunas offer a combination of infrared and traditional heating elements, providing the benefits of both types of heat.

Finnish sauna

Are Saunas and Steam Rooms the Same?

A sauna provides dry heat. As the name implies a steam room is filled with steam.

A steam room is meant to be filled with wet steam and they are usually not as hot as a sauna. The use of a steam room and sauna therapy has very similar benefits for those who choose to use them.

What are the side effects of saunas?

It’s important to be aware of potential side effects and take precautions to ensure a safe sauna experience. Here are some common side effects associated with saunas:

  1. Dehydration: Saunas cause sweating, which can lead to dehydration if you don’t drink enough fluids to replenish lost water and electrolytes.
  2. Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke: Prolonged exposure to high temperatures in saunas can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, which are serious conditions that can be life-threatening.
  3. Low Blood Pressure: Saunas can cause a drop in blood pressure due to vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), which may lead to dizziness or fainting.
  4. Respiratory Irritation: Inhaling dry, hot air can cause respiratory irritation in some individuals, especially those with respiratory conditions like asthma.
  5. Skin Irritation: Excessive sweating and heat can lead to skin irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin.
  6. Electrolyte Imbalance: Sweating in saunas can cause a loss of electrolytes, which are essential for proper bodily function. An imbalance can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and other health issues.
  7. Hypoglycemia: Sauna use can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels, particularly in people with diabetes or those prone to low blood sugar.
  8. Exacerbation of Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as cardiovascular problems, respiratory disorders, and skin conditions, can be aggravated by sauna use. Consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna if you have any underlying health issues.
  9. Pregnancy Risks: Pregnant women should avoid saunas due to the risk of overheating, dehydration, and potential harm to the developing fetus.
  10. Overuse: Excessive or prolonged sauna use can lead to burnout, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infections.

How to Limit The Risk of Side Effects?

To minimize the risk of side effects and ensure a safe sauna experience:

  • Limit sauna sessions to a reasonable duration (usually 15-20 minutes) and avoid staying inside for too long.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after the sauna.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that may affect your body’s response to heat.
  • Listen to your body and exit the sauna if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or unwell.
  • Start with lower temperatures and shorter sessions, gradually increasing over time.
  • If you have any underlying health conditions, consult your healthcare provider before using a sauna.

Is it OK to sauna everyday?

Yes, a sauna is safe to use every day for 15-20 minutes. Although people profess the value of a sauna for caloric burn, the immediate burn is moderate at best.

However, using the sauna regularly can boost your metabolism and remove toxins, both perks for users (especially an athlete).

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