Anyone with a gym membership has probably walked past the imitation wood panel door marked “Sauna” and thought about going in. However, very few actually do. Perhaps it’s the uncomfortableness of the situation that’s turned off so many westerners to the concept.
But some people are going through that doorway, often to deal with physical pain they’re accumulated through working out. But does a sauna help with sore muscles, truthfully?
There are a lot of relaxing, physical benefits to using a sauna. This blog will take a look at the medical benefits of using a sauna, as well as some cautionary words about overexposing yourself.
How Does a Sauna Help With Sore Muscles?
Muscle Recovery Process
Does a sauna help with sore muscles? It’s one of the primary draws for most gym rats.
Muscles will feel sore after a good workout, particularly if you are just starting out. After your first few exercises, it may become difficult even to walk around after a day or two. Your muscles have worked harder than they are typically accustomed to, and they’ve formed tiny, microscopic tears that need to repair themselves.
Using a sauna during the muscle recovery process can increase the circulation of blood through your body, bringing oxygen-rich blood to the muscles where it has been depleted. Heat is also another factor that helps muscles heal.
Sweating while working out helps cool your body temperature down, but it tends to release any toxins in your system as well. Sweating this out in a sauna can help to purify your body, removing that which you may have consumed that could have lasting harmful effects such as cigarettes, alcohol, and toxic metals.
It’s important, however, to stay hydrated while in the sauna.
Losing weight is often the main thrust of one’s desire to exercise. There have been many studies that show the benefits that sauna use can offer regarding weight loss.
In addition to purifying your system, a sauna’s infrared heat is also capable of lowering human cortisol levels and increasing the growth hormone to assist in losing weight.
How to Safely Use a Sauna After Working Out
After a hard workout, your body is just naturally more sensitive and worn down. If you’ve ever tried to give a high five after a really intense game of basketball, then you know the pain that comes with even the slightest nudge.
So it’s ideal to keep your stay inside the sauna relatively brief. Set a timer for 20 minutes and don’t stay a minute longer or you risk over-exerting yourself. If it’s your first time in a sauna, it’s recommended that you stay an even shorter time period.
Ultimately, it will be your body that lets you know when it’s time to leave. If you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, calmly remove yourself from the room. Don’t get up fast if you are woozy, or you could fall. Dizziness is a sign that you are overheated or dehydrated.
After leaving the sauna, it’s important that you continue to hydrate yourself regularly. Drink at least two to four glasses of water in the next few hours to help clear out any remaining toxins from your system.
For the rest of the day, it’s recommended that you don’t enter any marathons. You’ll want to keep activity relatively light as your muscles continue to make the tiny repairs they need to. Within no time, you’ll be ready to head to the gym again.
Does a Sauna Help With Tight Muscles?
Under the high temperatures of a sauna, muscles are known to relax. The body releases endorphins, which are known to give off a light, tranquilizing effect. Blood vessels also dilate, all of which means that tight muscles will indeed loosen while you relax inside the room.
Gym Sauna Do’s and Don’ts
Before getting in a sauna, you should review some proper etiquette tips. Unless you have a private one, you are likely using a public space, so there are a few behavioral and safety standards you must abide by.
- Shower prior to entering: This is just polite. You don’t want to walk in there with germs, odors, and other unpleasantries.
- Don’t enter nude: This isn’t just a matter of shyness or politeness, but there’s an element of that. We aren’t in a Russian bathhouse in some bygone era, but it’s also more sanitary.
- Silence, please: The sauna is not a place for conversation, to hum, or to sing along to your favorite song. If other people are in there, they are there to unwind and relax. Try the same and meditate.
- Do not bring electronics: Not only should you be focusing on your thoughts anyway, but your phone, iPad, and iPod may not function well in the heavy steam and heat.
- Be quick: Be quick in both the time you spend in the sauna and the way you enter and exit. Open and close the door quickly, so as not to let too much heat escape. You should also limit your time in the sauna to 20 minutes.
- Don’t exercise: You’ve performed your workout in the gym, the sauna is for relaxing. It’s a confined space, too, and doing any exercise might run the risk of bumping into a neighbor.
What Do I Wear in a Sauna?
Some people are still a little shy, which is perfectly acceptable and frankly polite. It’s a little odd when one person in the room is entirely comfortable with nudity, and the other is not.
Fortunately, there’s no law that requires you to do this without clothing, and there are some good options that will help you reap even more sauna benefits. An oversized T-shirt is recommended, with some loose-fitting cotton shorts beneath.
These two articles of clothing are sure to absorb excess heat while letting your skin still breathe as free as if you weren’t wearing anything.
Saunas have countless benefits, but perhaps the most understated is the sense of peace sitting in one can bring.