When it comes to sauna and exercise, the hot question that many people have is: “Sauna before or after workout?” But what about practicing sauna and exercise at the same time? Exercise in sauna? Although these two things are not often thought of as going together, recently the idea of exercising in an infrared sauna has begun to be explored in some fitness arenas. I have been trained in sauna conditioning using exercise as an extracurricular part of my SomaTraining schooling with Guy Voyer, D.O. And it is truly revolutionary. Read on to learn about the potential benefits of combining sauna and exercise.
Sauna and Exercise for Heart Conditioning and More
The use of the traditional sauna alone as a method of conditioning has already been explored on my blog. (For more info, check out my previous posts: The Therapeutic Benefits of Sauna and The Use of Sauna for Heart Conditioning.) Pairing sauna conditioning with targeted exercise can provide even more benefits. By using the classic conditioning influence of the sauna on the heart—via the effect of thermoregulation on blood volume shift toward the superficial tissues—we can potentiate the heart conditioning effect of a specific exercise. The result is a workout program that is lower impact and more globally beneficial than most common cardiovascular conditioning protocols.
Wait, So How Does It Work Exactly?
When you’re in the heated environment of the sauna, your heart must work harder to regulate your body temperature. (It does so by shifting blood away from your core, so that heat may escape outward through the skin.) When you add exercise to the mix, the challenge on your heart is increased. It must work even harder to regulate blood volume changes as additional demands are placed on certain muscles, joints, and tissues. The goal is to use a highly programmed series of exercises that target specific regions of the body in various positions, and to enhance the level of challenge by performing these exercises within the sauna environment. By progressing this method in a controlled schedule over a matter of weeks, we can accurately influence the delivery of total blood volume, as well as specific delivery to individual muscles and regions of the body.
In addition to cardiovascular conditioning, tissue development is also enhanced—due to the heightened activity of specific enzymes within the connective tissue. By using active periods of rest to perform ELDOA and Myofascial Stretching, we can improve the ability to normalize joint posture and restore tissue that has undergone repeated stress (e.g., knee tissue in runners, shoulder tissue in tennis players).
This method of designing targeted exercise programs within the sauna environment has many potential applications:
- It can influence specific joint and muscle development, as well as the organs.
- It can enhance the function of the neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems.
- Mental toughness and other psychological conditioning, such as camaraderie and flow state, can be improved by introducing an environment of heightened challenge during performance.
- Anti-aging and performance-enhancement conditioning are both areas which would be well served by an exploration of the intelligent use of exercise programming within the sauna environment.
Proceed with Caution!
The risks involved in exercising within a heated environment need to be carefully considered. This practice should not be undertaken without expert guidance and constant assessment of the response being induced during exertion. All of the exercises used must be modified to maintain safety and positive effect under the specific conditions of the sauna. Additionally, the heat and humidity of the environment must be intentionally coordinated for the individuals taking part in the sauna exercise program.
When all variables are carefully put into balance, the sauna and exercise coupling can be a tremendous catalyst for enhanced productivity for the novice and athletic professional alike.
For more insights on the latest topics in health and nutrition, sign up for my monthly newsletter. Want to try a new exercise method that’s great for circulation, strength and stability, and flexibility? Visit BTMAStudios.com to register for ELDOA group classes.