So sitting in a sauna gives you the same benefits as a workout, apparently

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Hollie Richardson
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Sauna health benefits

New research has found that sauna bathing helps to keep your heart healthy in the same ways that exercise does – so why haven’t you booked that spa date already?

Is there any act of self-care as special as a sauna session? In the run-up to Christmas, taking an afternoon to relax and rejuvenate while basking in a traditional sauna is the perfect respite from festive burnout. 

Or, if you like to keep up with the (literally) hottest wellness trends, infrared saunas – which use infrared lamps to warm your body directly – are an alternative option increasing in popularity. 

But just in case you needed another reason to make that spa booking, some recent research has proven that a sauna session benefits your body in some of the same ways as working out does.

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Several studies shared at Heart Summit 2019 showed that frequent sauna bathing (four to seven 20-minute sessions per week) can lower blood pressure, improve heart rate variability and improve arterial compliance. Specifically, this means a 50% lower risk for fatal heart disease, 60% lower risk for sudden cardiac death, 51% lower risk for stroke, and 46% lower risk for hypertension.

The research suggested that some of the benefits of using a sauna for heart health are due to similar physiological changes that also occur during physical exercise.

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According to video footage shared on Health Line, sitting in a sauna for 20 minutes where temperatures range from 77-78°C, you begin to sweat because there is a 50-70% redistribution of blood flow away from the core to the skin.

In addition, your heart rate increases up to 150 beats per minute, similarly to moderate-intensive physical exercise. 

Similarly to an intense HIIT session or when lifting weights, your cardio output increases by 60 - 70% – that’s a measure of the amount of work the heart performs in response to the body’s need for oxygen.

We’ve learned that our bodies continue to burn energy at a higher level in the hours following a workout. In the same way, your blood pressure and resting heart rate continue to decrease after a sauna session.

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Speaking to Stylist for a previous issue, Lou Riby, MD of Elemental Herbology and wellness expert talked about the further benefits of sauna bathing.

“Other benefits include soothing tired and aching muscles and encouraging toxins to be flushed out of the body through deep sweating,” said Riby. 

And it’s not just physical benefits that we’re talking about here. 

“The high heat also helps to release endorphins which can help with sleep,” she added, “The loosening of tension in your muscles helps you relax and enter a peaceful, mindful state essential for meditation.”

So basically, although it’s obviously important to stay strong through physical exercise – a sauna session can be just as good (yay!). 

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Images: Unsplash, Getty


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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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