The Amazing Health Benefits Of A Dry Sauna

Do you use a Sauna? Well, I’m here to tell you that for all the time you have spent sweating it out while pretty much doing nothing, has been well worth it. The health benefits are many so I’ll just get on with it.

Firstly I will start with the biggest benefits. A LONGER, HEALTHIER LIFE!

Just 2-3 20 minutes sauna sessions at 79 degrees has been shown to

  • reduce all-cause mortality(risk of death by disease or age related illnesses) by 24%
  • reduce the risks of cardiovascular related death by 27% compared to those who used it once a week.

Let’s say you increase the time spent in the sauna to say, 4 or more times per week, those percentages increase significantly and the health benefits result in

  • the reduction in all-cause mortality being closer to 40%
  • risk of cardiovascular related death reduced by 50%
  • risk of Dementia reduced by 66%
  • risk of Alzheimers is lowered by 65%.

Sauna use also increases a form of protein called FOXO3. FOXO3 helps kill off damaged DNA cells which prevents them from replicating. Preventing damaged DNA cells from replicating will reduce your chances of cancer while also increasing immune function.

Speaking of DNA, saunas also strengthen telomeres. Telomeres are what protect DNA from damage. Strong DNA will help delay the onset of not only disease but ageing too. And we all want to look younger for longer. A lack of sleep, stress and many other lifestyle factors can lead to the shortening of Telomeres so we all could do with a sauna session or two to help out.

Would you agree that percentages like these are very hard to ignore and that the benefits of getting a sweat on in a small wooden box i’ve mentioned already should be enough to get you into the sauna on a regular basis? Not convinced? Well there’s more I want to share with you then.

Regular sauna use has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. I am not saying that this will cure diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes should see a GP before using a sauna. But for the average person, regular sauna use has been shown to reduce insulin levels by 31% and a significant reduction in blood glucose levels suggesting the re-sensitisation to insulin. Now that may not mean much to most but being insulin sensitive is a positive for growing muscle.

An insulin spike after training will increase protein synthesis. i.e. promote muscle growth. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want more muscle, do you? Even all you ladies out there need strong muscles to lead healthy lives. The more muscle/strength you have has also been shown to have a correlation with a reduction in all-cause mortality.

While on the topic of building muscle, regular sauna use is shown to release large amounts of Heat Shock Protein(HSP). HSP is produced when the body is placed under heat stresses such as the sauna. Intense exercise and low temperature stresses will also produce HSP but not to the extent of regular sauna usage.

HSP will help maintain the structure of proteins ingested resulting in an extended half-life. This will enable the body to utilise proteins that would have otherwise wasted away. HSP is also thought to be the reasoning behind the significant reduction in the chances of cognitive decline with age.

High heat shock protein levels have also been linked to living to be a Centenarian!

Another great reason for regular sauna sessions is the effect it has on your growth hormone production. A single sauna session can increase your growth hormone levels by 200-300%. The increase in growth hormone will generally last a few hours. Combining regular resistance training and sauna sessions can significantly increase growth hormone levels. Increasing the duration of sauna usage will respectively increase growth hormone levels. As an example, there was a study done where subjects completed 2 one hour 100-degree sauna sessions a day for 7 days resulting in growth hormone increasing to 16 times their regular levels after day 3. Not many of us out there will ever have time to manage such feats though. I also would not recommend attempting this either.

Sauna usage has a profound effect on mood. A single session until exhaustion has been shown to increase norepinephrine levels by 310%. Increases in norepinephrine will result in elevated levels of arousal and alertness and also enhances memory and memory recall.

Using a sauna for 30 minutes, twice a week for three weeks has been shown to increase maximum cardiac output by up to 32% compared to baseline. Having a healthy level of cardiorespiratory fitness lowers your chance of depression by a massive 75%. Get fit, get happy.

Now for those of you who like to cycle a hot sauna with a cold shower will know the euphoric feeling it gives. Nothing has been shown to say that this will negate the health benefits but there have been several reports of people having had heart attacks due to a coronary artery spasm. You don’t have to know what that is to know that the end result is not favourable.

The time of day doesn’t really matter to make the most of the health benefits either. To make the best use of the increases in GH from sauna use though, using the sauna within an hour after training is optimal as your muscles will be primed for the uptake of the increase in GH. Another reason to use the sauna after training is that your brain is also primed to utilise the increase in GH levels which will then increase production of Brain Drive Neurotrophic Factor(BDNF). BDNF helps grow new neurons in the brain. Hopefully, they can replace the ones I killed off on those “I will only have 2 drinks” days. Unlikely though.

I have now been using the sauna at least 4 times a week for the last 3 months and it has made noticeable changes. I feel calmer throughout the day. I have made noticeable strength gains and after training for as long as I have, strength gains are not as easily made as what they used to be either. I have also noticed that I sleep better throughout the night.

Basically, it doesn’t matter if your goals are to get big, to get fit or to just be happier. Regular sauna use will have a noticeable effect on increasing your quality of life in the long run. Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how you go?

A quick tip to help make the sauna sessions go a little easier. Go and get a cheap set of Bluetooth headphones and use them in the sauna. Listen to an audiobook, some music or a meditation app. For beginners, the Headspace app is great for people who haven’t tried meditation before.

Note: Steam rooms and infrared saunas are not alternatives to a dry sauna. The Finnish people, the founders of saunas, do not even class infrared saunas as an actual sauna. They call them Warming Rooms.

If you would like to have a chat with me and find out how I can help you fast track your progress, contact me on mark.d@miyagi.fitness

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