Have you ever learned about something and then wished you had known about it a long time ago? You can put saunas into that category. After listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick (Episode #733), I am now singing the praises of saunas to anyone who is willing to listen.
Saunas have often been linked to better cardiovascular and circulatory function. By spending approximately 15-20 minutes in the sauna, you are basically baking your body and reducing the chronic inflammation that accumulates everyday. Recent studies attribute it to longevity and significant overall decrease in all-cause mortality. Here are some of the benefits:
Increased plasma + red blood cells and blood flow to the heart which means the heart is doing less work.
Heat stress on the body activates stress response mechanisms. It will activate heat shock proteins that prevent a certain type of damage in our cells. Aging causes proteins in our cells to start to dysfunction; they aggregate in our blood vessels and brains, creating plaque. Heat stress helps prevents this.
Prevents muscle atrophy
Lower blood pressure
Increased vital capacity, minute ventilation, and forced expiratory volume of the lungs. (your lungs can perform better)
In terms of what is happening to your body, the increased heat acts as sort of a physical exercise. Your heart rate increases which increases the blood flow to your body in addition to cardiac output. This leads to an improvement in blood pressure and endothelial function (the tissue that lines your organs and blood vessels) so your arteries can produce healthier blood flow. These improvements are significantly more effective in individuals with cardiovascular risk factors.
A recent study by Dr. Jari A. Laukkanen (2015) found that men who engaged in frequent sauna use had decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality. The results showed that sauna bathing 2 to 3 times per week was associated with a 24 percent lower risk of mortality and 4 to 7 times per week with a 40 percent reduction compared to only one sauna session per week, with duration a significant factor. The study concluded with recommending saunas as a healthy habit, though more studies are needed to compare with different population settings, such as with females and among those who do not practice sauna bathing.
Personally, I started doing 15-20 minutes in the sauna after my workouts and have noticed that my body feels incredibly refreshed after coming out. And coincidentally, I see a lot of elderly Asian women in there, which makes me realize how they stay so healthy and live for so long!
Tanjaniina Laukkanen, Hassan Khan, Francesco Zaccardi, Jari A. Laukkanen. Association Between Sauna Bathing and Fatal Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality Events. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8187