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The Incredible Health Benefits of a Sauna

When I was a lot younger, the main thing I looking out for when getting gym membership was what free weights area was like. A long time ago, when I got my first fitness job in a gym, I remember being shown around by the fitness instructor. When I looked at the gym I was like, “where’s the bench?”. She replied “Oh, we don’t have a bench?”. That’s pretty weird, I thought, looking at the machines and a small area for dumbbells and a large area for a wooden wall with pulleys in different directions. “Any bars?” I asked. “No but we have a Smith machine in the corner and a Kinesis wall”. Huh? A what wall? Also, it was years later until I found out the cost of that wall!

40? 40? 40 f*cking grand and how much are they paying me?

40? 40? 40 f*cking grand and how much are they paying me?

In hindsight, I’m actually very grateful for that first job but a lot has changed in those years. For example, my main reason for recently signing up for gym membership. As much as the local gym has everything I need (it shocking does not have a Kinesis wall, however) the main reason I signed up was because of the sauna. 

A sauna? Sure what would I be doing in the pool area, I can’t even swim?!

Between my warm ups taking up to 15 minutes now instead of just jumping on to a bar and “warming up” by increasing weight and picking a gym mainly because of a sauna, I must be getting old! Since reading Tim Ferriss' book, Tools of Titans, I’ve heard nothing but great benefits of using a Sauna. From podcasts by Joe DeFranco to Joe Rogan (a quick tidbit from Joe Rogan’s podcast claims a ’40% decrease in mortality across all causes’ as well as joints feeling better - NSFW audio), everyone is raving about the benefits. And I keep seeing Dr Rhonda Patrick’s name coming up. 

Here’s an excerpt from her Instagram page, @foundmyfitness, on a very recent post on Saunas

“... theres some great studies out of Finland that documented some helpful numbers! For the minimal benefits of lower cardiovascular disease mortality, lower all-cause mortality, and lower Alzheimer’s disease risk that would be 20 minutes at 174º F (or 79º C) 2-3 times per week. However, those that used the sauna for 4-7 times a week, had an even more robust effect. This is based on the research of Dr. Jari Laukkanen who found in a pretty large trial of over 2,000 participants that men that used the sauna 2-3 times per week had a 27% lower cardiovascular disease risk, 24% lower all-cause mortality, and a 20% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to men that only used the sauna one time per week. Men that used the sauna 4-7 times per week had an even larger impact: 50% lower cardiovascular disease risk, 40% lower all-cause mortality, and a 66% lower risk of dementia and a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to men that used the sauna once a week.”

In the aforementioned book, Tools of Titans, there is a study in it that found that a 30-minute post-workout sauna session 2 times a week for 3 weeks increased running endurance by 32%, with an accompanying plasma volume increase of 7.1% and red blood cell count increase of 3.5 as well as having positive effects on the brain - focus, learning and memory and increasing muscle hypertrophy. More details HERE. Sauna use is great for the heart as another study showed that repeated sauna treatment improves vascular endothelial function, resulting in an improvement in cardiac function and clinical symptoms.  

There are other studies done on how saunas can improve chronic headaches, lowering cholesterol, and reduced risk of ‘all mortality events’ … I really should have lead with that link.

Trust me, this image of my watch is much prettier than the hot mess I was walking out of the Sauna

Trust me, this image of my watch is much prettier than the hot mess I was walking out of the Sauna

For me, I can’t stand the heat but I recently started upping my time in the Sauna to 20 minutes for the first time last week. Pretty sure there are people I have trained out there more shocked at my ability to use a watch, or even have a watch. My goal is to get at least three 20 minute Sauna sessions a week before posting how I felt it has potentially impacted me. Unlike direct exercise, use of a sauna is not something I can recommend due to not having any real experience. I am just presenting what I am reading but if you do intend on trying something similar, I would recommend bringing a towel and a water bottle with you into the sauna and leaving if you are starting to feel too hot. I would also recommend slowly building up your time if you are not use to the sauna. Although the 20 minutes surprisingly flew by for me, 30 minutes, as recommended in the study, seems a little bit much for me right now. The last 2-3 minutes were getting tough. Although Joe Rogan somehow lasts an hour, I am no Joe Rogan!

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