A sauna benefits more than just detoxification. It will raise the heat on your fitness too
(FYI, Hoaglin explains that when it comes to your fortnightly dip, “many of the same metabolic benefits may be appreciated with wet or dry heat. However, a downside with wet heat is that your body has less ability to regulate its temperature, since sweating becomes irrelevant. Higher temperatures will not be as tolerable for long and risk of heat-related illness may be higher.”)
Just like we wouldn’t presume to tell you when to take a bath, when you hit the sauna is also up to you. “When you use a sauna really depends on what your individual goals and preferences are,” Hoaglin explains. “Some people like to use heat to warm up before a workout, increasing circulation and loosening muscles. Others may appreciate the natural healing processes activated by heat to benefit recovery.”
The only slight point to note is that infrared light is thought to increase melatonin production and promote sleep, so if you’re running an infrared model, a pre-bed session could bestow extra benefits, while a pre-work session might see you nod off by noon.
Am I going to overdo it?
Like anything else, there are risks to heat exposure. Even if you’re a boxer trying to cut for a weigh-in, you need to be mindful of dehydration in the sauna. “You might lose about a pound of body water in one sauna session,” says Hoaglin, explaining that misuse can be “deadly”.
“Take it easy at first, no more than 5-10 minutes for starters. If your blood pressure tends to run low, be cautious of an increased risk of fainting spells,” he advises.
There’s another angle to consider, too: “If male fertility is a concern, we know that heat exposure reduces sperm counts. They usually return to normal after six months of avoiding saunas and hot tubs.”
What’s the optimum exposure?
If you’re lucky enough to frequent a gym with sauna facilities, you may be reading this thinking you’re on to a winner. But, there are two things to note.
First of all, there is an optimum amount of sessions, which Hoaglin puts at between one to three sessions a week (up to 12 sessions a month). “Like exercise, long-term results will be…