6 benefits of a sauna after a workout: the pros of a sauna at the gym

by Jon Miksis
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Are you looking to improve your health and wellness journey? Consider adding a sauna session after hitting the gym! Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or simply looking to improve your overall well-being, there are many benefits of a sauna after a workout. 

In the pursuit of holistic wellness, we often explore various avenues to optimize our physical and mental health. Saunas have been used for centuries as a means of relaxation and rejuvenation, and their benefits extend far beyond the feeling of warmth and comfort. 

While their exact origins are hard to pinpoint, the Chinese have a long history of heat bathing practices, dating back 2,500 years. Even the ancient Romans were known for their elaborate bathhouses and thermal baths. Heat bathing was an integral part of Roman culture and played a significant role in promoting health and well-being.

The benefits of heat bathing are not just a part of history, particularly when it comes to saunas. If you want to amplify your post-workout recovery, saunas can be a game-changer. And if you’re already familiar with cold therapy and the power of cold tubs and cold showers, you’ll love hot-cold therapy, which combines the benefits of each extreme temperature for maximum wellness benefits.

But if you’re too cool for ice baths and are instead looking for something a little too hot to handle, you’ll love adding saunas to your fitness routine. In this article, we delve into the depths of post-workout sauna usage, exploring the hidden potential that lies within its transformative properties.

the benefits of a sauna after a workout text overlay above a photo of a sauna
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What do saunas do?

While you might have a vague notion of what a sauna is, unless you’ve spent a lot of time in and around them, you might not fully understand how they work. For instance, did you know that they are various types of saunas? They most often vary in type of heat and whether they are permanent or portable fixtures. 

Saunas provide a heat bathing experience that offers a range of benefits for physical and mental well-being. When you step into a sauna, the high temperature and humidity levels induce sweating, which helps to cleanse the body and flush out toxins. The heat and steam promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and can alleviate stress and anxiety. Saunas also improve blood circulation, which aids in muscle recovery after physical activity. Additionally, saunas are known for their potential cardiovascular benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and improving heart health. 

Saunas can be found in different settings, including spas, gyms, hotels, and private homes. They are often used for relaxation, physical recovery, and overall well-being. Many people incorporate sauna use into their wellness routine, as they offer a range of health benefits and can promote relaxation and stress relief, which we will delve into deeper here. 

The benefits of a sauna after a workout

Picture this: you’ve just completed an intense workout that pushed your limits. Your muscles are fatigued, but your mind feels rejuvenated. If there was one more step you could take to reap the most benefits of your gym session, would you try it? Most of us would! You’re already at the gym to improve your physical fitness and overall wellness. What’s one more step? Enter saunas. 

Saunas have long been revered for their ability to create a sanctuary of relaxation and rejuvenation. However, their influence extends far beyond mere relaxation. Utilizing a sauna after a rigorous workout offers a range of benefits that have the potential to optimize your recovery and elevate your fitness journey to new heights. By unlocking the power of heat and steam, saunas provide a conduit for various physiological processes that facilitate healing, restoration, and renewal.

Are you ready to take your gym sessions to the next level? Here are some of the many benefits of a sauna after a workout.

There are many benefits to using a sauna after powerlifting.
Using a sauna after a strenuous workout can help your muscles recover faster.

1. Using a sauna for muscle recovery

After an intense cardio or strength training session, your muscles may feel fatigued and sore. This is where the sauna comes into play as a powerful ally in your recovery journey.

One of the primary benefits of using a sauna after a workout is enhanced muscle recovery. The heat and steam in the sauna increase blood flow and circulation, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to fatigued muscles. This improved circulation aids in the removal of metabolic waste products such as lactic acid, reducing muscle soreness and promoting faster recovery. Additionally, using a sauna after cardio or weight training promotes relaxation, which allows your muscles to recover more efficiently. 

2. Relaxation and stress relief

After an intense workout, stepping into a sauna can provide a sense of relaxation and stress relief. The heat and steam help relax the body and mind, easing tension in muscles and promoting a sense of calmness. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who experience post-workout stress or need to unwind after a demanding exercise session. By unlocking the power of heat and steam, saunas provide a conduit for various physiological processes that facilitate healing, restoration, and renewal.

3. Increased flexibility

One of the pros of saunas that is often overlooked is its effect on flexibility. The heat in the sauna can help loosen tight muscles and increase flexibility. When muscles are warm, they become more pliable, making stretching and mobility exercises more effective. Incorporating sauna sessions after a workout can improve your overall flexibility and range of motion, benefiting your workouts in the long run. 

One benefit of saunas after a workout is detoxification.
Saunas can help detoxify your body after a workout.

