The sauna is somewhere that many people head to after exercise in order to unwind and relax after an intensive session. Besides it just being an indulgent experience that leaves you feeling refreshed after the fact, many people wonder “is the sauna good for muscle recovery?” The short answer is yes. It is thought that going to a sauna after working out or playing sports actually poses real benefits, including but not limited to muscle recovery, and by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll feel compelled to stop by the sauna after each session in the gym.
Why Is the Sauna Good for Muscle Recovery?
Once you’re battling sore muscles after working out, getting into a sauna will help to relieve the soreness. When you exercise, your muscles are put to work in a more intensive way than they are used to, which, in turn, causes tears at the microscopic level. These tears are what is responsible for the muscle soreness, tightness, sensitivity and cramps cause by the resulting inflammation. Your body immediately begins to work to heal those tears by enhancing the circulation of the blood and bringing plenty of blood rich with oxygen to the muscles that are lacking it from working out. Of course, heat also naturally relaxes the muscles to bring you relief right away.
In the long term, saunas work to stimulate the growth of your muscles, helping to strengthen and firm them up, to make them more resilient in recovery down the line. Heat therapy, also known as hyperthermia, is shown in studies to produce more heat shock proteins. These proteins help to repair the damaged proteins that are already present in the body while also protecting it against oxidative damage. This is all to say that it may increase muscle building while reducing muscle breakdown.
Should You Use the Sauna Before You Work Out?
The short answer is no. Using a sauna before you hit the gym may actually be detrimental and may make working out harder. As the heat and steam relax your muscles, they become looser, which could cause damage in intense workouts. The injury seems more likely to occur if the muscles are not at their usual tension in order to support the weights and take you through other various parts of your routine. You should instead hold off on the sauna until after you have completed your workout routine, treating it as something of a reward and reaping the benefits that it has to offer in terms of muscle recovery.
At the end of the day, the answer to the question, “Is the sauna good for muscle recovery?” is a resounding yes. Heat therapy not only helps to relieve the symptoms of stiffness, soreness, tension and tightness, but it may also boost the healing of the micro-tears in the muscles that occur during an intense workout. Taking a pause in the sauna as you leave the gym may help you recover sooner and get back to the gym as soon as possible.