• Researchers looked into the effects of exercising or sauna saunas on the cardiovascular health.

  • They discovered that exercise as well as sauna bathing can be more beneficial to heart health than exercising alone.

  • Further research is required to determine the optimal sauna temperature and durations to improve heart health for different populations.

Physical exercise improves cardiovascular health and lowers the risk of death. The cardiorespiratory capacity (CRF) is measured by the maximum oxygen intake during testing for maximal effort is related to the degree of inverse


to cardiovascular disorders (CVD) as well as all cause death.

A sauna is relaxing treatment that promotes relaxation, pleasure and overall wellness.

The research in 2015

It is believed that regular sauna bathing may be linked to a lower chance of death due to cardiovascular or all-cause mortality. Additionally, an observational study in 2018 revealed that the higher level of CRF and sauna bathing between 3 and seven times a week can reduce deaths from all causes and fatal cardiovascular incidents compared to high-quality CRF or regular sauna bathing on its own.

Understanding the effects of exercise and sauna bathing on cardiovascular health can assist people in reducing risk of cardiovascular elements.

A recent study conducted by at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland conducted a random control trial (RCT) to test results of sauna bathing as well as exercise with exercising alone on the cardiovascular health. The study found that sauna bathing and exercise enhanced cardiovascular health more than simply exercising.

The research findings were recently published in American Journal of Physiology.

In the course of the study, researchers enrolled 48 participants, female and male aged between 30 and 64 years old. All of them had a lifestyle that was sedentary that was defined by researchers to be having a desk occupation or less than 30 min of exercise per week.

Every participant had at minimum one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as:

Participants were then placed in three different treatment groupings:

  • Regular exercise based on guidelines and a 15-minute sauna post-exercise
  • Regular exercise based on guidelines alone
  • Control group

The participants exercised three times each weekly for 60 minutes. This included an entire body warm-up lasting 10 minutes and 20 minutes of resistance training along with 30 minutes of aerobic exercises.

Participants were monitored throughout the course of the trial. The primary outcomes were CRFdetermined by maximal oxygen uptake blood pressure. Other outcomes were the amount of fat as well as total cholesterol levels as well as arterial stiffness.

After reviewing the data, researchers discovered that both intervention groups had less fat mass and more CRF than the control group.

The participants in the workout and sauna groups however, saw more significant CRF elevations, as well as greater reductions in the systolic pressure (SBP) and total cholesterol than the exercise only group.

In response to a question about whether the combination of sauna bathing and exercising could be more beneficial for heart risk factors than exercising on its own, Earric Lee, a doctoral researcher at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland and the primary researcher of the study, said to the MNT:

“What we have learned from research is that the post-exercise time is referred to as a “window to opportunity’, where you can experience increased insulin sensitivity and a reduction in blood levels of lipids (for not more than 60-90 minutes). This is an ideal opportunity to use conjunctive treatments like heating therapy, or in this instance the sauna.”

“In addition, in the period following exercise there is an increase in angiogenic factor and, consequently, altering blood flow and oxygen delivery after exercise can be a synergistic or additive influence on the angiogenic signaling that is induced through exercise, however this has not yet been scientifically proven in humans.” He added.

Chris Minson, professor of human physiological sciences of the University of Oregon, not associated with the study, was also quoted by the MNT:

“Some change in these could be resulted from a stronger the heat shock protein (HSP) reaction in sauna and exercise group] as compared to the exercise alone group. HSPs have been proven to have numerous beneficial impacts on blood vessel health and function. They also improve endothelial health and cardiac function when they are elevated. They also have been used to improve skeletal muscle function and the expansion of blood volume and may improve the cardiorespiratory system.”

The researchers concluded that the next research should focus on the best frequency, durations, modalities, as well as temperatures for heart health.

In response to questions regarding the limitations of this study Lee said that they had focused on people who had at the very least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease This means that their findings might not be applicable to healthy people, athletes or people who live no-sedentary lifestyles.

Matthew S. Ganio, PhD Prof. of fitness science at University of Arkansas, not part of the study, added to the MNT: “This study has an excellent study design but I think it’d be beneficial to observe the effect independent of using saunas by itself.”

“It is fascinating to note that just exercising didn’t result in improvements in the resting blood pressure or cholesterol in comparison to non-sauna, exercise use control. It is only when we compare exercises with sauna use that we saw improvement in these cardiovascular risk factors. It is believed that there is something special with sauna use on its own which is causing changes in cholesterol and blood pressure.”

— Matthew S. Ganio, PhD Professor of exercise science and sport at the University of Arkansas

Lee mentioned that during the study they increased the temperature of the sauna every fortnight by 5 degrees Celsius to prevent the risk of a “plateau impact.”

“We are able to think about this as an exercise standpoint; as we become fitter it means that exactly the same quantity of exercise with the same intensity and duration will not be “stressful for our bodies in the long run, and thus [the improvement slows downin the meantime,” Lee said.

He said that the intensity (length, duration, or frequency) should be increased in order to cause more stress for the body to handle and the same could be said about the stress that is caused through sauna bathing.

“I am bringing this issue up because the majority of people who go to saunas might only have access to a publically accessible one, and might not be able to alter the temperature,” he said. “In these situations it might be more practical to raise the amount of time spent in the sauna going every week for a month and every week twice for the following month, for instance- or to increase the duration of sessionsbetween five and seven minutes period for 6 weeks and then 7 mins over the next six weeks.”

“Epidemiological evidence has revealed that a higher frequency of sauna use and duration is linked to lower CVD and mortality from all causes but the frequency of sauna use and the duration of sauna bathing are still to be tested experimentally.”

— Earric Lee is a doctoral researcher at the university of Jyvaskyla in Finland and the lead author of the study