What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear “gym workout”? Maybe you think of weights, treadmills, people doing cardio, lifting, stretching — but there’s something missing from that mental picture.
The tendency is to go straight for the machinery and other workout equipment, completely overlooking the best tool in the workout arsenal — the sauna. Saunas and steam rooms are usually an afterthought, rather than a religiously followed part of our health and fitness routine.
Conversely, in countries throughout the world, the sauna is considered to be absolutely necessary. In Finland, 99 percent of its people have a sauna session at least once per week. Many other cultures, including, the Korean and Russian culture put their own twist to it, but the common understanding is that intense sweating has a rejuvenating effect on both the skin and even the wear and tear of muscles.
Sweat it out.
A hard workout leaves people drenched in sweat, but saunas have the same effect without all the pushing and pulling. Exercise raises body temperature, which causes the body to sweat. Sweating is the body’s natural air conditioning to prevent overheating and exhaustion. In fact, on average, a person’s pulse will increase by 30 percent as blood flow cools off skin.
A Sweat A Day Keeps The Doctor Away.
Despite claims that sauna benefits are not scientifically proven, there is ample evidence to support that the positives are indeed very real. Using the sauna is not a guaranteed weight loss solution, but sauna sessions can help with diabetes, heart failure, and hypertension.
Recent studies suggest that sauna therapy can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce blood pressure, and strengthen vascular function. But the benefits extend well beyond those with chronic disease. Even in healthy young women and men, several weeks of sauna bathing decreased their bad cholesterol levels.
Sauna sessions also have other benefits:
- 30 minute sauna sessions boosts strength and power
- Saunas accelerate muscle recovery
- Higher relaxation levels and reduced mental symptoms in depressed patients
Is There A Right Way To Sweat? — You Bet.
Don’t drink booze before or after the sauna. The body already typically sweats a pint in just twenty minutes in the sauna, and booze can lead to dehydration when combined with the intense heat.
It is usually recommended that sauna sessions be kept below 20 minutes. However, this varies depending on the individual’s threshold for heat, and can be increased by drinking water throughout the session.
Hydrate before and after, and if the sauna creates an overheating sensation, step outside. Feelings of sickness or nausea are a clear sign to take a break.
The Perfect Sauna Workout
The beauty of working out in the sauna is that it combines the best of both worlds. The sauna gets the autonomic nervous system firing on all cylinders with minimal effort. Working out in there ensures that the muscles are warm, seeing as blood flow is increased. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of injury.
- Bring water in, and drink at a fairly constant rate for as long as you are in the sauna
- If you have a portable music speaker, this can be an excellent way to make the workout more enjoyable in the intense heat
- Focus on breathing all throughout
Time to get physical!
- 5 sets of 20 sit-ups (If there is seating to put your knees under, use that as leverage for sit-ups)
- 3 sets of 25 curls on each arm (Bring dumbbells in from main gym, and use a weight that will allow you to maintain good form, first and foremost — recommend 10-20% of body weight)
- 2 sets of wall squats, lasting a duration of 1 minute at a time
- Throw jabs for a minute at a time, or for the duration of a song of your choice (would not recommend anything too lengthy, so stay away from Bohemian Rhapsody for this one)