4. Saunas promote detoxification

Sweating is a natural way for our bodies to eliminate toxins. Saunas induce profuse sweating, which helps flush out harmful substances such as heavy metals, pollutants, and toxins that we encounter daily. Using a sauna after a workout can enhance this detoxification process, helping to cleanse the body and remove impurities. This detoxification process post-workout can leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.

5. Saunas can improve cardiovascular health 

Saunas can have positive effects on cardiovascular health by stimulating mild cardiovascular exercise. The heat exposure in the sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and improving circulation. This can have benefits for heart health by promoting healthy blood pressure levels, improving endothelial function, and enhancing overall cardiovascular efficiency.

6. Saunas can boost mental well-being 

A post-workout sauna session can have a positive impact on mental well-being. The relaxation and stress reduction provided by the sauna can help alleviate post-exercise tension, improve mood, and promote a sense of well-being. Saunas also offer a peaceful environment for self-reflection and mindfulness. When you’re utilizing the sauna at your gym, it can also provide a place for social interaction in a calming environment. 

7. Enhanced Heat Adaptation 

Regular use of saunas after workouts can improve heat tolerance and heat adaptation. The body gradually becomes more efficient at managing heat stress, which can be beneficial for individuals participating in sports or activities in hot environments.

Saunas offer a relaxing environment that can make you feel better after a difficult workout.
Beyond the physical benefits, saunas can also boost your mood.

How to start using a sauna after a workout

Incorporating a sauna session into your post-workout routine can be a rewarding and rejuvenating experience. If you’re ready to start experiencing the benefits of a sauna after a workout, you may be tempted to start right away. However, many professionals recommend easing yourself into sauna use, especially if you are new to heat bathing. 

To get started with using a sauna after a workout, follow these steps. 

1. Familiarize yourself with sauna safety

Before diving into sauna usage, familiarize yourself with basic safety guidelines. Ensure you are aware of any health conditions or medications that may affect your ability to use a sauna. If you have any concerns, consult with a healthcare professional to determine if sauna usage is appropriate for you.

2. Find a suitable sauna facility

Locate a sauna facility that suits your preferences and needs. Look for facilities that offer clean and well-maintained saunas, provide clear instructions on sauna usage, and prioritize safety and hygiene. If you work out at a gym, saunas are a common perk for membership. If you work out at home, you may want to consider a spa membership or an at-home sauna option. 

3. Hydrate before and during your workout

Proper hydration is essential both before and during your workout. Make sure you drink an adequate amount of water before heading to the sauna. This ensures that you are well-hydrated and prepared for heat exposure.

4. Time your sauna sessions

Plan your workout routine in such a way that you have enough time for a sauna session afterward. Allow yourself sufficient time to cool down, shower if necessary, and transition into the sauna experience without feeling rushed. For your first few sessions, aim for 5 minutes until you see how you feel during and after. Then, try 10 minutes, gradually increasing your time as you become more comfortable.

5. Post-workout cool-down

After your workout, it’s important to engage in a proper cool-down routine before entering the sauna. This may include light stretching or low-intensity exercises to bring your heart rate down gradually. A cool shower or a brief rest period can also be beneficial.

6. Stay hydrated in the sauna

While in the sauna, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you and take small sips as needed. Remember that you are likely to sweat more in the sauna, so replenishing fluids is important.

7. Engage in relaxation techniques

Take advantage of the sauna’s relaxing environment to unwind and de-stress. Practice deep breathing techniques or mindfulness exercises to immerse yourself in the experience fully. Allow the heat to soothe your muscles and promote a sense of relaxation.

8. Monitor your body’s response

Pay attention to your body’s signals during the sauna session. If you feel uncomfortable, dizzy, or lightheaded, it’s important to exit the sauna immediately. Respect your body’s limits and gradually increase your sauna duration and temperature as you become more accustomed to the heat.

9. Post-sauna cool-down

After your sauna session, it’s crucial to cool down gradually to allow your body to adjust to the temperature change. Take a cool shower or step into a cool room to lower your body temperature gradually.

By following these steps, you can start incorporating sauna sessions into your post-workout routine. Remember, consistency is key, and listening to your body’s needs is important. With time, you’ll discover the rejuvenating effects and unique benefits of using a sauna after a workout.

A sauna inside a home gym
You can incorporate a sauna into your home gym.

Risks of using a sauna

While there are numerous benefits of a sauna after a workout, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and considerations before you use one. 

