Hot Performance Enhancer

Sauna and athletic results



Sauna treatment helps athletes of all levels to recover faster and perform better. Top Finnish athletes have discovered the power of the sauna to enhance performance, according to a report in the journal Sports Science. People with common debilitating conditions—such as high blood pressure and ankylosing spondylitis—have also turned to sauna treatments for healing. According to Sports Science, “Athletes in Finland take a sauna almost twice a week.” Why do they do this? “In the sauna, an athlete cleanses his body, refreshes his mind, recovers more rapidly and relaxes.”

Besides relaxation sauna treatment improves performance. The aim of a study from the Sports Science Department at the Academy for Sports Excellence in Doha, Qatar, was to examine the effect of age and spa treatment (i.e., combined sauna, cold water immersion and Jacuzzi) on match running performance over two consecutive games among highly trained young soccer players. Some 28 peak height velocity players played two matches within 48 hours against the same opposition with no specific between-match recovery intervention. Five players also completed another set of two consecutive matches with sauna treatment implemented after the first match. Match running performance was assessed using high-intensity running, sprinting distance and peak match speed. The sauna treatment had a beneficial impact on Match Two running performance, with a “likely” rating for sprinting distance and “almost certain” for peak match speed. The results suggest that sauna treatment “is an effective recovery intervention.”

The physiological adaptations to sauna bathing could enhance endurance performance. Researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, performed a crossover study in which six male distance runners completed three weeks of post-training sauna bathing and three weeks of control training, with a three-week washout. During the sauna period, subjects sat in a sauna immediately post-exercise for approximately half an hour on nearly 13 occasions. The performance test was an approximately 15-minute treadmill run to exhaustion at the runner’s current best speed over five kilometers. Plasma, red-cell and total blood volume were measured immediately prior to the first run to exhaustion for each period. Relative to control, sauna bathing increased run time to exhaustion by 32%, which is equivalent to an enhancement of approximately 1.9%, in an endurance time trial. Plasma and red-cell volumes increased by 7.1% and 3.5%, respectively, after sauna treatment relative to control. Change in performance had high correlations with change in plasma and total blood volume. The researchers conclude that three weeks of post-exercise sauna bathing “produced a worthwhile enhancement of endurance running performance, probably by increasing blood volume.”

Sauna treatment can also enhance the impact of exercise on combating high blood pressure. The effects of sauna treatmentaloneversusexerciseandsauna treatment on ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and central hemodynamic variables were measured in 16 patients with untreated hypertension—each of which was assigned to a control period, sauna treatment or exercise and sauna treatment. Exercise and sauna treatment had positive effects on 24-hour systolic and mean blood pressure in patients with untreated hypertension. Exercise and sauna treatment with sauna treatment alone reduced total vascular resistance, with positive effects lasting up to 120 minutes after heat exposure.

At the University Hospital Maastricht in the Netherlands, sauna treatment helped augment physical therapy in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Primary outcomes—such as functional ability, global well-being, pain and duration of morning stiffness— improved, leading the research team to assert that three weeks of combined sauna-exercise therapy, in addition to drug treatment and weekly group physical therapy, provide beneficial effects that may last for “at least 40 weeks.”

Thus, sauna treatment is an excellent post-recovery option for athletes of all levels. Sunlighten infrared saunas can be programmed for specific recovery programs throughout the infrared spectrum. The Sunlighten company has pioneered the use of infrared therapy and to utilize different parts of the spectrum which offer specific impacts on physiology for the purposes of detoxification, weight loss, stress relief and lowering blood pressure. While other saunas emit heat from one location which forms a concentrated source, the company’s patented Solocarbon technology delivers all-around heat. Sunlighten saunas have a biofeedback option and are the only infrared saunas clinically backed for results.

Buchheit M, Horobeanu C, Mendez-Villanueva A, Simpson BM, Bourdon PC.Effects of age and spa treatment on match running performance over two consecutive games in highly trained young soccer players. Sports Sci. 2011 Mar;29(6):591-8. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2010.546424.
Gayda M, Paillard F, Sosner P, Juneau M, Garzon M, Gonzalez M, Bélanger M, Nigam A.Effects of sauna alone and postexercise sauna baths on blood pressure and hemodynamic variables in patients with untreated hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Aug;14(8):553-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2012.00637.x. Epub 2012 May 3.
Rehunen S.The sauna and sports. Ann Clin Res. 1988;20(4):292-4.
Scoon GS, Hopkins WG, Mayhew S, Cotter JD. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. J Sci Med Sport. 2007 Aug;10(4):259-62. Epub 2006 Jul 31.
van Tubergen A., et al. “Combined spa-exercise therapy is effective in patients with ankylosing spondylitis: a randomized controlled trial.” Arthritis Rheum, 2001;45(5):430-438.

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