I feel like nothing loosens up your body and relieves soreness like sitting in a sauna. The heat does indeed make blood vessels more flexible, increases circulation, and neuromuscular toning. This, in turn, causes more blood flow and aids in recovery. Your metabolic rate also rises in a sauna environment, which can assist with fitness goals and attaining desired body composition. A study has been recently published in “The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” that states that our sweat contains lactic acid. University of Maryland researches concluded that athletes can benefit from sweating out the lactic acid following exercise. My sport (brazilian jiu-jitsu) revolves around muscle endurance and I have always felt a benefit from after-training sauna.
Sitting in heat can even improve your cardiovascular performance. Rising and sinking heart rate (when you get out) will increase a healthy person’s cardiac output. If you add rapid cooling in between your sauna sessions, the heart rate increase will be similar to moderate exercise. You are also burning calories while sweating. All this without actually exercising! Another benefit for the athletes: sweat contains dermcidin which is a natural antibiotic and antibacterial. It protects you from getting things like Staphylococcus virus. Just make sure to wash sweat off after using the sauna; sweat left on the skin for too long can do more harm then good.
Saunas provide a detoxifying benefit for our skin, as well as our insides. Our pores open and many undesirable byproducts are flushed away with the sweat. Dead skin cells are replaced. It certainly is a cleansing process.
Most importantly this time of year, the body in a sauna produces more white blood cells which is an antiviral benefit and will help you fight colds and flu!
I highlighted only a few important benefits, but there are many more. I, myself, am a big fan of saunas. I try to do breathing exercises and even meditate while under heat. As long as I don’t sit there too long, I feel refreshed and extremely relaxed after. It also becomes much easier to fall asleep when you combine endorphins from exercise and sauna. I recommend you check out a local health club or maybe even build/buy a sauna for your own place. This is a personal goal of mine to have access to, as well as a sensory deprivation tank for meditation…but that is for another day! 🙂