The Health Benefits of Saunas: Recovery, Endurance, Weight Loss

The Health Benefits of Saunas: Recovery, Endurance, Weight Loss

The benefits of saunas include improved recovery, enhanced power output, improved health markers such lipid panels and much more.

Here's a look at some of the latest research on saunas and how to use them so you can optimize your health and performance.

Infrared Saunas Increase Recovery & Power Output After Endurance Training

Good news for sauna lovers, endurance athletes, fighters - even Crossfitters! The use of infrared saunas after endurance training sessions reduces recovery time and improves power output in subsequent performances.

A 2015 study from Finland had test subjects perform maximal isometric bench presses, leg presses, and counter-movement jumps after using Infrared Saunas (FIRS), Traditional saunas (TRAD), or no sauna following two types of workouts - 60 minute strength sessions and 34-40 minute endurance sessions.

(In case you're wondering, the Traditional Finnish saunas are much higher humidity (60-70%) than the Infrared saunas (25-30% humidity). Both were at temperatures of 35-50 degrees C.)

Following the strength training sessions, there was no difference in recovery or performance between either sauna method.

Following 34-40 minute endurance training sessions, however, the Infrared Sauna treatment resulted in significantly lower heart rates (71 BPM in FIRS vs 92 BPM in TRAD) and greater counter-movement jump measurements.

These results demonstrate enhanced recovery and improved power output.

What this means: If you engage in endurance type training, using an infrared sauna afterward "appears favorable for the neuromuscular system to recover from maximal endurance performance. FIRS bathing is a very light loading for the body and provides a comfortable and relaxing experience." [1]

Saunas Improve Lipid Panels as Much As Physical Exercise

"The positive effect of sauna on lipid profile is similar to the effect that can be obtained through a moderate-intensity physical exercise." Polish researchers concluded after a recent 3 week study.

Here's what the test subjects experienced:

  • Lower total cholesterol
  • Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increases in blood plasma levels (acute decreases from each session due to perspiration, led to this adaptive increase over 3 weeks)
  • Significant decline in serum triaglycerols
  • Increased HDL - good - cholesterol (although not statistically significant)

The Protocol so you can reap the same benefits:

  1. 15 Minutes at 90 degrees C +/- 2 degrees (194 degrees F) and 5-16% humidity.
  2. 2 Minute cool-down
  3. 15 Minutes at 90 degrees C +/- 2 degrees (194 degrees F) and 5-16% humidity.
  4. 2 Minute cool-down
  5. 15 Minutes at 90 degrees C +/- 2 degrees (194 degrees F) and 5-16% humidity.
  6. 2 Minute cool-down

Repeat this protocol daily or every other day.

Other Benefits & Concerns:

  • People with musculoskeletal issues and disorders may experience a reduction in pain with sauna usage at 80-90 degrees C (176-194 degrees F). [3]
  • People being treated for hypertension with prescription medications may be predisposed to orthostatic hypotension after sauna use (low blood pressure, light-headed & passing out)[3]

Take-Home Message:

If you have access to a sauna - preferably infrared - daily or at least frequent use (3-4 times per week) can improve overall health by improving cholesterol and serum lipid panels. Physical performance can also be improved with use of infrared saunas after endurance-based training sessions. Saunas aren't necessarily a cure-all, but they can be a powerful tool in your toolbox for optimal health and performance.

Let us know your thoughts on saunas and how you use them in your quest to #liveoptimal.


  1. Mero, A. Department of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men.
  2. Gryka, D. Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University School of Physical Education, Kraków, Poland. The effect of sauna bathing on lipid profile in young, physically active, male subjects.
  3. Kukkonen, H. Health effects and risks of sauna bathing. UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research, Tampere, Finland.

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