The use of sauna is all about the science of heating. The hot environment has a profound effect on our biology and is a remarkable stimulus for our body. In today’s post you will find out all the benefits heat exposure has and the positive effect of sauna on your wellbeing. You will as well find out how to use sauna to achieve specific health goals.
Positive Effects Of Sauna
Use of sauna, or other forms of deliberate heat exposure, can reduce mortality to cardiovascular events. Regular heat exposure also reduces risk of stroke and many other deadly diseases.
When exposed to heat receptors in your skin begin to notice changes and send information through your body and activate an area called poa, preoptic area. Preoptic area in turn activates mechanisms in your autonomic nervous system such as vasodilation. This leads to an increase in blood flow, plasma volume of your blood and stroke volume. Even heart rate increases from 100 to 150 beats per minute. That general constellation of effects looks a lot like cardiovascular exercise. In fact for all intents and purposes it really is your cardiovascular exercise except all the loading of joints and limbs.
Your vasculature changes shape literally to accommodate those increases in heart rate and blood volume. You’re basically getting a cardiovascular workout in that hot environment even if you’re just sitting down.
Increases in Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is a hormone that we all naturally secrete from our pituitary gland which also resides near the roof of our mouth. The signal for the pituitary to release growth hormone arrives from neurons that exist in the hypothalamus. Those neurons signal the release of growth hormone from the anterior pituitary gland into the general circulation. Then growth hormone impacts metabolism as well as growth of cells and tissues of the body. It is responsible for tissue repair as well and the growth spurt that everyone experiences during puberty.
Sauna exposure, in particular sauna exposure two to three times or ideally four to seven times per week has been shown to regulate levels of FOXO3. FOXO3 is a gene associated with human longevity. It regulates pathways related to DNA repair and clearing out of senescent or dead cells. They are known to be important for various aspects of maintaining cognition and other aspects of maintaining health. These biological mechanisms are likely the ones responsible for the improvements in lifespan.
One study found that deliberate hot and cold exposures can improve metabolism and increase in brown fat. Brown fat is very active fat tissue that improves mitochondrial function and thermogenesis, compared to the white fat. White fat is that stubborn fat which has the least amount of blood flow, making it hardest to shedd. That is why an increase in brown fat is beneficial as it leads to an increase in blood flow to the area.
How To Use Sauna?
First off the temperature ranges you should be in are between 80 and 100 degrees celsius meaning 176 and 212 degrees fahrenheit. So somewhere in that range how hot should you make the sauna or the environment that you get into.
I recommend starting on the lower end of the temperature scale and if that’s too hot for you then lower the temperature further. Now how long should you expose yourself to this hot environment? Anywhere from five to twenty minutes per session is enough. Of course some of you may go for shorter periods but higher temperatures or vice versa. It really depends on your tolerance and how heat adapted you are. With time you will become better at sweating and regulating heat.
For Healthier Heart
People who went into the sauna two or three times per week were 27 percent less likely to die of a cardiovascular event than people that went into the sauna just once a week. The benefits were even greater for people that were going into the sauna four to seven times per week.
Those people were 50 percent less likely to die of a cardiovascular event compared to people that went into the sauna just once a week.
For Increases In Growth Hormone
The use of sauna for purposes to increase growth hormone differs from those who seek cardiovascular benefits. One study found that shocking the body with using a sauna 2 hours in one day divided into 4 sessions increased growth hormone dramatically. But when the same routine was continued for several days, the increases in growth hormone weren’t as dramatic. This means that our body adapts and gets used to repeated heat exposures.
That is why for those who seek spikes in growth hormone, the sauna sessions should not be as often. Try one similar session once weekly or once every 10 days. You do not need to be in a sauna for 2 hours in one day like in the described study. The important aspect to remember is separating the sessions and being in a hot enough environment so that you can shock your body.
For Improved Metabolism
It has been found that for improvements in metabolism you need to combine exposures to both hot and cold environments. There is a certain threshold which needs to be passed for you to be able to benefit from improved metabolism. To pass the threshold you weekly need to be exposed to sauna for around 60 minutes and to cold for around 10-11 minutes. As said these are weekly minimum times so you can separate these into shorter sessions. The temperature in the sauna should be as mentioned earlier in the post. The most adequate way to be exposed to the cold is by taking cold showers or ice baths. Of course be careful and ease into these different temperature sectrumes.
When talking about sauna, we’re directly talking about your body heating up. There are risks involved in heating your body up. Hyperthermia is a serious thing to avoid. When cooling down, your body can get into broad ranges of cold temperature before tissue damage occurs. Unlike cooling down, don’t get to heat up the brain and body very much before you start getting into the realm of neuron damage. The brain, spinal cord and central nervous system can be greatly affected without being able to heal up. I do want to give everybody a cautionary note up front.
Obviously if you’re pregnant, nursing and if you’re very sensitive to hot environments you want to stay out of saunas or heating up in general. There are always exceptions but you should always consult with your doctor beforehand. Always start with a lower temperature as you can later on increase the temperature as you adapt. Proceed with caution and be smart about it.
The deliberate heat exposure or use of sauna can be a powerful tool for improving your life if used properly. Depending on which goal you want to achieve there are certain routines that you can implement when using a sauna. Generally the more often you use a sauna in an optimal manner, the greater the health benefits are. Always be careful while being exposed to the heat. Remember that you can always increase the temperature. Even though we are all humans, we are all different individuals with different predispositions.