One of the biggest risks of using a sauna after a workout is dehydration. Since saunas can induce significant sweating, this can lead to fluid loss. If you are already dehydrated from your workout or have not adequately rehydrated before entering the sauna, it can exacerbate the issue. Symptoms of dehydration include dryness in the mouth, extreme thirst, headache, dizziness, and lightheadedness. 

Other chronic health conditions can also increase the risk of using saunas. For instance, if you have certain cardiovascular conditions, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, or a history of heart attacks, using a sauna after a cardio workout may put additional strain on your heart. 

Types of saunas 

Several types of saunas are used today, each with unique features and benefits. However, all saunas share a few common factors. For instance, all saunas are enclosed spaces designed for heat bathing. 

Inside a sauna, temperatures typically range from 100 to 200°F using various methods, such as wood-burning stoves, electric heaters, or infrared technology. They can also be constructed of different materials, such as wood, stone, or metal. The interior of a sauna is typically made of wood, which is a good insulator and can withstand high temperatures and humidity levels.

Here are some of the most common types of saunas and their benefits. 

1. Traditional Finnish Saunas

Traditional Finnish saunas are the most widely recognized and have a rich cultural heritage. They use wood-burning stoves or electric heaters to heat rocks, which in turn radiate heat into the sauna room. These saunas operate at high temperatures, typically ranging from 160 to 190°F. 

Finnish saunas offer the classic sauna experience, promoting relaxation, stress reduction, and muscle recovery. The intense heat and dry air create a comforting environment for users to unwind and enjoy the benefits of improved blood circulation and detoxification through sweating.

There are many benefits to using infrared saunas after a workout
Infrared saunas are a nice alternative to higher-temperature Finnish saunas.

2. Infrared Saunas

Infrared saunas differ from traditional saunas in terms of heating mechanisms and the type of heat they emit. Instead of heating the air, infrared saunas use infrared panels to heat the body directly. This produces a gentler heat that penetrates deeper into the skin, providing a more targeted and focused experience. Infrared saunas operate at lower temperatures, typically ranging from 110 to 150°F. 

The lower heat makes them more accessible to individuals who may find high temperatures uncomfortable. Infrared saunas offer detoxification, pain relief, improved circulation, and relaxation.

Read also: Top 10 Infrared Saunas on the Market

3. Steam Rooms  

While not technically saunas, steam rooms are often associated with sauna experiences due to their similar benefits and popularity. Steam rooms generate moist heat by pumping steam into the room, creating a humid environment. The temperature in steam rooms typically ranges from 100 to 110°F. 

The steam helps open up the pores, promoting deep cleansing of the skin, relieving congestion, and improving respiratory function. Steam rooms offer relaxation, stress reduction, and a rejuvenating experience.

4. Far-Infrared Saunas

Far-infrared saunas are a variation of infrared saunas that specifically emit far-infrared rays. These rays penetrate even deeper into the skin, providing a more intense and focused heat experience. Far-infrared saunas operate at similar lower temperatures as regular infrared saunas, ranging from 110 to 150°F. 

The deep penetration of far-infrared heat helps relax muscles, improve circulation, promote detoxification, and alleviate pain and inflammation. These saunas are often favored by individuals seeking targeted therapeutic benefits.

A barrel sauna in a back garden can be used after a workout.
Barrel saunas are recognizable for their shape.

5. Barrel Saunas

Barrel saunas are unique in their design, resembling a wooden barrel. They are often made of wood and have a distinctive rounded shape. Barrel saunas offer an aesthetically pleasing and compact sauna experience. The rounded shape allows for efficient heat circulation, creating a cozy and evenly heated environment. 

These saunas are available in various sizes and can be a great option for those with limited space. Barrel saunas provide the same benefits as traditional Finnish saunas.

6. Portable Saunas

Portable saunas are compact, lightweight, and designed for convenience. They usually consist of a foldable tent-like structure and an infrared heating element. Portable saunas offer the flexibility to be used in different locations, such as homes, offices, or even while traveling. 

While they may not provide the same spaciousness or ambiance as larger saunas, portable saunas still offer the benefits of infrared heat, relaxation, and detoxification.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the benefits of a sauna after a workout

Here are some popular questions (and answers) about the benefits of a sauna after a workout. 

How long should you sit in a sauna after a workout?

The duration of time you spend in a sauna after a workout can vary depending on individual tolerance, fitness level, and personal preferences. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust the duration based on how you feel. However, you should expect to stay in a sauna for at least 10 minutes after your workout, as this will benefit your circulation. 

As your body becomes more acclimated to the heat, you can gradually increase the duration of your sauna sessions. Over time, you may find that you can comfortably stay in the sauna for 20 to 30 minutes. However, it’s important to note that prolonged sauna sessions may not necessarily provide additional benefits and can increase the risk of dehydration and overheating.

