The sauna is a powerful tool to use with a well-planned workout routine. It has various benefits, from weight loss to greater blood flow. The question is, should you use the sauna before or after a workout?
You should use the sauna after a workout to benefit muscle recovery and cardiovascular health. However, it’s best to drink water throughout the workout as your health may be at risk from dehydration if you use the sauna while low on water.
Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll detail when and how you should use the sauna to boost your fitness plan.
Table of Contents
- Why Should You Use the Sauna After a Workout and Not Before?
- Benefits of Using a Sauna
- Risks of Using the Sauna After a Workout
- Do Saunas Help With All Workouts?
- How Long Should You Spend In The Sauna After A Workout?
- Negative Effects of Using the Sauna
- Final Thoughts
One of the main arguments for stepping into a sauna before working out is that it warms up the muscles. However, the sauna only increases blood circulation. The temperature inside the room doesn’t matter as far as warming up muscles for a workout is concerned.
You should use the sauna after a workout because its recovery benefits affect the muscles of your body after they’ve done the workout. When your body is tired, the sauna works to relieve the stress.
In other words, the sauna’s true impacts are in the recovery stage of the workout—after you’ve done the hard work.
Many people use saunas because they’re relaxing—a good way to wind down after a hard workout. Others use them as a ‘workout after the workout’, it makes your body has to work hard to cool itself.
There are only some of the benefits of using a sauna, whether alongside a workout routine or simply for casual enjoyment.
A trip to the sauna after lifting weights may do wonders for those trying to make gains in the gym.
A study from 2021 found that time spent in the sauna can help preserve muscle mass. This isn’t only good news for bodybuilders—it’s helpful for anyone with the goal of living a long and healthy life.
Saunas may also aid in the natural production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone). Since the heat opens blood vessels up, it allows blood to get to the muscles more easily. This will lead to more efficient muscle development.
One 2015 study found that saunas can be effective at easing muscle tension. This is useful because your muscles will be tight after any workout. This is the reason why we stretch.
Another study from 2019 found that saunas can help with lower back pain, something that many athletes deal with daily.
As your body copes with the sauna’s heat, it will raise its heart rate to optimal cardiovascular workout levels: 120-150 beats per minute.
The evidence is so encouraging that a Mayo Clinic research round-up even declared: “Sauna bathing may be a remedy to the call for additional lifestyle interventions needed to enhance health and wellness.”
While a sauna may not be what someone who has just finished their exercise has in mind, a little work on top of your workout doesn’t hurt if you’re up for it.
So, you know the positive benefits of using the sauna after a workout. Now the question is, should you give it a try?
The answer depends on two main factors.
Saunas are generally very safe, but there are some risk factors to consider.
Even if hitting the gym is okay, stepping into a hot room for extended periods may put too much stress on those with cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.
If you have any doubts about your body’s ability to handle high temperatures, check with your doctor first. After all, you’ll be using the sauna in a weakened state.
Saunas force your body to sweat more than usual, so you want to make sure you hydrate properly before using one.
Throughout your workout, make sure you drink plenty of water so that it’s properly digested before you get into the sauna.
Saunas help with all workouts if you’re not dehydrated or have pre-existing health conditions. The hot air will help with muscle development and recovery, whether your focus is on cardio workouts or muscle-building routines.
As long as you don’t overdo the time in the sauna to the point of exhaustion, all athletes can benefit from time in the sauna.
If you’re starting, you should spend short intervals in the sauna, with breaks every 5 minutes. If you’re more used to the sauna, you can push the time up to ten or twenty minutes.
The time you should spend in the sauna after a workout depends on how much experience you have with sauna bathing. Just make sure you give yourself a little break between the end of your workout and the start of the sauna session, around ten minutes or so.
As mentioned, there is some concern over sauna use in people with pre-existing medical conditions.
However, this is a precaution more than anything. Studies on the subject tend to find benefits rather than problems.
In fact, a study from 2015 done over 20 years on Finnish men found that using the sauna for longer and more frequently than usual decreased the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases. In other words, using the sauna use benefited the subjects’ hearts long term.
Saunas only become dangerous to your health when they interact with irregular behaviors, such as high alcohol consumption or certain medications that interfere with heat regulation. If you’re concerned, it’s best to speak to a doctor.
There are many benefits to using a sauna, whether you exercise or not. But if you’re looking to improve your fitness routine, adding some heat might be even more important.
Using the sauna before or after a workout can work wonders on your body, but when it comes to recovery and muscle development, there’s no doubt that it’s best to hop in after you’ve done the hard work.
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this article and it answered your question on when should you use the sauna before or after a workout, you may want to read about How Long After Botox Can You Exercise, and Does Exercise Help Hair Growth.
- Experimental Gerontology: Sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan
- Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: Prophylactic Effects of Sauna on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness of the Wrist Extensors
- Anesthesia and Pain Medicine: Dry sauna therapy is beneficial for patients with low back pain
- Mayo Clinic: Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing
- UMass Chan Medical School: Regular Sauna Use Improves CV Outcomes
About The Author
M.D Mark D. is a Health and Wellness professional writer. Mark has authored many health articles around the following topics: Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Pets Health, Mental Health, Medicine, and Supplements.