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Sauna

Today’s #ScienceFriday is a hot one. We took a look at the current studies on #Sauna in endurance sports:

Sauna?

A hot wet air bath at a temperature of approx. 80 °C – 110 °C and a humidity of approx. 10 – 20%

Implementation

  • 3x 8-10 min, 5 min rest in between
  • Conducted following an exercise session
  • Cool down slowly after the sauna to avoid circulation problems
  • Rehydrate directly after the sauna session 

Reaction of the cardiovascular system in the WARM-UP PHASE

  • Increase of the skin temperature to 38 – 42 °C and body core temperature to > 39 °C 
  • The dilatation of the blood vessels (vasodilation) ensures improved blood circulation
  • Increase of the cardiac output by 75 – 100 % and heart rate 
  • Increased perspiration leads to a reduction in plasma volume and an increase in hematocrit
  • Activation of sympathetic and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex axis 

Reaction of the cardiovascular system in the COOLING PHASE

  • Skin and body core temperature are lowered (approx. 20 min. initial value reached) 
  • Heart rate decreases (approx. within 10 min. starting value is reached) 
  • Increase in arterial blood pressure (up to 200 mmHg) 
  • Narrowing (vasoconstriction) of the blood vessels
  • Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (Gutenbrunner & Glaesener, 2017)

Current research shows

  • Relief of pain syndromes (Masuda et al. 2005)
  • Improved removal of metabolic products (Sutkowy et al., 2014)
  • Reduction of DOMS and muscle soreness 
  • Improved “time to exhaustion” by 32 % (Scoon et al., 2006)
  • Sauna stimulates the immune system (Pilch et al., 2013). 
  • Improved sleep and well-being
  • Increase of heat tolerance (relevance for competitions under heat conditions) 
  • Has a positive effect on respiratory dysfunction, chronic rheumatic diseases and degenerative joint diseases (Kukkonen-Harjula & Kauppinen, 2006; Kukkonen-Harjula & Kauppinen, 2006).

Use with caution

A sauna session can have the same effect on the body as an additional training session since similar physiological reactions are induced. Therefore, a regenerative sauna session is best used before a rest day and should not be used before a competition.

References:

  • Kukkonen-Harjula, K., & Kauppinen, K. (2006). Health effects and risks of sauna bathing. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 65(3), 195-205.
  • Pilch, W., et al.  (2013). Effect of a Single Finnish Sauna Session on White Blood Cell Profile and Cortisol Levels in Athletes and Non-Athletes. Journal of Human Kinetics, 39 (1), p. 127-135.
  • Masuda, A., Koga, Y., Hattanmaru, M., Minagoe, S., & Tei, C. (2005). The effects of repeated thermal therapy for patients with chronic pain. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 74(5), 288-294.
  • Sutkowy, P., Woźniak, A., Boraczyński, T., Mila-Kierzenkowska, C., & Boraczyński, M. (2014). The effect of a single Finnish sauna bath after aerobic exercise on the oxidative status in healthy men. Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation, 74(2), 89-94.
  • Gutenbrunner, C. & Glaesener, J.  (2007). Rehabilitation, Physikalische Medizin und Naturheilverfahren.
  • Scoon, G. S., Hopkins, W. G., Mayhew, S. &, Cotter, J. D. (2007). Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 10(4), p. 259-262.