Is it good to sauna every day?

Saunas offer a range of potential benefits, but like any activity, moderation is key. While enjoying a sauna session every day may be tempting, it’s important to consider individual factors and listen to your body. Daily sauna use can promote relaxation, improve circulation, and aid in muscle recovery.

However, prolonged or excessive heat exposure can lead to dehydration, overheating, and potentially pose risks for individuals with certain health conditions. To sauna responsibly, consult with your healthcare provider, stay hydrated, limit your time in the sauna, and take breaks to cool down.

Ultimately, finding a balance that works for you is the key to maximizing the positive effects of sauna use.

there are many benefits to using a sauna after a workout and before a workout.
Saunas are a great way to relax your muscles after a tough workout.

Should you use a sauna before or after exercise?

The decision to sauna before or after exercise depends on personal preference and your desired effects. While it’s most common to use a sauna after a workout, both approaches have their own benefits and considerations. 

Sauna sessions before exercise are often referred to as “pre-workout saunas” or “warm-up saunas.” Some individuals find that warming up in a sauna prior to their workout provides several advantages:

  • Increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhanced warm-up
  • Mental preparation

Using a sauna after a workout is common among many fitness enthusiasts. Post-workout saunas offer a range of benefits that can complement your exercise routine, including:

  • Muscle recovery
  • Relaxation and stress relief 
  • Detoxification

Ultimately, whether you choose to sauna before or after exercise depends on your personal preference, goals, and how your body responds to heat exposure. Some individuals may enjoy the benefits of pre-workout saunas, while others may prefer the post-workout recovery benefits. Experimenting with both approaches and assessing how your body feels can help you determine which option works best for you.

Is it better to use a dry sauna or a steam room after a workout?

There are benefits to using both a dry sauna and a steam room after a workout and the choice ultimately depends on personal preference and the benefits you’re seeking. Dry saunas, also known as Finnish saunas, use high temperatures and low humidity to create a heat-intensive environment. Steam rooms, also known as wet saunas or steam saunas, on the other hand, create a humid environment with lower temperatures compared to dry saunas.

These are some of the benefits of a dry sauna: 

  • Higher temperatures promote more sweating, which can help relax muscles, relieve tension, and potentially aid in detoxification. 
  • Dry saunas are often better for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies. The dry air can be more comfortable for the respiratory system, as it doesn’t introduce additional moisture or humidity.
  • The dry heat of a sauna may help promote more mental clarity and a sense of relaxation.

These are some of the benefits of a steam room: 

  • The moist heat and humidity can help open your pores, promote sweating, and moisturize your skin.
  • The moist air in steam rooms can help soothe and hydrate the airways of individuals who find dry heat too irritating or uncomfortable. 
  • Steam rooms can help promote relaxation and relieve stress due to the steam’s rejuvenating effects.  
there are many benefits to using a sauna after a workout, regardless if they are dry heat or steam.
There are benefits to both steam and dry saunas after a workout.

Can I buy a sauna for my home?

If you love the benefits of a sauna after a workout, it is possible to enjoy the experience from the comfort of your home. In recent years, the popularity of home saunas has grown, and there are various options available to suit different budgets, space constraints, and personal preferences.

When choosing an at-home sauna, there are many different types you can choose from, including traditional Finnish saunas, infrared saunas, and portable saunas. Traditional Finnish saunas use heated rocks or stoves to generate heat, while infrared saunas use infrared heaters to warm the body directly. Portable saunas are a great option because they are compact and can be set up anywhere in your home.

Another factor to consider is whether you want to install the sauna indoors or outdoors. Indoor saunas offer convenience and privacy, while outdoor saunas can provide a unique experience and take advantage of natural surroundings. Keep in mind that outdoor saunas will require proper insulation and protection from the elements.

Before purchasing a home sauna, it’s advisable to research different brands, read customer reviews, and compare features and warranties.

What are the best saunas you can buy?

Looking for your own home sauna so you can reap all the benefits of a sauna after a workout? Here are some of my favorite options:

#1 Infrared Sauna: Clearlight Sanctuary 1-Person Full Spectrum

The Best Outdoor Sauna: Clearlight Sanctuary 5-Person Sauna

Top-Rated Portable Steam Sauna: SereneLife SLISAU35BK Full Size Portable Steam Sauna

The Best Two-Person Sauna: Dynamic Saunas Maxxus Toulouse 2-Person Infrared Sauna

Benefits of a sauna after a workout text overlay above a photo of a man sitting in a sauna
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